IU’s new cyber building gets LEED Gold rating
By Jon Blau
There are no dividers between employees at the Cyberinfrastructure Building. Work stations face the building’s glass exterior, large windows offering a view into the real world, an alternative from computer backgrounds with beaches and palm trees.
It’s a view, but it’s also a necessary feature for the greenest building at Indiana University. In becoming only IU’s second LEED Gold building -- accumulating a university best 74 points from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design scale -- at least 90 percent of employees needed to be able to see a window from their workspace. The building received all five possible points for development density and “community consecutiveness.”
There are rewards in points, but every facet of the building has a purpose. Coworkers don’t have to send each other emails; they can just wave down the room at one another. The vice president for information technology, Brad Wheeler, has an office in the Cyberinfrastructure Building about one-quarter the size the of the one he held more than two years ago in Franklin Hall.
“Executives tend to be away; they are out talking to people,” said Laurie Antolovic, chief financial officer for information and technology at IU. “You aren’t doing your job if you are just sitting in your office.”
The Cyberinfrastructure Building has become an example for where IU wants to head with its building design. All new construction has to meet LEED Silver standards set by the U.S. Green Building Council. The building just “overachieved,” Antolovic jokes, but those points were hard earned.
While the only other LEED Gold building in the IU system, the Glick Eye Institute at IUPUI, announced its achievement in June, the CIB’s staff waited until recently to trumpet its “gold” mark, because Antolovic was in the process of challenging the building council on three points -- and won.
There were points to be had throughout the building and its campus. Louvers around the building direct more sunlight into the building -- heating it up -- when the sun is at a lower angle during the winter. In the summer months, when the sun is at a higher angle, they deflect. The parking lot is concrete rather than asphalt, reducing the “heat island” effect. The lot itself has spaces specifically for more fuel-efficient vehicles.
Alternative transportation was key in the point’s race, too. There is a bus stop right by the building, earning the CIB six points, with digital maps throughout the CIB that have bus trackers for employees who want to swing by campus. There is also a bike storage facility, but the university wouldn’t have gotten any points if it didn’t offer a shower. So they did.
At the same time, the building has elements that weren’t score-oriented but are instead byproducts of active “Green Teams” throughout campus, bands of environmentally conscious employees in different buildings who are searching for opportunities to spread their gospel.
The communal trash can, which sits next to communal printer, isn’t marked “trash.” It reads “LANDFILL.”
“We want to remind people it goes somewhere,” said Noma Maier, the university and information technology services’ sustainability coordinator. “It doesn’t go away, it goes to a place.”
Antolovic and Maier would contend that many of the features geared toward making the $37 million building were not all that expensive compared to other structures, or just to get points. It’s just that the CIB was built with sustainability in mind. A clever design for the building’s rain gutters diverts the flow of water to holes that shoot out of the foundation and into a “rain garden” that makes up the CIB’s lawn. These native grasses filter out 85 percent of particulates from the water as it makes its way down a “waterfall” effect created by descending layers of hilly grasses.
“People are comfortable with what they are used to doing,” Maier said of architects and construction companies. “This might push you outside of the envelope, to think of that, because most buildings have exterior gutters that look a certain way and do a certain thing.”
The open work spaces were one point Antolovic knew she was going to have to sell slowly, knowing she probably only had about 20 percent of IT employees on-board during the building’s construction. Now, she believes she has 80 percent well-adjusted and now adjusting their habits.
The floor’s lone printer-copy-fax machine is kept in the same room as the trash, behind a closed door, and it requires a username and password to spit out a document. It’s a privacy feature for people who don’t want their coworkers sneaking a peek at their materials, but it also provides a second chance for someone to rethink the print, delete the job and save a fraction of a tree.
Inside a cyber building, oddly intertwined with wiring and its effects on nature, employees are discouraged from bringing their own mini-fridges, coffee makers and space heaters to reduce energy costs.
Electrical consumption and production is one area where IU could strive for improvements. On the CIB’s cooling, membrane roof, there are solar panels that heat the building’s water supply. If they had put more panels on the roof, and erected car shelters with panels on top of them, Antolovic said it would have been possible for the CIB to attain LEED Platinum, the green building council’s top rank.
When the CIB was being constructed, the extra cost would have been about $150,000 to $250,000 to install additional panels, a price the university saw as “impractical” at the time, if only to attain platinum, Antolovic said. But she said she hopes, as the technology improves and reduces in cost, that IU may be able to come back to that possibility, potentially helping power the CIB and other buildings in a future tech park.
In the meantime, Antolovic has plans to feed live electrical usage data into a graph that would be displayed on one of the building’s big-screens.
“The only way to make people conscious of this,” Antolovic said, “is when you have reminders.”
Editor's note: This story from The Bloomington Herald-Times is being published here as a courtesy for readers of IU in the News.