World’s Third-Highest LEED-Certified Structure Built On The Cheap

Think LEED Platinum buildings require a huge up-front investment? Think again. Saint Martin’s University, located in Lacey, Wash., recently became home to the highest-rated LEED-certified building in the Western Hemisphere. And it did so for less cost per square foot than similar, non-sustainable buildings.

Cebula Hall, which houses the Hal and Inge Marcus School of Engineering on the University’s Lacey campus, was recently awarded LEED Platinum Certification, the premier level of certification, with 97 out of 110 possible LEED points. The best part is, they did it for about $50 less per square foot than non-LEED-oriented laboratory buildings on other college campuses.

St. Martins University LEED Cebula Hall

Image via St. Martin’s University

Reading a list of all the sustainable features included in the new Cebula Hall, it’s hard to believe that there were any savings to be had. The building boasts “a geothermal ground loop, coupled to water-source heat pumps and in-floor radiant heat; systems and structures that are exposed, offering visitors a clear view of their operations; energy-efficient fixtures and equipment that reduce water usage by 48 percent; a large roof-top solar panel system that allows students to study tracking devices, solar orientation and the production of solar energy; a rain garden; and a photovoltaic array that produces more than 15 percent of the building’s power and also provides power back to the electrical grid,” explains a school press release.

Despite all of these innovative technologies, “the construction cost of the building was $225 per square foot, dispelling the notion that LEED Platinum buildings cost 15 percent or more than similar, non-sustainable buildings. On college campuses, construction costs for non-LEED-oriented laboratory buildings typically start around $275 to $400 per square foot, and go up — sometimes significantly — from there,” according to Marc Gleason of Tacoma-based McGranahan Architects, the architectural firm that designed Cebula Hall.

On another interesting note, all energy usage for Cebula Hall is tracked in real time through an interactive, online building dashboard that anyone can access at


Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog

1 Comment

  • Reply October 18, 2013

    Jim Newman

    Makes sense. We’ve been saying (and constructing) buildings that are LEED Certified and LEED Silver for several years now at no higher costs than standard well-designed and constructed buildings.
    For a team to have constructed a LEED Platinum building at a lower cost than a standard building is a testament to good, integrated design and a smart Owner.
    The key is to have an experienced team that works together well and an owner that is truly involved in the process.
    Congratulations to McGranahan and to St. Martin’s U, as well as to the rest of their team.

Leave a Reply