Washington University opens green building at research center

Sunday, May 31, 2009
The Living Learning Center, a building that Washington University hopes to have recognized as one of the greenest structures in North America , is pictured Friday on the grounds of the Tyson Research Center near Eureka, Mo. (TOM GANNAM ~ Associated Press)

EUREKA, Mo. -- Washington University unveiled a building Friday that it hopes to have recognized as one of the greenest structures in North America.

The Living Learning Center looks something like a souped-up log cabin, combining wood harvested from trees on the property with the latest advances in environmentally responsible design.

It's at the university's Tyson Research Center, a 2,000-acre property where environmental research is done about 20 miles from the school's main campus in St. Louis. The new, 2,900-square-foot Living Learning Center is still under construction, but was designed to be a zero-net-energy and zero-wastewater building.

The center is being built to meet the "living building" challenge, developed by the Cascadia Region Green Building Council. A building must meet 16 requirements to be considered a "living building."

No building has met the standard yet, which is considered the world's most stringent green building rating. The standard is not meant to compete with the better known LEED rating system, but as an additional way to encourage green building design and construction.

"Every nail, every screw, every light fixture had to be scrutinized to meet the standards," said the Tyson Research Center's director, Jonathan Chase. The Living Learning Center outside of Eureka can't be deemed a "living building" until the university is able to show it has met the necessary requirements for a year.

Chase pointed out notable aspects of the roughly $1.6 million building.

One side of the center's roof is filled with solar panels to provide electricity for the building. The university said the building is so efficient it will be able to provide some energy to the electric grid.

"The hope is that it would change the ways we think about things, not only water and energy but the materials, how we buy them or how we use them," he said.

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