Union South wins sustainable building honor

Nov. 19, 2012

PHoto: Union South Sun Garden

Windows in Union South’s Sun Garden capture warm sunlight from the south during the winter months, one of the building’s many sustainable features.

Photo: Bryce Richter

The Wisconsin Union has announced that Union South has received a LEED Gold designation – one of the highest levels established by the U.S. Green Building Council and verified by the Green Building Certification Institute.

LEED is the nation’s preeminent program for design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings.

“We’re very gratified that Union South has earned this exemplary recognition,” says Wisconsin Union Director Mark Guthier.  “This is not only a tribute to the architects, construction company, design team and Union staff but also a testament to the extraordinary level of student involvement in the process from start to finish; the students said they wanted a sustainable, ‘green’ union building that will meet their 21st century needs.  And this LEED Gold designation helps fulfill this promise.”
 
The new Union South opened in 2011 following two years of construction.  In 2006, thanks to the Student Union Initiative, UW-Madison students voted to renovate and restore Memorial Union and build a new, larger and better Union South. 

The student majority design team gathered input from more than 30,000 students; the results indicated that they wanted a “green” building that was a people magnet and provided services including a movie theater, convenience store and a live performance venue among other things.  
 
"I was so proud of our Union when I heard the news about our LEED gold certification, for two reasons,” says Wisconsin Union President Sarah Mathews.  “One, because the Wisconsin Union is a values-driven organization, and sustainability is one of our key values. Two, because a great part of why we programmed Union South to focus on environmental stewardship is because of vocal student input supporting that outcome.  This award shows the value of listening to and being guided by the student voice."
 
Union South achieved LEED certification for energy use, lighting, water and material use as well as incorporating various other sustainable strategies.  By using less energy and water, LEED certified buildings save costs; reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and contribute to a healthier environment for residents, workers and the larger community.
 
Working closely with the design team, Workshop Architects ensured that the building adhered faithfully to the sustainability message.

"We desired to make a building that speaks fluent Madison,” says Jan Van Den Kieboom, Workshop principal.  “Part of that language is environmental stewardship.  Earning LEED Gold confirms that the intent is realized."

“This is not only a tribute to the architects, construction company, design team and Union staff but also a testament to the extraordinary level of student involvement in the process from start to finish; the students said they wanted a sustainable, ‘green’ union building that will meet their 21st century needs.”

Mark Guthier

Union South’s LEED certification was based on a number of green design and construction features that positively affect the project itself and the broader community.

These features include recycling nearly 90 percent of the materials from demolishing the old Union South; taking advantage of the southern exposure to reduce energy costs; funneling storm water runoff into an outdoor water feature; incorporating either local or regional materials whenever possible into the design, including ashlar stone from Mosinee and using salvaged materials like barn wood from throughout the state which comprise the floor of Varsity Hall; among many other sustainable attributes.

For a complete list of Union South green features, visit this web page.
 
“Buildings are a prime example of how human systems integrate with natural systems,” says Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO & founding chair, U.S. Green Building Council.  “The Union South project efficiently uses our natural resources and makes an immediate, positive impact on our planet, which will tremendously benefit future generations to come.”

The Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Green Building Council is committed to a prosperous and sustainable future through cost-efficient and energy-saving green buildings. 
           
The Wisconsin Union plans on celebrating the LEED Gold achievement highlighting all of Union South’s sustainable attributes with a series of events to be announced later.  The related project – the Memorial Union Reinvestment project which involves renovating Memorial Union, is also seeking LEED certification.  That project began in June 2012 and will conclude its initial phase of renovating and restoring the west wing in spring 2014.