Wolf Ridge Takes the LEED in Race for Sustainability

After five years of hard work, Wolf Ridge Apartments received certification for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) at the Silver level in May 2015 for all six buildings. Some of the green features included the use of vegetable oil for biofuel and a 30,000 gallon cistern used for irrigation so no potable water is used for irrigation on site, according to Liz Bowen, program coordinator for University Sustainability Office.

NC State requires all new construction projects to meet LEED Silver certification, a level of achievement in green building. The LEED process begins with the design of the building.

“Early-on in design, you start thinking about how you want to make your buildings sustainable,” said Pete Fraccaroli, Campus Life Director of Facilities, IT and Asset Management. Fraccaroli said the team looked at storm drainage, buildings, air-conditioning and landscaping to incorporate sustainable aspects.

Different goals are set early in the design process. A point system is used to determine which goals to set to reach the LEED Silver threshold. To reach LEED Silver Certification, 50-59 points out of 110 had to be earned. Each of the buildings at Wolf Ridge earned 56-57 points.

“We chose which ones were reasonable and which ones were not realistic,” Fraccaroli said. “Some of them we picked because of their visibility. If there’s something that’s visible that our students can see and understand, we like to do some of those types of things as well as behind-the-scenes and the mechanical rims in the way that we condition our buildings efficiently in the equipment that we use.” An example of this is the green roof, which Fraccaroli described as a pleasing sight for everyone.

Construction then follows the design process. According to Fraccaroli, it is important to pay attention to how the buildings are constructed and the tools that are used. “It could be something as simple as using adhesives with low BOCs,” he said. “It can be where you order material from, or [if you’re] using local material.” Local materials are important because less gas is used to transfer materials.

The challenging part of becoming LEED certified is all the documentation that goes into it, according to Fraccaroli. “You’ve got to be meticulous in how you design and how you track the materials,” he said. “For instance, on diversion from a waste landfill, you have to track on a daily basis the material that’s leaving your site and how it’s being disposed of.”

There was a lot of coordination among LS3P, the designer, University Housing, Capital Project Management and the Office of University Architect from NC State, the owner, and Barnhill Balfour Beatty, the contractor. LS3P specifies equipment that meets LEED requirements, NC State reviews it to make sure it meets the building operation requirements and Barnhill Balfour Beatty reviews it to make sure it can be constructed effectively.

“We look at mechanical systems — how we heat and cool the buildings and how we produce domestic hot water — landscape, water conservation, indoor air quality, construction techniques, use of local materials during construction and methods of transportation, ” Fraccaroli said.

The residents of Wolf Ridge also benefit from the LEED Silver Certification in a number of ways. For one, the certification requires a specific threshold on indoor air quality, so fresh air is provided to residents, and it’s not humid. LEED v4, the new benchmark for high-performance buildings for all levels of LEED certification, takes a performance-based approach to indoor environmental quality to ensure comfort for occupants.

Londun Isler, a junior studying criminology, is a Resident Adviser (RA) in Wolf Ridge. “My favorite sustainable aspect here at Wolf Ridge are the abundance of windows,” she said. “Sometimes it’s like sitting in a green house. It creates an uplifting vibe because it allows for the sun to engulf the room.”

Fraccaroli described the process as a “big undertaking.” He said it took a year following the students moving in to finish the LEED certification process because energy consumption, water efficiency and indoor air quality have to be measured and verified following move-in to ensure they’re operating well.

“I think one of the most pleasing things after you go through this process is that you’re pretty much guaranteed that you’re going to have a well-operating building that’s efficient,” he said.

Fraccaroli also said that going through the long process from concept to completion was rewarding, both as a director and a project manager, because it shows the commitment to sustainability from those who worked on the project and verifies that they have efficient building systems.