University of Virginia puts sustainability in spotlight

University of Virginia puts sustainability in spotlight

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Several buildings at the University of Virginia are being renovated with modern amenities and being upgraded to become more sustainable and higher performing.

In fact, the school’s new president won’t be moving into the traditional presidential hall in August. That building, Carr’s Hill, will be undergoing renovations – the latest historic structure on the campus to be overhauled as the university tries to update and preserve historic sites while reducing its carbon footprint.

“The most sustainable building is the one that exists already,” Brian Hogg, senior historic preservation planner, told the Daily Progress.

The university’s most visible renovation, of the Rotunda, was completed in 2016. Architects overhauled the building’s southern wings, added marble capitals, fixed the roof and installed LED lights.

For its efforts, the university recently earned a silver LEED certification. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council to recognize environmentally responsible construction and renovation.

UVa and the College of Wise currently have 38 LEED-certified buildings, recognized for sustainability, water and energy efficiency, eco-friendly materials and innovation. In 2006, UVa created a goal for all future renovation projects to be LEED-certified.

Hogg noted that UVa was able to get the certification while maintaining the character of Thomas Jefferson’s vision.

A lot can be gained by replacing outdated electric, plumbing and HVAC systems. At Carr’s Hill, workers will install a central air system and redo the plumbing and electric.

A much bigger project will be the upcoming overhaul of Alderman Library, the largest library on Grounds. Opened in 1938, it has fewer historic considerations, but the need for systems overhaul is dire.

The plumbing, wiring, heating and air conditioning in Alderman are nearing the point of failure, according to planning documents for the renovation project. There is also no fire suppression or sprinkler system in the building, which puts the collections at risk.

The renovation planning committee has suggested keeping the building’s shell, high ceilings and large windows, but replacing the interior with LEED-quality systems.

“We’re continuing to see carbon reductions,” said Andrea Ruedy Trimble, director of the university’s Office for Sustainability. “And with a lot of upcoming growth, sustainability is becoming more and more visible as we continue to work on some of our bigger goals.”


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