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Northwestern University

Kresge Hall earns highest possible “green” rating

The humanities hub becomes the first Northwestern building to achieve LEED Platinum status

By Daniel P. Smith

Kresge Centennial Hall has long been a symbol of the humanities’ important place at Northwestern University, even more so after a two-year renovation project created a vibrant, contemporary and collaborative environment for students, faculty and staff.

Now, the 63-year-old building is a symbol of something else: the University’s ongoing commitment to sustainable practices.

Days before the start of the 2017-2018 academic year, Northwestern leaders received word that the renovated Kresge Hall had achieved Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the highest possible level of LEED certification.

The USGBC’s LEED program recognizes building designs that are resource- efficient and cost-effective while providing a healthier and greener lifestyle for building occupants.

In rare company

While 10 buildings between Northwestern’s Evanston and Chicago campuses previously captured LEED certification, Kresge Hall is the first Northwestern project to earn Platinum status, a credential elevating Kresge Hall into rare company. According to the USGBC, there are only 1,167 Platinum-certified commercial buildings in the U.S. and only 89 such commercial buildings in Illinois.

“Northwestern continues to improve its built environment, prioritizing sustainability in new construction and building renovations,” says Kathia Benitez, director of sustainability for Northwestern. “We pushed the envelope to gain LEED Platinum certification.”

Completed in September 2016, the two-year-renovation of Kresge Centennial Hall included the addition of a fifth floor and a reconstructed east wing that expanded Kresge’s square footage by 20 percent.

The added space, however, did not come at the expense of the environment, as Kresge earned 86 points on LEED’s stringent 110-point scale that evaluates everything from site sustainability and water efficiency to energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality. Surpassing the 80 points necessary to earn Platinum status, the renovated Kresge Hall includes: 

In addition, 41 percent of the total materials purchased for the renovation project were produced within 500 miles of Kresge Hall, while 93 percent of all waste generated during construction was diverted from landfills through recycling or reuse.

“I am so proud of Northwestern for investing in this important project that improves the student and faculty experience for our humanities,” Northwestern vice president of facilities management John D’Angelo says. “I am equally proud of the design and execution team, which met all program goals, experience goals and budget goals. It proves that collaborative, thoughtful design need not be more expensive and results in a higher-quality product.” 

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