LEED Platinum Dorms A First For Arizona

Students at the University of Arizona (UA) are getting a smart education in green living right in their own dorms, as the two newest residence halls at the university have taken LEED Platinum, the U.S. Green Building Council’s highest level of certification for green buildings.

The two halls—Árbol de la Vida and Likins—opened with rooms for 1,088 students in the 2011-12 academic year, and now take their places alongside UA’s Campus Recreation Center as LEED Platinum certified. According to UA, the two residence halls constitute the first residential project to earn LEED platinum in the state of Arizona.

LEED platinum dorms

image via University of Arizona

In addition to rooms for students, the buildings include office suites, a conferencing center, living-learning classrooms, multiple study and gathering areas and courtyards. They were built, in part, from recycled materials, with nearly 7,000 tons of debris diverted from the landfill during construction, and nearly 2,500 tons of that recycled into the construction process, as per of UA’s sustainability plan.

The residence halls make use of passive (in-landscape) rainwater harvesting, drought tolerant landscaping, low-flow shower heads and dual-flush toilets. Student rooms feature “smart thermometers” with occupant sensors, “green outlets” that shut off power when rooms are unoccupied, and windows that allow for maximum daylighting and direct ventilation.

Solar panels make use of the sun to heat hot water, while strategically located building overhangs and awnings keep that sunshine from entering windows, heating up the buildings, and driving up air conditioning bills.

Another educational feature: both halls make use of web-based software that can be accessed by students to monitor the amount of energy the building uses via utility data, which allows for the two halls to compare and contrast their use of energy. (We’re hoping this gives rise a friendly green rivalry between the halls: Who can use less energy?)

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.