PES Doubles Up on Green Certifications

Plant science teaching lab with students
Plant and Environmental Sciences Building: A lab retrofit project in 2014 resulted in 36 percent energy savings. (Michelle Dang/UC Davis)

Quick Summary

  • Building earns LEED gold for operations and maintenance ...
  • ... and the first-ever BREEAM certification for in-use academic building in United States
  • Goal with BREEAM ‘is to build sustainable practices into our operations across campus’

UC Davis’ Green Building Team has news to shout from the rooftop of Plant and Environmental Sciences: “This building is a sustainability star!” — as declared by LEED and an international rating system known as BREEAM.

PES is the first UC Davis building to receive a BREEAM certification, and it is the first such certification in the United States for an in-use academic building. On top of all that, PES received BREEAM’s first “excellent” rating in the United States in the category of “asset performance,” comprising waste, transport, pollution, materials and energy.

BREEAM stands for Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method, established in 1990 by the Building Research Establishment, or BRE, an organization of researchers, scientists, engineers and technicians striving to make the built environment better for all. Today, BREEAM has a presence in more than 75 countries, registering almost 2,266,700 buildings for assessment and certifying more than 560,000.

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, sponsored by the U.S. Green Building Council. UC Davis holds 16 LEED certifications for new construction, five for commercial interiors, and eight for operations and maintenance of existing buildings.

Plant and Environmental Sciences Building, exterio, north
LEED and BREEAM plaques are going up at PES on Jan. 26.

The Green Building Team is using Plant and Environmental Sciences as a test case for a comparison of LEED and BREEAM, with the latter seen as more flexible “to document the great sustainability initiatives that UC Davis staff and students are already doing,” said Amy Burns, green building coordinator in the UC Davis Energy Conservation Office.

“UC Davis is innovative,” she said, “but we don’t always fit in to set criteria. However, when you really look at what is being done, you find that we are exceeding sustainability criteria. In testing BREEAM, I hope that we can find a green building certification program that will help us identify those areas where we are exceeding sustainability criteria, document it, and applaud staff and students for their efforts, as well as guide them to also focus on other sustainable areas, where work is needed.”

Joshua Morejohn, the campus energy manager, said, “Our goal with this program is to build sustainable practices into our operations across campus so it really has a larger impact than just the building being certified.”


Design and Construction Management recently announced UC Davis’ two newest LEED certifications for new construction:

  • Ann E. Pitzer Center, gold
  • International Center, gold

The BREEAM certification for Plant and Environmental Sciences came in November, just a few months after PES earned LEED gold status in the category of operations and maintenance of existing buildings.

The building, completed in 2001, comprises 140,394 square feet — about 80 percent of which is lab space. A lab retrofit project in 2014 resulted in 36 percent energy savings, from temperature setbacks, reduced ventilation rates during occupied hours (from 10 air changes per hour to six per hour) and reduced exhaust velocities established through wind tunnel studies with the UC Davis Aerodynamics Laboratory.

Other green features include occupancy-based lighting and heating-ventilation-air conditioning control for spaces and fume hoods, low-flow fixtures and Energy Star-rated computers. Further, the building participates in LEED’s High Performance Green Cleaning Program and Green Cleaning Policy to ensure a healthier environment.

Burns and Morejohn credited student interns for doing the legwork and paperwork for the BREEAM certification for PES. Here are their names (and majors) …

  • Simon Han (sustainable and environmental design)
  • Ysela Larios (civil engineering)
  • Cameron Morelli (mechanical engineering)
  • Zachary Ramalingam (civil engineering)
  • John Sung (chemical engineering)

… and some of what they did:

  • They looked at data for energy and water use, department purchasing records, maintenance records for equipment and work orders.
  • They quickly picked up how to use a variety of software programs used on campus.
  • They researched the number of water fixtures — toilets, urinals and sinks — in the building, and water use by each fixture, then compared the data to BREEAM baselines.
  • They researched policies on sustainability at UC Davis and the UC Office of the President.
  • They talked to custodial and grounds personnel to look at how they take care of the building and grounds, how often, how do they get rid of used items, what chemicals are used and how much.

“The students managed every aspect of this pilot, from learning the new requirements to completing the certification and comparing BREEAM to LEED,” Burns said. “This was a great experience for them.”

Read the UC Davis Green Buildings blog.

Plaque presentation

LEED and BREEAM plaques are coming to the Plant and Environmental Sciences Building in a ceremony at 9 a.m. Friday, Jan. 26, with Allen Tollefson, who leads Facilities Management, presenting the LEED award and Barry Giles, director of BREEAMUSA, presenting the BREEAM award. Dean Helene Dillard will accept the plaques on behalf of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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