Sherman Center earns LEED Gold certification

Building achieves high marks for sustainable design and efficient operation

By Jim Fessenden

UMass Medical School Communications

January 30, 2013

ASC-interiorThe newest building at UMass Medical School is now also the greenest. The $400 million Albert Sherman Center, a 512,000-square-foot facility for biomedical research and education set to officially open on Wednesday, Jan. 30, has achieved LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The Albert  Sherman Center will expand and unify the Worcester campus, nearly double its research capacity and support the School of Medicine’s new learner-centered curriculum.

Designed by ARC/Architectural Resources Cambridge, the Sherman Center was built on-time and on budget, a tribute to the collaborative efforts of the entire design, engineering and construction team. Construction of the Sherman Center and a nearby 1,440-space parking garage was managed by Suffolk Construction. PMA Consultants served as the owner’s project manager overseeing day-to-day activities on behalf of the University of Massachusetts Building Authority and UMass Medical School.

The combination of efficient design, sustainable building practices and advanced technologies integrated at the Sherman Center will result in the new facility operating 25 percent more efficiently, consuming 4.1 million fewer kilowatt hours of electricity, using 30 percent less water, and cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 4.5 million pounds annually, compared to similar buildings of standard design.

“Stewardship of the environment, which is fundamentally linked to global public health, is a core value of our community,” said Chancellor Michael F. Collins. “Designing and building the Albert Sherman Center to meet the high standards of LEED Gold is a wonderful achievement and all those who have been involved in this project should be proud.”

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a third-party certification system created by the USGBC for “green building” construction and renovation projects. It’s regarded as the premier certification program for sustainable construction in the country. Qualifying for LEED certification requires the evaluation of every aspect of a building project, from the design process, to the construction practices and materials, to the energy profile of the building. For example, in addition to the fact that 95 percent of the steel used in the Sherman Center is made from recycled material, the project also earned LEED points by choosing a steel fabrication plant relatively close to the construction site, thereby reducing the energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions associated with transporting steel greater distances.

“We are impressed by the university’s strong level of commitment to energy efficiency and creation of sustainable environments for the Sherman Center,” said Bryan Thorp, associate principal of ARC/Architectural Resources Cambridge. “The University’s vision in this regard set high expectations for all of us. As a team we worked closely throughout design and construction to achieve and exceed these expectations.”

“We are proud of the role we played in managing construction of the Albert Sherman Center and helping it achieve LEED Gold certification,” said Peter Campot, Suffolk’s president of health care and science-technology and chief innovation officer. “Our project team implemented the industry’s most innovative planning and construction methods and tools, and provided valuable counsel on the tradeoffs between cost, usability and constructability issues, which helped UMass Medical School meet its LEED certification goals while staying on schedule and on budget. This certification is a tremendous accomplishment, and it is a tribute to the power of planning, innovation and collaboration.”

In addition to the recycled steel at its core, sustainable materials and practices used in the Sherman Center include: wood finishes harvested from certified sustainable forests; carpets and textiles made from recycled fibers; and low-flow plumbing fixtures used in most areas. Rainwater from the roof and condensate water from the heating and cooling systems will be captured and reused by the campus power plant, saving 750,000 gallons of fresh water each year.

The orientation of the Sherman Center, and the exterior materials used, contribute significantly to the building’s efficiency. On the north side of the building, where the laboratories are located, the façade is mostly glass, with long windows designed to allow in as much natural light as possible. On the south side of the building, the windows have external baffles, or sun-shades, designed to block much of the heat energy of the sun’s rays and to bounce some of the light up to the interior ceilings of the offices and educational spaces. The glass on the south side is also slightly more reflective than the rest of the building to further minimize solar glare and heat gain. The building’s roof is white and gray, and the exterior terracotta lightly colored, so the surfaces reflect rather that absorb heat. The result is an exterior envelope that helps reduce the need for electric lighting, heating and cooling of the facility.

“The design team used three-dimensional modeling of the building façade early in the process to achieve the right balance of transparency and thermal performance,” said Thorp. “Our goal was to bring natural light as deep into the building as possible by studying each façade orientation and tuning the interior and exterior forms in response. The result not only reduces lighting costs, it creates a dynamic and pleasant work environment for the users.”

The Sherman Center also includes numerous integrated systems that reduce energy consumption, thereby reducing the building’s carbon footprint. Among those key technologies are: occupancy sensors for lighting, heating and cooling of offices and conference rooms; heat recovery wheels that allow the building to exhaust stale air and draw in fresh air while retaining most of the heat in the building; variable speed fans, with sash sensors, on the fume hoods in the laboratories; daylight harvesting sensors that adjust interior lights based on the available sunlight; and a sophisticated “building automation system” that monitors building operations every 15 minutes and adjusts systems for maximal efficiency.

“We focused on balancing sustainability and energy efficiency with maintaining the comfort of the building’s occupants and meeting the extensive needs of research and medical education,” says Mark Dolny, AIA, LEED AP, associate principal at ARC who led the effort toward LEED Certification during design. “A LEED Gold building such as the Sherman Center will give the university tools to truly manage and monitor energy usage like never before and provide safe, effective lab environments without sacrificing energy performance.”

“From the beginning of the design process, we asked the team to focus on the efficiency on the building as well as sustainable materials and practices for construction,” said John Baker, associate vice chancellor of facilities management. “This is a complex building with greater energy and operational needs than a typical office building. So it was a challenge to aim for LEED Gold. But with the university leadership’s strong support, and the outstanding work of the design and construction team, we were able to meet that challenge.”

Other environmentally sustainable projects completed by UMass Medical School include a recent, energy-efficient expansion of the Worcester campus power plant and construction of the LEED Silver Ambulatory Care Center.

Built to help meet the power demands of the Sherman Center, the 14,000-square-foot expansion of the power plant contributes to the overall reduction of green-house gas emissions on campus. Completed in 2012, the project included installation of a high-efficiency, 7.5-megawatt, gas-fired combustion turbine and an associated heat recovery system that will boost the Medical School’s capacity to generate electricity. The new gas turbine replaces one of the plant’s original gas and oil-fired steam boilers, which will be taken off-line and kept in reserve as an emergency back-up. Since natural gas burns more cleanly than oil, and the new jet turbine is highly efficient, the expanded power plant will actually have lower green-house gas emissions, despite its added energy capacity. Additionally, producing electricity on-site is approximately 30-percent more efficient than using electricity from the regional distribution network, due to the losses that occur when electricity travels long distances on distribution lines.

In September of 2012, the Ambulatory Care Center, which is a 253,000 square-foot facility with a mix of patient-care, clinical research and educational activities, earned LEED Silver certification. The ACC was built by UMass Medical School in collaboration with its clinical partner, UMass Memorial Medical Center.