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Burwell Center for Career Achievement, University of Denver Achieves LEED® Platinum Level Certification

Burwell Center for Career Achievement, University of Denver Achieves LEED® Platinum Level Certification

Posted: December 30, 2022 | Tradewinds, Project Management

By Charlie Popeck, President of Green Ideas Building Science Consultants

Photo courtesy of Frank Ooms

The Burwell Center for Career Achievement at the University of Denver (recently LEED Platinum level certified) is a shining example of what can be accomplished with an owner team dedicated to sustainable, high-performance design and construction methods. Integrating LEED High-Performance Building Elements into the design was accomplished by Green Ideas Building Science Consultants.

Green Ideas was asked to spearhead the LEED certification process for the Burwell Center project by the architecture firms Lake|Flato Architects and Shears Adkins Rockmore (SAR+). They were excited to join the team because of the University of Denver’s commitment to LEED Platinum level certification (the highest level possible) and the highly regarded reputation of Lake|Flato Architects and Shears Adkins Rockmore (SAR+).

The project began by implementing an integrative design process to the project, as directed by Lake|Flato Architects and Shears Adkins Rockmore (SAR+). The LEED Integrative Design Process credit was targeted and achieved by developing detailed energy and water use budgets — which enabled the project team to focus on elements of the design that would deliver the most energy and water efficient project possible while achieving LEED Platinum and providing a healthy indoor environment for building occupants. One LEED point was earned for the Integrative Design Process credit, which is a stand-alone credit that applies to all the following LEED categories.

1. Location & Transportation Category (15 of 16 possible points achieved)

An incredible 15 points were earned in this category that aims to limit single occupancy vehicle use and to provide easy access to mass transit and local amenities. Bicycle storage facilities and preferred parking for green vehicles were provided, along with reducing the project’s parking footprint. Location of the building within the centrally-located university campus helped to achieve many of the Location & Transportation LEED points. When combined, these strategies provided an extremely usable building that is easy to get to, while saving fuel and contributing to a healthy macro environment.

2. Sustainable Sites Category (5 of 10 possible points achieved)

The project earned five points in this category for developing a sustainable site which includes conducting a site assessment prior to construction and providing additional open space around the building. Points were also earned by mitigating the urban heat island effect through specification of reflective roof surfaces and installation of permeable hardscape elements. An additional point was achieved under the Light Pollution Reduction credit for keeping all artificial lighting within the project boundary.

3. Water Efficiency Category (7 of 11 possible points achieved)

Low-flow plumbing fixtures were specified and installed throughout the project, reducing potable water for domestic use by 46%. Potable water used for irrigation purposes was reduced by 35%, and advanced water metering strategies were employed to provide facility management with the capability to measure water used for different building operation purposes, because (using one of my favorite quotes), “what is measured can be managed and improved”. Metering will enable the operation and maintenance staff to identify and improve upon current water reduction strategies.

4. Energy & Atmosphere Category (29 of 33 possible points achieved)

Eighteen of the 29 points were earned in this all-important category for providing energy cost savings above the ASHRAE 90.1-2010 energy baseline standard by 54%! This was achieved through maximizing orientation of the building, designing an energy efficient building envelope and then specifying efficient mechanical systems. An additional three points were earned for installing photovoltaic panels on the roof that provide 22% of the building’s energy needs. All of these strategies fed into the computerized energy model to prove the building’s future energy use.

Other targeted credits include Enhanced Commissioning of the building’s mechanical systems which ensures the owner that all energy and water-using systems were installed, calibrated, and are operating according to the Mechanical Engineer’s specifications. The Enhanced Commissioning credit also includes a design phase review of the mechanical system and a post-occupancy recommissioning procedure at ten months after occupancy to give the owner confidence that the building’s systems continue to operate at peak efficiency before the construction warranty expires at the twelve-month point.

5. Materials & Resources Category (5 of 13 possible points achieved)

The Building Life-Cycle Impact Reduction credit helped to earn the project five points in this category by performing a lifecycle analysis (LCA) for the entire project. Attention was also given to specifying building products that have Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) and Health Product Declarations (HPDs) available. EPDs and HPDs are essentially a report card for a building product, which gives confidence to specifiers about product environmental attributes, ensuring that the project will have minimal impact on the environment.

6.  Indoor Environmental Quality Category (9 of 16 possible points achieved)

This very important category is focused on providing additional outside air to the interior portions of the building to improve indoor air quality (IAQ) and specifying lowemitting materials that contain very low or zero volatile 

7. Innovation Category (6 of 6 possible points achieved)

Points within the Innovation category are made available to project teams for either exceeding the requirements of an existing LEED credit or implementing truly high-performance building or operating strategies that do not exist as a LEED credit. The Burwell Center earned an amazing six of six possible points by implementing an Ergonomics Approach for Computer Users strategy and developing a healthy Green Janitorial program. Two additional points were earned by exceeding the requirements of the Heat Island Reduction and the LowEmitting Materials credits. These strategies resulted in raising the innovation level of this signature university building.

8. Regional Priority Category (4 of 4 possible points achieved)

Other “extra credit” points are available in this LEED category for exceeding a U.S. Green Building Council predefined threshold for existing credits that are deemed to be very important to the region where the project is located. The Regional Priority credits that were targeted and achieved by the Burwell Center include Surrounding Density & Diverse Uses (threshold of 3 points), Indoor Water Use Reduction (threshold of 4 points), Optimize Energy Performance (threshold of 10 points), and Renewable Energy Production (threshold of 3 points).

Application of an Integrative Design Process and an incredibly motivated owner enabled the project to earn the coveted LEED Platinum level of certification on September 14, 2022. The project earned 81 out of a possible 110 points and earned the distinction of being the first LEED Platinum level certified project on the University of Denver campus. Green Ideas is proud to have worked with such a dedicated team and truly appreciate the University of Denver’s commitment to sustainable, high-performance design, construction and operation for their facilities. The end result was an incredible energy, water and materials efficient building that is the healthiest that it can be. The Burwell Center for Career Achievement in a hallmark structure that will continue to serve the University of Denver and its students for many years to come.

About Green Ideas® Building Science Consultants: Charlie Popeck is President and CEO of Green Ideas, a fullservice building science consulting firm offering 3D energy and daylight modeling, building commissioning, and world-class LEED certification services. The firm is designated as a LEED Proven Provider by Green Business Certification Inc. and is a certified B Corporation. Its clients are building owners, architects, engineers, contractors, real estate developers, facility managers, and corporate entities wishing to establish business advantages through high-performance building practices. With a vision as bold as the results they achieve, Green Ideas is dedicated to transforming the market by promoting building science through a “triple bottom line” approach to business operations. For more information, visit

Visit Career Achievement Center, University of Denver in the January/February 2023 DCD for more information on this great project!