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UAA Science Building renovation project recycles 106 tons of demolition material

by Ted Kincaid  |   

Renovated hallway
UAA's Science Building is the first whole building renovation to be accomplished at UAA in recent history, and it was done in green style.

Tucked in between UAA Drive and the central parking garage, blending in well with its surroundings, is UAA's Science Building. For most of academic year 2011-2012 and half of 2012-2013, this 35-year-old structure was a construction site, getting a long overdue facelift.

With other new buildings cropping up on campus, UAA Facilities & Campus Services chose to renovate the Science Building instead-but not without an environmental strategy in place first. Most notable is the fact that approximately 80 percent of the demolition material-coming to 106 tons-was recycled instead of sent to the landfill-an outcome that was made possible by a close partnership between UAA's Department of Sustainability and UAA Facilities & Campus Services.

"The role of the Sustainability Department in recycling the demolished material in the Science Building Renovation was to encourage the facilities planning and construction area to comply with LEED standards as much as possible," says UAA Sustainability Director Paula Williams. "LEED stands for Leaders in Energy Efficient Design. Strategies to make the entire Science Building more energy efficient and how to utilize recycled material in the new construction, etc., that's all part of LEED standards, but also part of LEED standards is to try to keep as much material out of the trash as possible."

LEED standards aren't required at UAA but Facilities uses them as a guideline that they aspire to meet in all their projects. In fact, the facilities master plan states that UAA will build new buildings and renovations to as high a LEED standard as economically feasible.

"Even though this project isn't a LEED project, we try to incorporate many of those practices," says UAA Facilities Project Manager Summer Sauve. "Our bid documents requested the contractor to recycle as much as possible. And we've been really pleased with the amount they've been able to."

Chris Turletes, associate vice chancellor of Facilities and Campus Services explains, "A couple of years ago when we started to revise our energy policy, one of the things we looked at was how to get code upgrades, that is, less energy costs for more and better buildings. One of the things we looked at was a commitment toward LEED and we decided we'd build toward a LEED Silver standard.

A big component of LEED is indoor air quality as well as mechanical and electrical equipment that is doing more with less.

"From the facilities, maintenance and operations standpoint that's always a good thing because a lot of our resources go to funding the electrical bills and gas heating bills," says Turletes. "It also has a green color to it, which is certainly popular for college-age kids and our constituents of Alaska. We don't have an official LEED-certified building on campus because there's quite a bit of administrative cost to register, audit and certify it, but we want all the benefit of the LEED ideal, so that's why we say we build toward the LEED standard. We try to harvest all the energy efficiencies that we can to do that."

From reusing and recycling materials to better heat and air ventilation systems to efficient electricity and water usage: all of these add up to a smaller footprint. Specific examples include reusing cabinets that came from Beatrice McDonald Hall and reinstalling existing microscope cabinets as well as giving a lot of the old furniture and extra cabinets to the Native Arts Department, creating a win-win.

"In the restrooms we have low-flow faucets and toilets and urinals and sensors, so that reduces our water usage," continues Sauve. "And our new lighting in the classrooms is 60 percent more efficient using more efficient lamps and less of them. The new air handling units have variable speed drives which are more efficient, and we went from pneumatic controls to digital controls, which is a huge difference."

Williams outlines the benefits of putting construction material into recycling rather than putting them into the landfill: "One, we reuse the items, like crushed up concrete to make more concrete instead of having to mine more gravel or other items that make concrete, so it's good for the environment in that way. Two, we avoid needing a new landfill by slowing down the rate at which we're filling up the limited space in our current landfill. And three we've been saving up to 16 percent in expenses by keeping things out of the landfill rather than putting them into the landfill, so it's a cost savings for UAA as well."

"I was skeptical it would work at first," admits Turletes. "I expected from the contractor's standpoint that would be too much material handling on their part with two different dumpsters and a couple different sub-contractors. But in Anchorage that's not the case. You put it all in one dumpster and they take care of it at the recycling center. So I was pleasantly surprised that being green, or being resourceful, extends the life of our landfill and really didn't cost us any extra in the long run."

