O’Brien Hall Earns LEED Gold Certification



It’s official! See the article from the University of Rochester newsroom:

The University of Rochester’s newest campus residence, O’Brien Hall, has earned LEED® Gold certification, established by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and verified by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) for its sustainable construction, landscaping, and operations. O’Brien Hall is the first LEED-recognized building on River Campus and joins the Medical Center’s Saunders Research Building—also LEED Gold—in the University’s official portfolio.


LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the nation’s pre-eminent recognition program for high-performance green buildings, awarding certification at the levels of certified, silver, gold, and platinum based on ratings in water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, material and resources, sustainable sites, indoor environmental quality, and innovation and design process.


“O’Brien Hall provides our students with an outstanding residence in which to live and study, and now proudly bears LEED Gold recognition for its energy efficiency and sustainable design,” said Ronald Paprocki, senior vice president for administration and finance and member of the University’s Council on Sustainability. “I commend the project team for their commitment to achieving this high USGBC standard. This designation furthers the University’s well-established commitment to sustainable operations and development.”


“Buildings are a prime example of how human systems integrate with natural systems,” said Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair of the USGBC. “The O’Brien Hall project efficiently uses our natural resources and makes an immediate, positive impact on our planet, which will tremendously benefit future generations to come.”


Named for the University’s eighth president Dennis O’Brien, the five-story, 150-student residence hall overlooking the Genesee River opened in the fall 2012 semester to sophomores, juniors and seniors. The courtyard, which unifies O’Brien Hall with Wilder and Anderson towers and the Sage Art Center, was also redesigned at the same time as O’Brien Hall’s construction.  The four-building complex was renamed Jackson Court for President Emeritus Thomas Jackson, the University’s ninth president.


The first residence hall to be built on River Campus in 42 years, O’Brien Hall features a design dramatically different from other student-living spaces, with upper floors offering more study rooms and lounges, and first-floor common areas designed to accommodate meetings, events, music and dance rehearsals, and other activities.


Overall, O’Brien Hall uses 26 percent less energy usage than a baseline building. Among its sustainable features that led to LEED Gold recognition are:


  • Nearly 30 percent of all building materials used in construction included content from recycled sources, and 32 percent were extracted and manufactured within 500 miles of the project site. Ninety-two percent of all non-hazardous construction debris was diverted from landfills and incinerators.  All materials used in constructing the building are below LEED-required volatile organic compound (VOC) limits.  All furniture and wall finishes are low-VOC, as well.
  • Bioretention basins and other landscaping measures treat 80 percent of storm water, helping to limit the disruption to natural hydrology and reduce runoff from hardscape. Reducing the overall hardscape are new plantings native to the region, and selections that require little to no irrigation.
  • A bicycle storage room holds 36 bikes, in addition to numerous outdoor racks in Jackson Court.
  • A highly reflective white roof and a vegetative “green” roof help to cool the building in the summer, minimize “urban heat island” effect, and reduce the amount of energy used for heating.  O’Brien’s green roof consists of native, low-maintenance plantings.
  • Monitors in every room gauge the amount of CO2 and automatically adjust outside air volumes; individual thermostats efficiently heat or cool each room.
  • High-efficiency LED lights are used outside of the building.  Inside, room occupancy sensors control and limit unneeded lighting.
  • Lounges feature ceiling-high windows that infuse the spaces with natural light and heat.
  • Each student room has at least one large operable window, allowing for increased sunlight and air circulation. Additionally, a sun-lit stairwell overlooks the Genesee River and invites residents to take the stairs when possible.
  • Water usage is reduced by 53 percent through the use of efficient plumbing fixtures such as dual flush toilets and sensor controlled faucets, helping reduce the burden on municipal water systems.
  • O’Brien Hall is built with an extensive insulation system called a “thermal envelope.” The high-performance insulation foam in the walls and ceilings helps to reduce the amount of energy needed to heat and cool the building.
  • The building ventilation system uses high-efficiency air filters, enhancing indoor air quality and comfort.


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