ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The James Center for Molecular and Life Sciences in St. Petersburg at Eckerd College was certified as LEED Platinum, the school confirmed on July 1.
The $25 million, 55,000-square-foot science center officially opened in January 2013 and consolidates biology, chemistry and biochemistry departments under one roof for the first time in the school’s history. The building contains nine, 24-student teaching labs, two classrooms, four faculty-student research spaces and 14 faculty offices.
Grand Island, N.Y.-based CannonDesign served as the science center’s architect, and Biltmore Construction of Willoughby, Ohio, served as the builder.
LEED Platinum is the highest certification awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), and it took the science center more than two years to complete the certification process. The designation reflects the core mission of the science center to promote ecological and environmental efforts. Eckerd College was named one of the top 10 environmental studies schools in the Fiske Guide to Colleges in 2013.
One of the most innovative green aspects of the building is its use of reclaimed water from the city of St. Petersburg’s wastewater treatment plant, adjacent to the campus, for the air conditioning system, which saves thousands of gallons of water a day. Water from the air conditioning system is also used to maintain the proper temperatures in the college’s greenhouse rather than going to waste.
“The James Center for Molecular and Life Sciences is a place for learning and a sustainable symbol of the college’s ambitions for liberal arts education in the 21st century: a personalized experience that cultivates cross-disciplinary thinking enhanced by excellent teaching and mentoring,” said W. Kenneth Wiseman, CannonDesign’s lead architect for the project, in a statement.
One the building’s most distinctive architectural features is a white fabric “parasol” at the center of the complex that shades the building and creates usable outdoor space for collaboration, study and events. The outdoor walls are painted with a highly reflective coating normally found on pool decks that reduces cooling load.
The science center was designed in the shape of a skewed "H" and oriented to mitigate the hot sun and enhance energy savings. Windows are not only hurricane-resistant; they are coated to deflect infrared and ultraviolet light and have outdoor shades to increase energy conservation. The building also includes xeriscaping, bamboo veneers and natural light to reduce the need for electrical lighting.
Sensors turn lights on as users walk down a corridor or in and out of rooms and calibrate interior lighting to ambient daylight, saving electricity. The roof includes sprayed-on foam to reflect the sun, keeping the building cooler.
A building dashboard system displays energy consumption levels in each room.
The building is named for longtime Eckerd friends Tom James, executive chairman of Raymond James Financial, and his wife, Mary.
“The James Center is a great example of Eckerd’s commitment to excellence, innovation and sustainability,” said Eckerd President Don Eastman in a statement. “We are delighted that the building has achieved the highest LEED rating, but even happier that it has become a hub of scientific research and a gathering place for all students on campus.”