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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Daylight, energy savings among sustainable features in NMSU's Center for the Arts

In New Mexico State University's Center for the Arts, offices have two windows - one to the outside and one to the inside, allowing natural light into the center of the building. That's just one of the many design features that recently earned the College of Arts and Sciences facility an LEED Gold certification.

This is a photo of the exterior of the Center for the Arts.
New Mexico State University's Center for the Arts has achieved LEED Gold status for its many sustainable features. NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)
This is an interior photo of the Center for the Arts.
Interior view of the new Center for the Arts (CFTA) theater lobby area. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)
This is an interior photo of the Center for the Arts.
Interior view of the new Center for the Arts (CFTA) theater lobby area. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

"We are very pleased to receive this high-level designation," said Christa Slaton, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. "We wanted to make sure the building was not only beautiful, but also sustainable. This certification shows that we have been successful in meeting that challenge."

LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, was developed in 2000 by the U.S. Green Building Council and provides independent, third-party verification that a building, home or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in key areas of human and environmental health, including sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.

Some of the sustainable features in NMSU's Center for the Arts include a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of 50 percent when compared to buildings of its type through improved insulation of the building envelope, high performance glazing, demand control ventilation, energy efficient lighting, unique solar shading of glazed rehearsal room to reduce heat gain and glare, a 50 kilowatt photovoltaic array, daylight harvesting and a nonconventional air delivery system in the theater, through displacement ventilation.

"A theater is an unusual type of building, and the sustainability features we can easily employ in other places may not be applicable here," said NMSU University Architect Greg Walke. "For example, daylighting a building that is largely a theater and backstage area seems like it would be difficult, but there is still enough of the building in classrooms, offices and open spaces that can be daylit that it can be done - and was. In addition, all of the primary goals of a theater building - good sound protection, good sound quality, light control, etc. - made us design different sorts of sustainable solutions."

The three-story state of the art academic building is 59,000 gross square feet with a 466-seat performance space for theater and dance, which has an orchestra pit and trap room, orchestra level, two balconies and fly tower. The building also features a large rehearsal room, classrooms, office and back-of-the-house supporting areas.

The building also features maximum daylighted floor area, from large windows, the specialized glazing and solatubes.
"There are so many sustainable features that we aren't aware of, but one thing we notice every day is the lighting," said Tom Smith, NMSU theater arts department head. "The lights not only automatically turn on and off when you enter a room, but they also have sensors that measure how much natural light is coming in and adjust the amount of artificial lighting in the room accordingly. Our stage lighting was also upgraded to LED lighting, saving the university about $40,000 in electricity costs per year. It's a pretty amazing building."

The structure is steel and concrete with masonry infill and has three exterior balconies, one on each level. The exterior is comprised of New Mexico travertine, which is a LEED consideration, and an insulating stucco material. The floors are polished and sealed concrete in the lobby and Arroyo Corridor and the offices and classrooms are carpeted. The back-of-the-house area has exposed sealed concrete floors.
Builders used environmentally responsible building products, and as many of them as possible were regionally sourced.

The landscaping uses plants requiring low irrigation, and storm-water control features harvest rainwater for use in landscape irrigation.

Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson signed an executive order in 2006 requiring that all future state-funded building projects of more than 15,000 square feet be built to meet LEED Silver standards.

"The Governor's mandate to reduce greenhouse gases by 50% and our firm's commitment to the 2030 Challenge were guiding principles for initiating sustainability practices for the project," said Malcolm Holzman, the New York architect who designed the facility. "By applying energy saving techniques, utilizing photovoltaic panels, 50% diversion of waste materials from landfill sites, daylight harvesting, and the application of regional materials and recycled content, the Center for the Arts was successful in achieving LEED Gold certification.

"LEED Silver certification was a design requirement by the university, however successful design innovations allowed the Center for the Arts to gain a higher status. Using local materials, which constitutes 30% of the facility's construction products, was instrumental in earning certification and supporting an architecture that engages its community."

NMSU has completed eight other LEED-certified projects in the past five years.