of their time inside buildings, and this provides motivation for institutions to minimize environmental and health impacts. Adopting the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) initiative was an important strategy for the university. Among other benefits, building sustainably gave the university a positive environmental image, elevating it to a position of leadership in the field, said Armaghani.
Sustainable buildings have lower utility bills, enhance assets, and increase value. She explained that the first building certified at the LEED Gold level cost the university about 7 percent more than a traditional building, but the expense was recovered in approximately 10 years. With an average life span of approximately 100 years, the university considers the initial capital investment in green buildings to be justified, noted Armaghani.
Armaghani observed that building sustainably provides benefits to public health, including improved air quality, minimized strain on infrastructure, and enhanced quality of life for building occupants and the community. Sustainable buildings also have productivity benefits, such as decreased absenteeism and staff turnover. The University of Florida strives to recruit and train the best staff and wants to provide an environment to retain this talent. She observed that a happy employee is often a productive employee, and this fosters staff retention. The improvements in productivity are not limited to staff, but also impact student performance, noted Armaghani.
Although building sustainably may be the right thing to do, the primary reason the university pursued this course was its commitment to education, explained Armaghani. The university wants to train leaders and encourage them to make a difference in the world. She believes it is the university’s responsibility to ensure that students gain knowledge and expand this field on local and global levels. The university is empowering students to make decisions that benefit the environment and future generations.
Since 2001, the University of Florida has officially pursued LEED certification for all major renovations and construction projects. The university projects ranged in cost from $3 to $85 million, and this major commitment required evaluation of data and construction standards, noted Armaghani. These standards are important because there is a limited budget to maintain a building once constructed. The University of Florida was among the first institutions to require LEED accreditation of its staff. With this preparation, staff were empowered to take leadership in the building design process, to ensure that contractors and consultants understood the university’s requirements, and to secure the best value for the money.
Armaghani noted that 14 of the 35 LEED-certified projects in the state of Florida are in the University of Florida system. Although the first buildings were