Commonwealth Honors College Residential Complex receives LEED Silver certification

By Tanaya Asnani

Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian
(Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian)

The Commonwealth Honors College complex at the University of Massachusetts has been awarded a certification commending its architecture and facilities for achieving a high level of self-sustainability.

The United States Green Building Council, a nonprofit organization that promotes sustainable building design and operation, awarded the Honors College a Silver Certificate in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design this fall.

The Honors College area, which was completed in 2013, was designed and constructed with the LEED guidelines in mind according to a UMass press release. The certificate acknowledged the Honors College for its use of renewable construction materials, proximity to public transportation and low-level energy using amenities according to the release.

LEED certified buildings strive to create positive impacts on the surrounding and residential communities while promoting renewable and clean energy, according to the USGBC’s website. Every LEED building exceeds the sustainability requirements of current building codes by at least 10 percent. LEED requirements and standards are updated from year to year to promote innovation and more efficient building design.

Since 2008, UMass has made a commitment to meet this certification and promote the construction of sustainable architecture. In 2007, Massachusetts put forward Executive Order 484 which incorporated facility requirements to be included during the construction of buildings attempting to reach  LEED certification. In the same year, UMass president Jack Wilson signed the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment to create strategies that will help the campus reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

“The Commonwealth Honors College Residential Complex comprises of over half a million square feet incorporating smart growth strategies that make a truly positive impact on its 1500 residents and 100 employees and on the campus as a whole,” said Ludmilla Pavlova-Gillham, senior facilities planner in campus planning at UMass.

Pavlova-Gillham said the CHCRC possesses state-of-the-art sustainable facilities for living and working. Some successes of CHCRC building designs include a reduction in energy costs by 20 percent and a reduction of  portable water up to 42 percent. The portable water level reductions are on average 20 percent more than the minimum required of LEED certified buildings.

“I am in an environment and society course and it makes me happy to know that our housing is striving for sustainability,” said Sarah Rose, a resident of the Honors College. “Everything from the reduced power to the biodegradable materials at Roots Cafe makes Honors housing a better place to be.”

Roy Jackman, another resident of the Honors College, added, “I think it’s an effective economic energy model, and with the reality of state schools and the legislative backers thereof, it maintains a space for a thriving community.”

The CHCRC housing has other useful features. It reflects solar heat in the summer to mitigate heat island effects in dense communities. Although the complex accommodates a dense community, it also features 2.8 acres of open area filled with vegetation. The hardscape includes impermeable areas that enable storm water to pass underground before it washes off. It also provides covered bike storage for 18 percent of campus residents.

“It usually takes five years for a building from planning, delivery to being certified,” Pavlova-Gillham said. “The CHCRC housing just took four years to achieve.”

In total, there are 512,485 square feet of area on campus that has been certified with LEED Silver and 394,196 square feet of area certified with LEED Gold. The total LEED certified area constitutes 7.5 percent of campus buildings.

There are future plans to certify more existing buildings at UMass under LEED and propel new construction plans and projects in this direction. There are projects under design and construction registered to become LEED certified that will add 710,387 square feet of green building space.

Tanaya M. Asnani can be reached at