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NMSU's Center for the Arts achieves LEED Gold status

New Mexico State University's Center for the Arts was expected to achieve LEED Silver status, but exceeded expectations, earning LEED Gold certification for its many sustainable features.

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)

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.

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.

"Sustainability in this facility is important for several reasons," said NMSU University Architect Greg Walke. "First, it's the law: new public buildings in New Mexico must be built to LEED standards; we were required to aim for LEED Silver certification, but ended up even better, at LEED Gold. Second, it's the university's policy to build sustainably, and LEED certification is one way to measure that. Third, it just makes good sense: NMSU has reduced its energy usage in the past few years; there are several reasons for that, but one reason is that we have completed eight LEED-certified projects in the past five years or so, with the stated intention of reducing energy use through better design."

Some of the sustainable features of the 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 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," Walke said. "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 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.

"The use of regionally-sourced materials and the daylighting solutions both worked well with the architectural themes in this building, which reflect local land forms and geological formations," Walke said.

The building also features maximum daylighted floor area, from large windows, the specialized glazing and Solatubes, which are tubular daylighting devices.

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.

The building serves as one of the many "front doors" of the NMSU campus, facing out to welcome the wider community in, a vision that came about during the formulation of the 2006 Master Plan, Walke said.