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Highlands building wins gold

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By Margaret McKinney
Highlands University

New Mexico Highlands University’s remodeled Felix Martinez building was certified as LEED Gold, a high-level measure of green building practices in areas like water conservation, energy efficiency, recycling construction debris, and using recycled materials for construction.

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The U.S. Green Building Council awards LEED certification to a building that qualifies based on data collected from a year of usage after it opens.

“LEED gold certification identifies New Mexico Highlands University’s Felix Martinez building as a pioneering example of sustainable design,” said Richard Fedrizzi, president and CEO for the U.S. Green Building Council.

The university remodeled the Felix Martinez building extensively and reopened it in July 2010 as a one-stop shop for student services. It was the first remodel of the Spanish colonial style building since its construction in 1983.

The Felix Martinez building at 800 University Ave. now houses the offices for student affairs, admissions, registrar, financial aid, academic support, student support services, career services, mental health services, and recruitment.

“The Felix Martinez renovation was done to increase usable square footage in the building, upgrade mechanical and electrical systems, and address deferred maintenance issues like roofing, flooring, painting and code compliance,” said Marisol Greene, the university’s director of facilities and planning. “The goal was to achieve all these upgrades within green building guidelines.”

Greene said all new Highlands University construction and remodels for existing campus buildings are being done to LEED standards to reduce environmental impact and save energy.

In 2010, the university’s residence hall that opened in 2009 was the first in the state to be awarded LEED Silver certification.

Greene said one of the most important outcomes of the Felix Martinez remodel is how much water it conserves.

“The new water-efficient fixtures in the Felix Martinez building are meeting our goal of reducing water consumption by 30 percent in the building,” Greene said.

Some green building highlights logged for the Felix Martinez building in its first year include:

Energy costs were reduced by 20.4 percent through the new heating, ventilating and air conditioning system, sensors that turn off lights when they’re not in use, energy-efficient windows, and more.

In the restrooms alone, 65,428 gallons of water was conserved through installing dual-flush toilets, low-flow urinals, and ultra low-flow sinks.

That’s a 39. 7 percent annual reduction in water compared to conventional restroom fixtures.

A 30,000 gallon underground cistern was installed to harvest rainwater from the roofs of the Felix Martinez building and Rodgers Hall to irrigate drought-tolerant plants.

More than 1,600 tons of construction debris was recycled, meaning 95.2 percent of the debris was diverted from landfills.

Recycled materials made up 48.9 percent of the building remodel, including steel framing, doors and insulation, to name a few.

“The Facilities Department’s role in this Felix Martinez remodeling project was to assist with project management,” Greene said. “Capital projects manager Jorden Grimm played a particularly crucial role in maintaining green standards during construction and delivery.”

Franken Construction of Las Vegas was the general contractor for the Felix Martinez remodeling project. Studio Southwest Architects, Inc. of Santa Fe designed the remodel and Halcom Consulting, LLC of Albuquerque was the LEED consultant.