A University of South Carolina building recently earned a platinum record for sustainability.

The USC Darla Moore School of Business in Columbia claimed a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum certification, the building sustainability program's peak standard. The U.S. Green Building Council awards the LEED certifications to buildings and constructors based their power-saving and innovative green designs.

Opened in August 2014, the Darla Moore School of Business is the first public building in South Carolina to earn LEED Platinum, according to USC. The Moore School also joins business schools at Harvard and Stanford universities to earn the top rating.

“I’m very proud that the Darla Moore School of Business has earned LEED Platinum certification,” Moore School Dean Peter Brews says. “This places the Moore School among an elite group of buildings earning the highest possible certification for sustainability –- a goal that the school set early on in the design and construction of our new building.”

The Moore School, certified on Dec. 12, says the building's green design helps enhances teaching and research activities and plays an important role in recruiting students and faculty. Student ambassadors give tours every week that tout the building's eco-friendly features, according to the university.

The green building council's certification program, seen as nationally accepted standards for design and construction of high-end green buildings, provides four designations -- certified, silver, gold and platinum. For LEED certification, judges grade a host of green categories including water efficiency, energy, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality and innovation in design.

U.S. Department of Energy’s Net-Zero Energy Initiative commercial building partnership program chose the Moore School to team with the energy department's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to incorporate the latest energy-saving technologies into the building’s design. In selecting the school, the energy department cited its commitment to promote sustainable practices within its teaching, research and construction structure.

Architectural firm Rafael Viñoly Architects designed the Moore School, its third LEED Platinum certified building.

“It is a gratifying achievement to meet the university’s goals for academic excellence and a forward-looking vision for partnership with the community, all while setting a benchmark in terms of design and sustainable use of resources," says Rafael Viñoly, lead designer and the firm's founder.

According to the architects, green design challenges included bringing in natural light while reducing heat gain in the building’s cantilevered and glass design; styling its outdoor terrace and roof garden; and balancing user control with cooling cost-savers in office, classroom and conference spaces. Forward-looking designers built green roofs to capture storm water for reuse and irrigation and made plans for the possible addition of solar panels.

The project involved many of the university’s engineering graduates who are proud of the innovative heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems, says Keith Branham, chief engineer for Stevens & Wilkinson on the Moore School building.

"The building’s hybrid HVAC systems incorporate under-floor air, active chilled beams and variable air volume systems, all designed to reduce the amount of power needed to move air for heating and cooling,” Branham says. The team designed a separate heating and cooling system for the W.W. Hootie Johnson Performance Hall to ensure quiet air conditioning without affecting the acoustics of the 500-seat lecture hall and performance space for the university’s School of Music.

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David Dewar, senior project executive with Gilbane Construction, says his favorite green features are the drinking fountains. “All drinking fountains in the Moore School include a bottle filler that enables students to fill their reusable water bottles. By using a water bottle, less water is purchased in disposable plastic bottles, which reduces the environmental impact by eliminating plastic products in landfills,” he says.

To date, the university boasts more than 10 LEED certified buildings. USC says it ushered in an era of building green in 2004, opening the Green (West) Quad as the state’s first public LEED building and the first green residence hall in the U.S.

Also about the eco-friendly certification program:

• South Carolina has 15 Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum buildings, nine of which are private residences.

• USC Darla Moore School of Business is the largest LEED Platinum building in South Carolina at 265,000 square feet. The next largest is Half-Moon Outfitters Distribution Center in Charleston.

• The Moore School’s electricity usage is 33 percent less in the new business building, which amounts to $151,000 less in annual costs.