BURLINGTON -- Vermont's new greenest building isn't so new -- it's more than 30 years old.
The retrofit of the George D. Aiken Center at the University of Vermont has received LEED platinum certification, making it the first renovated building in the state to achieve the highest rating for energy efficiency from the U.S. Green Building Council.
Nationally, buildings represent 40 percent of energy consumption and focusing green energy efforts on new buildings alone won't go far enough toward meeting the broader goals of reducing energy consumption, the project's architect said Monday.
"Really, the challenge for our future is not making great new buildings -- that's certainly important. The challenge is learning how to make our existing buildings wonderful for human activity with minimal environmental impacts," said architect William Maclay. "That's not so easy."
The Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design certification process recognizes buildings for their energy efficiency using a system of points. The Aiken Center is the first platinum certified building at UVM and the highest scoring building in the state, UVM officials said at a ceremony Monday.
The 41,000-square-foot Aiken building was reopened in January 2012 after an 18-month, $13 million renovation. The renovated building is 62 percent more energy efficient that it had been.
The building now includes an "eco machine" wastewater treatment system that resembles a wetland that treats and recycles wastewater. Once it's fully operational it will reduce the water consumption by two-thirds.
During the renovation, the exterior bricks were removed and insulation added that makes the building almost air-tight. There's an off-site solar farm that provides between 40 and 50 percent of the electricity used by the building.
At the Monday event, officials touted how the school has 11 buildings with about 1 million square feet of space that have some level of LEED certification.
Over time the school will move to renovating all of the schools 293 buildings, but it remains to be seen which projects could be applied to other structures.
"The main goal in all of our projects is first looking at the energy efficiency of the building," said Robert Vaughn, UVM's director of capital planning. "What can we do to improve that? Then we will look at each of the systems as to see what we can achieve."