Carnegie Mellon University
February 11, 2019

Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper Quad Earns LEED Gold Certification

The new home for the Tepper School of Business was recognized for limiting its environmental impact in construction and operations.

By Noelle Wiker

Noelle Wiker
  • Tepper School of Business
  • 412-268-4204

Carnegie Mellon University's first building on the David A. Tepper Quadrangle that houses the university's Coulter Welcome Center and the new home for the Tepper School of Business have been awarded Gold certification from Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, established by the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED is the most widely used rating system for environmentally responsible construction.

LEED Gold requires a score between 60 and 79 points, awarded for efforts to limit the environmental impact in the construction and operations of new buildings. The Tepper Quad construction aligns with 73 points on the LEED scale.

"From the start, the Tepper Quad was planned as a green building," said Tepper School Dean Robert Dammon. "It is gratifying that LEED has recognized the significant efforts of our planning committee with a Gold certification. We maintain our commitment to sustainable operations in our occupation of the Tepper Quad."

Several elements of the building construction — including a 120,000-gallon cistern to collect rainwater for reuse - were planned with the certification in mind.

"From the outset of the project, our goal was to achieve LEED Gold," said Ralph Horgan, associate vice president of Campus Design and Facility Development at Carnegie Mellon. "Per the Simonds Principles, it is what we strive for on all of our new construction projects."

Sustainability is one of several priorities outlined in the Simonds Principles, which CMU created in 2013.

One innovative feature that reduced the volume of carbon in the building by about 30 percent is called "voided slab methodology." This system involves replacing some of the concrete in floor slabs with hollow plastic balls, made from recycled plastic. The BubbleDeck technique allows lighter, thinner floor slabs, which reduces the need for structural support such as concrete caissons and steel girders. The building in the Tepper Quad space is currently the largest construction project in North America to use BubbleDeck.

The newest LEED guidelines take transportation into account, encouraging a reduction in vehicle traffic around the building by facilitating easier use of bicycles, foot traffic and public transit. During the planning process for the Tepper Quad building, Bryan Routledge, associate professor of Finance at the Tepper School who co-chaired the Tepper Quad building working group, became familiar with the U.S. Department of Transportation Complete Streets initiative, an approach to designing roads that accounts for all users — drivers, pedestrians and bicycle riders.

"The interesting thing I found about the LEED guidelines is how much they are in line with healthy buildings," Routledge said. "All the glass daylights much of the building. That does not just reduce the need for electricity and lights, it makes for a happy place to live."

Routledge reported that one of the working group's largest priorities was the atrium, a large open space in the center of the building encased in a four-story glass curtain. Such a large expanse of glass presents a significant challenge in maintaining the building's temperature, so the Campus Design and Facility Development team found ways to mitigate the heat gain. The glass is "fritted," which means it has a translucent ceramic coating that counteracts glare and reduces direct sunlight into the space. Further, the floor surfaces in the atrium use radiant slabs, which incorporate pipes that circulate liquid to provide heating and cooling from below — an important strategy for a space with high ceilings.

Horgan noted that, while every recent construction project on campus — including the Gates Hillman complex, Scott Hall and the Collaborative Innovation Center — has earned LEED Gold status, "none of those are as large and complex as the Tepper Quad building."

Carnegie Mellon University is committed to educating, empowering and aligning its community around the world to address the Sustainable Development Goals, also known as the Global Goals, which aim to create a more peaceful, prosperous planet with just and inclusive societies. Recognizing the critical contributions that universities are making through education, research and practice, CMU publicly committed to undertaking a Voluntary University Review of the Global Goals. The 17 Global Goals cover wide-ranging issues, including reducing violence, ending extreme poverty, promoting equitable education, fighting inequality and injustice, advancing economic growth and decent work, and preventing the harmful effects of climate change by 2030.

The preceding story demonstrates CMU's work toward attaining Global Goal 12.