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VU engineering center certified as environmentally gentle

Former dean College Engineering Kraig Olejniczak speaks during ceremony Donald V. Fites Engineering InnovatiCenter Valparaiso University Friday April 12 2013.

Former dean of the College of Engineering Kraig Olejniczak speaks during a ceremony at the Donald V. Fites Engineering Innovation Center at Valparaiso University Friday April 12, 2013. The center was recently awarded Platinum certification for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) by the U.S. Green Building Council. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media

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Green features

The Donald V. Fites Engineering Innovation Center’s LEED certification was based on a number of green design and construction features, including:

Power partially generated by high-efficiency solar panels

Lighting, heating and cooling controlled by occupancy sensors

Water savings from waterless and low-flow fixtures

Underground infiltrators and surface rain garden for storm water runoff

Zero-maintenance landscaping with drought-tolerant native prairie grasses

Use of recycled materials.

Source: Valparaiso University

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Updated: May 14, 2013 6:11AM



VALPARAISO — Valparaiso University officials on Friday recognized the Donald V. Fites Engineering Innovation Center for both its impact on students and its lack of impact on the environment.

The U.S. Green Building Council has awarded the center the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum certification. It is one of only five buildings in Indiana, and the only higher education building in the state, to receive Platinum certification, which is the highest level offered by the council.

“Since it’s opened less than two years ago, the Fites Center already has had an impact on students, and it’s been recognized for the highest level of design,” said Eric Johnson, dean of the college of engineering, adding the center also is one of only a handful of laboratories in the country to achieve the certification.

The university made a commitment in 2008 to be environmentally responsible in all future buildings and achieve at least LEED silver certification, VU President Mark Heckler said.

“Every building since has met that standard or exceeded it,” Heckler said, adding celebration of the Fites Center’s Platinum certification came just a few months after the Arts and Sciences Building received Silver certification.

The Fites Center is a 13,500-square-foot addition to the Gellersen Center. When university officials held a groundbreaking for the building in April 2010, they touted the $13 million center as the first LEED-certified building for the campus and the city.

The Greater Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce also recognized the center in 2012 with a Community Improvement Award.

Kraig Olejniczak, former dean of the college of engineering, got the project started 10 years ago through a series of discussions with a fellow faculty member; an ensuing grant from the Lilly Endowment with a focus on renewable energy, engineering, and faith; and a visit to the Lewis Center at Oberlin College in Ohio.

“That was the genesis of my interest in high-performing green buildings,” he said, adding there also was interest in adding on to Gellersen.

His purpose was multifaceted, in that he wanted a building that would be healthiest for students, faculty and staff to work in, and was environmentally sustainable.

“As a faith-based institution, we have moral and theological grounds to make a statement,” he said, adding green construction also was financially responsible in the long term for the university, in terms of saving energy costs, and “it’s a wonderful way to make the building a living lab for the students.”

More than 50 people gathered in the lobby of the Fites Center as Heckler unveiled a LEED Platinum plaque, a milestone the university president said the campus community won’t forget as it goes on to achieve its 20-year master plan, which was released last fall.

“Generations to come are going to benefit from your most worthy and most noble goal,” he said.



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