A concerted effort on the part of the University of New Mexico has brought many of the existing buildings around campus as well as new projects into line with the Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) building code and has reduced UNM’s energy usage.

The LEED building code run by the United States. The Green Building Council is a certification that “provides independent verification of a building or neighborhood’s green features,” according to their website.

If a structure has energy-efficient features, such as effective insulation and windows to reduce heating and cooling usage, it can be given LEED certification. The LEED certification process gives several levels of certification: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. 

Following an executive order from Bill Richardson in 2009, UNM began to renovate its buildings with a focus on energy use and efficiency. Specifically, any new buildings must meet at least the LEED Silver certification. 

According to documents provided by Mary Clark, the UNM sustainability manager, 12 buildings and 3 under-construction projects have attained LEED Gold certification. Another 5 buildings have LEED Silver and several have experienced renovations that make them more energy-efficient without attaining a LEED certification. 

Among the LEED-certified buildings are Reibsomer Hall (Gold), Castetter Hall (Gold and Silver), the Science and Mathematics Learning Center (Gold), Zimmerman Library Learning Commons (Silver) and Dreamstyle Arena (Silver). 

Projects under construction that have been awarded LEED certification are the second phase of Clark Hall renovation, Johnson Center and the PAIS building. All three projects have been given LEED Gold certification. 

According to Donald Swick, a facilities management and energy services engineer, “the project that implemented the most ‘sustainable’ features recently on UNM Campus was (the) Farris Engineering Center.”

The features include dimmable windows that can reduce cooling costs. A more efficient heating and cooling system, as well as the lighting,  are connected to “digital controls for both systems that integrate to tell when rooms are occupied,” Swick said. 

Water efficiency systems and methods used during construction were also used to ensure the sustainability of the Farris Engineering Center which according to Swick was given LEED ‘Gold’ certification in 2018.

Many buildings that have not gotten LEED certification have been renovated to replace outdated equipment. Much of the work was not planned with sustainability in mind but was simply required maintenance. The new equipment has “improved performance resulting in energy usage reduction, better occupant comfort and reduced corrective maintenance costs,” Swick said. 

“UNM has successfully reduced campus-wide energy usage in the past 10 years by almost 26% and this is despite UNM adding over 2,000,000 additional square feet to campus,” Clark said. 

Colin Peña is a beat reporter for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at culture@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @penyacolin