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Explore our latest coverage of environmental issues, climate change and more.

UVM Building Wins Major Environmental Honor

A renovated University in Vermont building earned the highest LEED rating of any building in the state, university officials announced Monday.

The Aiken Center, home to UVM's Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, earned a platinum LEED rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. There are only five other buildings in the state with a platinum rating. Two others are on college campuses - one at Middlebury and one at Champlain College.

The Aiken Center received the highest LEED score of any of Vermont's platinum buildings with 60 of 69 potential points.

Bill Maclay, the Waitsfield architect who designed the renovated version of the building, said the purpose of the remodeling wasn't just the environment.

"This project really went beyond almost any projects in creating a vision and a model for buildings that embody education and the environment," he said. "How does this become a building which is actually a learning tool? And I think this building, that was clearly the intent."

The Aiken Center's "green roof" - a flat roof covered in small plants, designed to absorb and clean rainwater and reduce the load on storm drain systems - has eight separate watersheds where students and faculty can experiment with different combinations of soil content and plant varieties to see which absorb and clean best.

Another feature highlighted by Jon Erickson, interim dean of the Rubenstein School, is the EcoMachine. A series of large containers filled with plants and bacteria, the EcoMachine takes in wastewater and filters it so it can be re-used in the building's toilets. Erickson said once the machine begins rerouting water into the building's systems, it could reduce water consumption in the building by two-thirds.

While part of the redesign was environmental, the university also modernized the Aiken Center, adding a solarium, windows and air conditioning, improving upon what used to be one of the campus' least appealing buildings.

Maclay said that while environmental impact and student learning were on the front burner, the overriding concern was good design.

"From my perspective," he said, "if a building isn't a wonderful place to be you really haven't met the first level of something people are going to care about for centuries."

Taylor was VPR's digital reporter from 2013 until 2017. After growing up in Vermont, he graduated with at BA in Journalism from Northeastern University in 2013.
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