New University Library Skips LEED Certification to Avoid Fees

by | Sep 6, 2017

Colorado College’s new library was constructed with everything needed to become LEED certified. In a rare move, however, the school passed on the certification, citing costs.

The amount of certification fees depends on the size of the project — typically 10%, but ranging from 5-15% of the project costs. Administrators at the school wanted to focus not on becoming LEED certified and spending on fees, but on following the LEED checklist to get to net-zero energy consumption. “In terms of support, having a net-zero building is a lot higher than a LEED certification,” said CC Sustainability Director Ian Johnson on

To achieve net-zero energy status, the library is powered by a geothermal energy field on Armstrong Quad, a 115-kilowatt rooftop solar array, a 400-kilowatt offsite solar array, and a 130-kilowatt combined heat and power system. The latter system uses heat waste from industrial processes.

According to the site, the new library will provide an 8% reduction in the campus carbon footprint — “an impressive feat considering the library itself comprises less than 5% of the campus.” Among a myriad of environmental features, the building uses geothermal temperature regulation, which work by pumping heat into the ground in the summer, and pulling heat from the ground in the winter.

A rain screen also absorbs solar heat, keeping the building cooler and reducing costs. A solar photovoltaic system sends energy back to the grid to offset the building’s use.

Because buildings are some of the biggest users of fossil fuels, which generates carbon dioxide, many universities have been turning to the construction of sustainable buildings. In March, the University of Missouri announced it has reduced its coal consumption by 73 percent through the use of a sophisticated microgrid.

And in January, Brandeis University signed a power purchase agreement to obtain solar power from a 1.27-megawatt solar array. The system is anticipated to save the school an estimated $70,000 over the first 12 months of the deal – and up to $2 million over the next 20 years.

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