Science Building Phase 2 Earns LEED Gold

Published on September 11, 2018

Where better for Eastern Kentucky University to model its commitment to sustainability than with its Science Building?

The LEED Gold plaque that now adorns a wall in the facility’s atrium testifies to the University’s leadership in energy and environmental design. A ceremony was held on Monday, Sept. 10, to recognize that Phase 2 of the building had earned the coveted distinction from the U.S. Green Building Council.

The second phase opened in 2017, five years after the first phase. In its short history, the 340,000-square-foot Science Building, the largest such facility on any college or university campus in the Commonwealth, has transformed science teaching and research at the University, strengthened faculty collaboration and enhanced the College of Science’s capacity for engagement with the community, according to Dr. Tom Otieno, dean of the college.

Now, thanks to sustainable design strategies and best practices undertaken during the building’s design and construction, the building “is able to serve as a test-bed for campus initiatives in recycling, energy-consumption awareness, sustainable construction methods, and water conservation,” Otieno said. “Indeed, the entire building is an instructional tool.”

Phase 2, which houses the Departments of Biological Sciences and Geosciences, boasts several notable features that led to LEED Gold honors.

  • The exterior envelope aesthetic includes cast-in-place concrete, brick, zinc panels and a high-performance glazing system, offering a reliable, long-term lifespan and durability while reducing glare and solar gain and maximizing daylight opportunities.
  • Materials of the lab casework were chosen for their physical aesthetic and pre- and post-consumer recyclable content.
  • Full-height glazing on the west, east and north facades bring in as much light into directly adjacent spaces as possible.  Borrow lights allow daylight to penetrate further into the building. More than 75 percent of the occupied spaces of the building have access to natural light, yet less than 25 percent of the building surface is used for either windows or doors, thereby reducing drafts and potential energy loss.
  • The roof was built with reflective material that absorbs minimal heat from sunlight, reducing the need for air conditioning.
  • Roof and ground water are re-directed to retention basins around the site, allowing planted natural grasses to flourish and minimize the impact on the local storm water systems. The retention system eventually ends in a storage tank that can used for greenhouse irrigation.
  • A number of strategies were implemented to ensure the best possible indoor air quality.
  • A 25-panel solar array was added on the site to help offset the electricity use of the greenhouse. The array is expected to generate the equivalent of one average U.S. home’s electricity usage annually.

Craig Turner, chair of the EKU Board of Regents, has spent most of his professional life as a developer. “For 40 years, I’ve been doing this, and I’ve only been associated with three LEED buildings,” he said. “That’s how difficult it is” to earn the distinction. “This is really something to be very, very proud of.”

EKU President Michael Benson called the facility a “showpiece,” adding that it is already changing lives. “It’s a significant event ... a maroon-letter day for the entire University community.”

Nick Koenig, a sophomore biology and chemistry major, often takes prospective EKU students and their families on tours of the facility, telling them about how the College of Science creates a sustainable environment for its students. “Our professors can teach about native plants by walking right outside to the artificial wetland that acts as a natural catchment and a home for some of Kentucky’s native plants. They can teach us about sustainable design by simply walking around this building.”

The sustainable design also leads, he said, to the “improved health and well-being of students and faculty.”

The administration’s commitment to sustainability is integrated throughout campus, Koenig added. “President Benson signed the most aggressive carbon neutrality plan in the state. Solar panels have been installed behind and on top of this building. There has been a strong push for recycling in residence halls and around campus.”

State Sen. Jared Carpenter, credited by Benson for his leadership in securing state funding for the building, said, “The better Eastern does, the better our state does, and the better our county does.”

Steve Caudill, business officer with the Office of Finance and Administration at EKU, said he hopes that “every time a student, faculty or staff member enters and uses this building, they are reminded of the commitment EKU has made to sustainability. Through our Carbon Neutrality and Resiliency Plan, EKU will continue to lead the way with sustainable business practices and learning environments.”

Lead designer Omni Architects directed the LEED application process, with supplemental information and support from landscape architects Element Design and mechanical and electrical engineers Staggs and Fisher, as well as direct input from the University, particularly science faculty.

Other members of the design team were: Health Education Research Associates, laboratory planners; BFMJ, structural engineers; Swope Design, interior design; and Facility Commissioning Group, commissioning agent.

To see a video about the LEED Gold honor and the facility, visit