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James Center earns LEED Platinum rating for sustainability

By Tom Scherberger
Published July 1, 2015
Categories: Construction, Sustainability

The James Center for Molecular and Life Sciences has been certified as a LEED Platinum building, the highest rating for sustainability by the U.S. Green Building Council and the Green Building Certification Institute.

The certification, which took more than two years to complete, reflects a deep commitment to sustainability at Eckerd College, one of the top 10 environmental studies schools in the Fiske Guide to Colleges in 2011. It is the first LEED Platinum building on Campus. The building opened in January 2013.

One of the most innovative aspects of the building that helped secure the rating is the use of reclaimed water from the city of St. Petersburg’s wastewater treatment plant, adjacent to the campus, for the air conditioning system, which saves thousands of gallons of water a day. Water from the air conditioning system is also used to maintain the proper temperatures in the adjacent greenhouse rather than going to waste.

One the building’s most distinctive architectural features is a white fabric “parasol” at the center of the complex that shades the building and creates usable outdoor space for collaboration, study and events. The outdoor walls are painted with a highly reflective coating normally found on pool decks that reduces cooling load.

The building also includes xeriscaping, bamboo veneers and natural light to reduce the need for electrical lighting. Windows are not only hurricane-resistant; they are coated to reduce infrared and ultraviolet light and have outdoor shades to increase energy conservation. It was designed in the shape of a skewed “H” and oriented to mitigate the hot sun and enhance energy savings.

Sensors turn lights on as you walk down a corridor or in and out of rooms and calibrate interior lighting to ambient daylight, saving electricity. The roof has a sprayed-on foam to reflect the sun, keeping the building cooler in the hot Florida sun.

A “building dashboard” system displays energy consumption levels in each room.

The building is named for longtime Eckerd friends Tom James, executive chairman of Raymond James Financial, and his wife, Mary. The $25 million, 55,000-square-foot facility houses biology, chemistry and biochemistry programs.

“The James Center is a great example of Eckerd’s commitment to excellence, innovation and sustainability,” said President Don Eastman. “We are delighted that the building has achieved the highest LEED rating, but even happier that it has become a hub of scientific research and a gathering place for all students on campus.”

The building was designed by international architecture and design firm CannonDesign.

“The James Center for Molecular and Life Sciences is a place for learning and a sustainable symbol of the college’s ambitions for liberal arts education in the 21st century: a personalized experience that cultivates cross-disciplinary thinking enhanced by excellent teaching and mentoring,” said W. Kenneth Wiseman, CannonDesign’s lead architect for the project.

The building was an Honorable Mention Winner in the 2014 Education Design Showcase

Under LEED, buildings accumulate points for things such as saving energy and storm water mitigation. The higher the points the more sustainable a building is. Eighty points are required for a platinum rating; the James Center received 86 points.