Sheet rock, concrete, wood, nails, ceiling grids and steel. This is all construction debris that UAA's contractor sent to three-year-old Central Recycling Services here in Anchorage for processing.


Central Recycling
Central Recycling Services in Anchorage took the bulk of demoed material from UAA's Science Building renovation project. They sorted the recyclable material and gave it new life.

"We provide the dumpster to rent and then the contractor can fill it up with any kind of material they want from the project as long as it's not rotting or human waste or hazardous material," says Kauai Alpha, a LEED Accredited Professional in Building Design + Construction (LEED AP BD+C) at Central Recycling Services. "Besides that they can throw conduit, asphalt, shingles, gypsum board, anything that comes off a project site. Inert debris goes into the dumpster comingled, doesn't have to be separate, and then we bring the dumpster back to our facility and from there we sort through it. Most of our materials that are reused here are our demolished concrete, so if a general contractor brings us a truckload of concrete that has rebar in it, we throw it through our crusher and it becomes an RCA, which is a recycled concrete aggregate, and we can use that as a D1 type 2 material; structural fill material."

Design for the Science Building renovation project started in 2009 and new geology classrooms and labs opened in 2010. The second phase of renovation included new physics classrooms, which opened at the end of 2011, a life sciences area upstairs, a new computer lab and offices as well as a total mechanical renovation. Finally, the project wrapped at the end of 2012 with a new roof and a new elevator.


Renovated lab
Reduce, reuse, recycle: All the benches and cabinets in this renovated liberal studies traditional lab were existing and reused.

"Across America, one of the largest contributors to landfills is building material waste," says Turletes. "What Summer proposed was the we force that into a recycling. We feel good about recycling; we keep things that can be in the materials stream in the materials stream, and we reduce our waste stream footprint. All that's good in my opinion for this project. I went from a skeptic to a proponent."

For the new construction in the Science Building, specified materials incorporate as much as feasible the use of recycled material content, possess the ability to be fully recycled in the future, and/or utilize rapidly renewable resources. Examples of this are found almost everywhere throughout the renovation: 

• The assemblies that make up the walls, floors and ceilings all contain materials that feature recycled content with low VOC properties.
• The sheet vinyl and carpet flooring, the ceilings, the gypsum wall board, the solid core wood doors, the cabinets and casework, the metal studs-all of these new materials contain varying degrees of recycled content.
• New materials also typically feature low VOC content and contain no urea formaldehyde, which improves indoor air quality for the occupants. 
• Finally, the incorporation of rapidly renewable bamboo finishes on "feature areas" of the stair railings, walls and ceilings add an attractive "environmentally conscious aesthetic" that helps to punctuate UAA's commitment to sustainable design and construction.


Renovated Lobby
Beautiful and functional: Bamboo is a rapidly renewable wood resource and was used throughout the Science Building for accents and to meet code in places like the stairwells.

Other sustainability features include low-flow toilets and motion-sensor sinks and paper towels in the restrooms; occupancy sensors on lights throughout the building; a Brita water filter in the first floor entryway; an enhanced thermal envelope that now meets or exceeds the standards established by the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code (the applicable standard in use when the project was initiated); a new elevator that is up to 75 percent more energy efficient and consumes 40 percent less energy than conventional systems; and exterior siding material (Swisspearl) that is manufactured via a low energy process, has a long service life, is 100 percent recyclable, and may be salvaged and re-used in future building renovations.

Many thanks to contractors, Roger Hickel Construction (Phase 1) and Watterson Construction (Phases 2 and 3), as well as the team of architects at Architects Alaska that made this all possible. This is the first whole building renovation to be accomplished at UAA in recent history.


Renovated students
Students back in full force in UAA's newly renovated UAA Science Building.

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