Opening this fall, the newest state-of-the-art building at Cal State San Marcos -- the Social and Behavioral Sciences Building (SBSB) -- adds 106,000 square feet of classroom and office space, while also bringing further recognition to the University’s commitment to environmentally responsible construction and design. SBSB joins the Public Safety Building as the first two LEED-certified structures on campus, an award which measures the sustainability, efficiency and innovation of high performance buildings.

“Our designers and builders are thinking beyond just the function and aesthetic of a building, and they’re considering the impact and sustainability of the structure,” said Sustainability Director Ed Johnson. “By following LEED standards, we’re able to construct a sophisticated, state-of-the-art building that costs less to own and operate while also significantly reducing our immediate and long-term impacts on the environment.”

Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council in 2000, LEED serves as an international benchmark rating system that enables building owners and operators to have a measurable and immediate impact on the environment, and their bottom-line. LEED-certified buildings are designed to lower operating costs, reduce waste, conserve natural resources, and reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

As both a technologically advanced and environmentally friendly building, SBSB sports a variety of green features that enabled it to achieve its certification rating. Nearly 630 tons of on-site construction waste, an impressive 74.6 percent of all project waste, was diverted from the landfill as a result of LEED standards in recycling. An innovative stormwater system, which funnels rain from the roof to a rocky creekbed to filter and collect in an underground retention basin, enables the building to save 60 percent on landscape irrigation. Low-water use fixtures, high-efficiency lighting, automated ventilation systems, and energy-efficient windows will ensure that the building continues to reduce its energy and natural resource consumption.

Sustainable building strategies were also integrated into the design. Renewable materials such as bamboo wall coverings and recycled glass counters were used to help reduce environmental impact; and all paints, adhesives and glues used throughout SBSB are free of volatile organic compounds.

While other newer campus facilities -- such as The McMahan House and Markstein Hall -- incorporated similar stringent green building practices, in order for a structure to achieve LEED certification, builders must track and document all waste and sustainable features, a costly process which was previously not included in construction budgets. Today, however, all new capital projects within the 23-campus CSU system are evaluated using LEED standards, and the costs for certification are covered within design and construction budgets.

Going beyond the planning and implementation phases, LEED uses a point system to evaluate the total environmental impact a building will have for the duration of its expected life cycle. Points are then cataloged into four ranking categories: Certified, Silver, Gold, and at the highest-tier Platinum. The Public Safety Building, which opened its doors in April, received a Gold rating – an achievement that architects and builders of the upcoming Student Union Building, which breaks ground in early 2012, plan to replicate.

“The Student Union Building will have more visible sustainable features than any other structure on campus,” said Brad Fenton, director of Planning, Design and Construction.

The new 89,000-square-foot building will boast modern amenities using sustainable practices, he explained. A garden roof, innovative stormwater collection system, photovoltaic energy panels, drought-tolerant landscaping, low-water-use plumbing fixtures, and integration of recycled materials will all help to enhance the efficiency of the new building – set to open in January 2014.

“Achieving LEED certification validates to the general public and our campus community that we are committed to doing our part in being innovative and socially responsible environmental stewards,” said Fenton.

“By following LEED standards, we’re able to construct a sophisticated, state-of-the-art building that costs less to own and operate while also significantly reducing our immediate and long-term impacts on the environment,” said Sustainability Director Ed Johnson.