The Akaloa Health Center on the Idyllwild Arts campus was certified as a Leadership in Energy and Development Design-compliant building on Nov. 14, 2015. It is the first commercial building in Idyllwild to be listed by the U.S. Green Building Council for this energy-saving designation.
LEED certification recognizes best-in-class building strategies and conservation practices. Said IA Director of Business Operations John Newman, “In our case, we are LEED-certified for healthcare. Integral to our rating was the installation of a 10 kW photovoltaic [solar] system on the roof of the new health center. Other features include carefully selected HVAC [heating, ventilation and air conditioning] systems, LED [light-emitting diode] lighting, use of particular [energy saving] insulation and other environmentally friendly building materials.”
LEED certification is a lengthy process in which each element of sustainable design and energy-saving material is evaluated and assigned points. LEED certification is awarded once the building is shown to have received adequate points for LEED designation. The center received 40 out of 110 possible points, placing it in the highest level of the rating system — 25 out of 39 for energy and atmosphere, one out of 16 for materials and resources, eight out of 18 for sustainable site, four out of nine for water efficiency and two out of six for innovation in design.
Newman cited the award letter from Rick Fedrizzi, CEO of the U.S. Green Building Council, conferring LEED certification: “LEED certification identifies Akaloa Health Center as a showcase example of sustainable design and demonstrates leadership in transforming the building industry.”
The certification is part of a long-term sustainability plan that seeks to reduce consumption of electricity, water and propane use on the Idyllwild Arts campus. The plan also pays tribute to founding principles of the school, which sought, from the early 1950s, to build its curricula around wise use of natural resources and respect for the natural environment.
As part of its sustainability plan, IAA administration invited Nobel-prize-winning summer alumnus Dr. Evan Mills, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, to analyze the existing campus physical plant and make recommendations for better energy efficiency. Mills conducted his energy audit in school year 2011-12 and provided a 32-page report citing specific instances of energy waste and recommending fixes. Mills’ specialties include energy efficiency in buildings and industry, and the intersection of energy technology, global climate change impacts and risk management.
IA created a sustainability committee of faculty, staff and student representatives to analyze and implement Mills’ recommendations. The committee was tasked to review six areas in which energy savings could be implemented: building and campus, fuel and energy, curriculum and education, food, recycling, and marketing and outreach.
In discussing future building plans, Newman noted that LEED certification is lengthy, requires extensive documentation and is expensive to pursue. “There is a lot of scrutiny with required bimonthly reports to the national committee,” he said. “Expense is also linked to the size (square footage) of the project. At 2,800 square feet, the health center was manageable.”
Newman said the school will plan to build future projects with energy-saving materials, with a constant eye on sustainability, but that not all buildings would be LEED certified. “Evan Mills recommended [with regard to the new concert facility, Lowman Hall] that it would be better to use money on the design process [such as acoustical engineering] rather than on the bureaucratic process of LEED certification.” Newman stressed that Lowman Hall, when completed, would be close to LEED certification points and status, considering building materials and design, but administration made the decision to forgo the certification process.
He explained there are 30 or more new buildings in
the proposed campus building plan but that green-lighting construction depends upon funding, drought restrictions and water availability. “Whatever we build will be low impact, environmentally sensitive and use water wisely,” he said. He noted that all future landscaping, including for the new Margaret Cargill Commons quad between Lowman Hall and the IAF Theatre, will be native and drought-tolerant. Cargill Commons will be completed in the spring. It blocks previous vehicle access in front of Lowman and creates pedestrian walkways, and campus gathering and seating spaces.
Upcoming projects that should create minimal environmental impact include an indoor film lot and several more academic classrooms. Larger projects remain on the horizon pending funding and water availability. “Until Idyllwild Water District loosens restrictions on new construction, we are not able to obtain a will-serve letter [water district agreement to provide water],” said Newman.
“In lieu of new construction, we are also keen to explore ways interior spaces can respond to 21st century teaching and learning styles. This would include attention to flexibility of work space, more modern furniture and functionality of teaching tools. We are also working with a designer named Trung Le, author or ‘The Third Teacher,’ to look at these spaces and to renovate The Children’s Center for summer of 2017.”