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Practice what you teach: LEED Gold for Austin College

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

IDEA Center observatoryAustin College’s new IDEA Center has received LEED Gold certification, and the fact that it is the first LEED Certified building on the college’s Sherman, Texas, campus is no coincidence.

The IDEA (Inquiry, Discovery, Entrepreneurship, Access) Center embodies the College’s long-standing leadership in science education and its commitment to a new campus standard for environmentally responsive buildings. The Center, which opened its doors at the start of the current academic year, is home to the Departments of Math, Computer Science, Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Studies, and Physics. The multidisciplinary facility marks a significant step in Austin College’s strategy to integrate a competitive science and technology program into its liberal arts curriculum.

It features a domed observatory housing a 24-inch telescope with an astronomical high-resolution image camera, while the building itself also acts as a scientific instrument: a gnomon hole in the roof transforms the atrium into a solar observatory, tracking the movement of the sun through the days and years.

The design incorporates site-specific opportunities for sustainability such as solar shading, use of natural light and rooftop rainwater collection for irrigation of native landscaping. Since the project is located in the endangered Texas blackland prairie ecoregion, it is designed to minimize environmental impact. An irrigation cistern reduces the use of potable water on landscape maintenance. The facility was constructed using 90% FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) wood, which promotes sustainable forestry worldwide. Nearly half the materials used were sourced regionally, reducing the project’s total carbon footprint, and over 80% of construction waste was recycled.

Austin College will celebrate the IDEA Center’s LEED Gold Certification in a public ceremony on June 20.

The IDEA Center also appears in the May 2014 issue of University Business magazine. “Inside Look: Science Centers” focuses on the latest trends in undergraduate science education. Shepley Bulfinch was the design architect in association with Page, the architect and engineers of record.

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