Rare LEED Platinum status awarded to two UCAR buildings

Highest sustainable design rating from the U.S. Green Building Council

September 6, 2013

BOULDER—Two recently remodeled buildings at the Foothills campus of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) have earned a Platinum rating, the highest possible, from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.

Utility costs have dropped by roughly one-third for the two buildings, which both feature extensive solar arrays and geothermal systems.

Leed Platinum Award: UCAR Anthes building
The Anthes Building is one of two UCAR buildings to receive LEED Platinum status. (©UCAR. Photo by Carlye Calvin. This image is freely available for media & nonprofit use.)

One of the buildings, known as the Anthes Building (3375 Mitchell Lane), houses UCAR management and administrative functions. The other, Foothills Lab 4, or FL4 (3300 Mitchell Lane) is the home of UCAR's Community Programs. Each has about 50,000 square feet of interior space.

LEED ratings are based on such criteria as energy efficiency, water conservation, and the use of recycled or locally sourced construction materials.

Achieving a LEED Platinum rating for remodeled buildings is often more difficult than for new construction because of restrictions imposed by the existing designs. About a dozen such remodeling projects receive LEED Platinum status yearly.

“We’re very honored to receive the highest LEED recognition,” says UCAR president Thomas Bogdan. “By remodeling the buildings to exacting standards, UCAR has achieved a win-win of saving money at a time of tight government funding while also protecting the environment.”

The path to efficiency

The Anthes Building was built in 1979 and purchased by UCAR in 2009, while FL4 was built in 1983 and purchased in 1997. Both structures were built at a time when fuel prices had dropped markedly from peaks in the 1970s and energy efficiency often took a back seat to low-cost construction. The Anthes building had been constructed originally for Cray Computing, and its gentle curve echoes the shape of an early Cray supercomputer.

“The United States has a very large stock of similar office buildings from this era,” says David Pfeifer of AndersonMasonDale Architects, who oversaw design for the remodeling project. “UCAR is providing leadership in this area, demonstrating how such real estate assets can be transformed into great places to work.”

Over the next 25 years, according to Pfeifer, the nation may see more activity in office renovation than in new construction.

Among the features that make the two buildings energy efficient:

            •  Photovoltaic solar arrays. There are 415 solar panels mounted on the roof of the Anthes Building, producing 100 kilowatts of peak power. The roof of Foothills Lab 4 has 403 panels, with 92 kilowatts of peak power available.

            •  Interior daylight access. Interior restructuring allows more daylight to reach occupants, which reduces the need for internal lighting.

            •  Hydronic (fluid-based) heating and cooling, together with ground-source heat pumps. By drawing on the near-constant temperature below ground, these systems reduce the cost of heating and cooling by up to 35%.

Many other smaller-scale improvements were involved as well.

“The LEED Platinum designation only occurred because of a commitment on the part of the UCAR Facilities Management and Sustainability team to be very aggressive in utilizing every strategy that made sense for the projects,” says Pfeifer.

The bottom line

Utility bills for Foothills Lab 4 in 2012, the first year after the remodel, dropped by more than 35% compared to 2010, the last full year prior to the remodel. UCAR did not own the Anthes Building prior to remodeling, but it was designed with similar systems and efficiencies for energy performance and likely achieved energy savings that are comparable to, or more significant than, Foothills Lab 4.

The solar panels produce about 15 to 20% of the two buildings’ total energy requirements. Even during the darkest months of the past year (November 2012–January 2013), more than 10% of both buildings’ power use came from solar energy.

“We’re committed to utilizing the most progressive strategies and systems,” says Dave Patterson, UCAR energy demand manager and facilities electrical engineer. “Our goal is to enable UCAR staff to work more efficiently and effectively as they support NCAR’s mission of better understanding the atmosphere that we all share.”


*Media & nonprofit use of images: Except where otherwise indicated, media and nonprofit use permitted with credit as indicated above and compliance with UCAR's terms of use. Find more images in the NCAR|UCAR Multimedia & Image Gallery.

The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research manages the National Center for Atmospheric Research under sponsorship by the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.