New building fails to qualify as green building

The 172 Tremont St. building, acquired by the college in November, will not meet environmental standards to qualify as a green building.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is a rating system used by the United States Green Building Council that determines whether or not a structure exhibits good environmental performance and uses a sustainable design. Senior Associate Vice President for Real Estate Arthur Mombourquette said in an interview that making 172 Tremont St. LEED-certified wouldn’t be feasible due to the nearly 50-year-old infrastructure and the college’s minimal renovation plans for the interior.

“It was built in the early seventies,” Mombourquette said. “LEED wasn’t available when it was built, number one, and subsequent owners never pursued certification, and quite frankly, it wouldn’t be eligible.”

Mombourquette said LEED had not reviewed 172 Tremont St. and the college does not plan to collect points or reach a green certification level.

The green certification system categorizes the structure’s level of sustainability based on a point scale. If a building earns 40 to 49 points, it reaches certification. As it receives more points, the building can reach a silver, gold, or platinum level—80 or more points. A building can earn points across several categories including energy use, air quality, and water efficiency, according to the official LEED website.

“It’s frustrating that with all of these advances…and growing campus, things like environmental sustainability are somewhat being overlooked,” Earth Emerson Treasurer and junior Carrie Cullen said. “I think it’s really important that we kind of put our best foot forward in terms of sustainability.”

Mombourquette said the majority of Emerson’s buildings are not LEED-certified or green buildings. The exceptions include newer buildings like 2 Boylston Place, Piano Row, and, soon, Little Building, he said. The college plans to equip Little Building, which is undergoing a 2-year renovation, to reach the gold level.

Despite 172 Tremont St. not reaching LEED certification, Mombourquette said the college plans to use Green Steam, a network of district energy stream pipes located beneath streets and bridges in Boston that deliver thermal energy.

He said the building will also connect to an automation system, meaning the college can control heating and cooling on a computer, and use the services only when in demand. He also said the college will use paints with low volatile organic compounds, harmful chemicals in paint that can cause air pollution, and hopes to incorporate recycled products and building supplies wherever possible during the renovation.

“We’re not pursuing LEED, but we’re certainly making sure the building is as efficient as we can make it,” Mombourquette said.

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