Natural History Building recognized by U.S. Green Building Council

By Aziza Jackson

URBANA, Ill. — The Illinois College of Liberal Arts & Sciences’ Natural History Building has earned LEED Gold certification for energy efficiency and environmentally friendly construction practices in the wake of a recent $79 million renovation.

Originally built in 1892, the Natural History Building reopened in 2017 after a three-year renovation to modernize and add classrooms, laboratories, and study spaces and enhance teaching, research, and collaboration environments. From the beginning of the project, campus officials directed a significant amount of planning and design efforts toward a goal of attaining gold certification, thereby creating healthier and more sustainable spaces to benefit students, faculty, and staff.

The Illinois College of Liberal Arts & Sciences (LAS) Natural History Building renovation received high merits for being conducted in an environmentally efficient manner, with close attention paid to preventing pollution. More than 76 percent of the construction waste was recycled. A large amount of the material removed from the building was reused.

Rapidly renewable materials, such as bamboo flooring, were used in the renovation project. The Natural History Building also received points for water efficient landscaping, energy efficient heating and air conditioning, high levels of daylight for natural lighting, occupancy sensors, and continual energy monitoring.

“Energy efficiency was one of our primary concerns in renovating the Natural History Building,” said Feng Sheng Hu, the Harry E. Preble Dean of the College of LAS. “We are pleased that the U.S. Green Building Council granted us gold certification. In every step of the process, we modernized and expanded the capabilities of this critical building in a sustainable manner.”

The renovation significantly improved water efficiency at the Natural History Building. The building was able to reduce its water usage by at least 20 percent, which is significant given the large number of laboratories and high student traffic in the building. The project also received high marks for using an existing site, having great access to public transportation, and incorporating bicycle parking.