K-State Olathe works to reduce environmental impact of construction

July 19, 2010

OLATHE, Kan. - For its first building, the International Animal Health and Food Safety Institute, K-State Olathe decided to pursue a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver rating.

According to its Web site, the LEED green building certification program, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), encourages and accelerates global adoption of sustainable green building and development practices through a suite of rating systems that recognize projects that implement strategies for better environmental and health performance.

The LEED silver rating necessitates 50 credits, which can come from a variety of categories. Nate Purdy, a project manager for The Weitz Company, said most of K-State Olathe's credits will come from the design of the building.

Buildings become certified through the process of sending in construction documents, specifications and calculations to the USGBC. The governing body will consider the proposed credits and respond in one of three ways. It may say right off the bat that a credit is approved or it is denied. It may also ask for clarification.

"We've already gone through our design submission," Purdy said. "Over half of them passed right away. A little bit less than half they've asked for clarification, and we've just recently resubmitted that."

While most of the LEED credits will come from design, some come from responsibility during construction. An interesting one of those is Construction Waste Management. The objective is to divert all the construction debris from the landfills.

Projects that divert 50 percent of construction material to be recycled earn one LEED credit. Those that divert 75 percent receive two credits, and those that divert 95 percent receive three. K-State Olathe is pursuing the latter distinction.

"Right now I think we're at 95, 96 percent, so we're right at that mark, which is incredible if you think about all the construction debris," Purdy said.

To promote this goal, there are five waste receptacles on the site. One holds wood, which can be made into mulch or used in other wood products. Another holds concrete, which will be crumbled and made into more concrete. There is also a container for metal, which can be melted down and reused, and then of course most are already familiar with the recycling of paper and plastic.

Another big recycling campaign for the site is drywall. It appeared that might be an issue because the closest place that recycled drywall was in Topeka, and that would have required a high transport cost. Fortunately, a more local recycling company stepped up to the plate.

"They had previously stopped doing drywall, but they opened it up for our job, which was nice," Purdy said. "They grind [the drywall] up and reuse the gypsum in it for more drywall."

A normal trash dumpster is also present on the construction site. However, it is placed further away than any of the giant recycling bins.

"It's strategic," Purdy said with a grin.

- By Ashley Dunkak -