MEDIA, Pa. — Penn State Brandywine’s Orchard Hall has received LEED Silver certification for its sustainable design and environmental performance. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the most widely used green building rating system in the world and has become a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement.
The 256-bed Orchard Hall, which opened last August, is the campus’ first residence hall.
“Both Orchard Hall and our Student Union were LEED-certified at the baseline level, which is certainly a huge accomplishment. But being silver means that we were recognized for going beyond the basic requirements,” said Elizabeth Kearns, director of housing and food services at Penn State Brandywine.
To earn LEED Silver certification, the residence hall’s architect and construction team had to keep track of dozens of details throughout the building process.
“LEED starts in the design phase and continues until well after the project’s completion,” Kearns said. “It considers everything from start to finish, from where the dirt went when they dug the first hole, to energy outputs when the building is occupied. They’ve actually weighed the trash coming out of the residence hall.”
According to Kearns, the residence hall’s certification is in line with Penn State's University-wide sustainability initiative. Penn State campuses across the Commonwealth have committed to seeking LEED certification for any new buildings constructed.
“LEED certification is what new Penn State buildings are supposed to strive for at a baseline level,” she said. “We were very excited when LEED told us that we had earned silver.”
In addition to meeting the University initiative, LEED certification benefits the Brandywine community at large, including the campus’ neighbors.
“Of course, LEED certification means we are being good stewards of our environment, which is better for everyone,” said Kearns, “but it also means a better experience for the residents. A sustainable building costs less to maintain and is more comfortable to live in, since the air and heating systems are more efficient.”
The Brandywine maintenance crew has promoted sustainability in its older buildings as well, replacing older lighting and plumbing systems with more efficient models in recent years. As the crew looks towards the future, they plan to continue the trend.
“Our Student Union is also on track to do well with LEED certification,” Kearns said. “It’s an exciting time.”