From the outside, Stanford University's just-opened Jerry Yang and Akiko Yamazaki Environment & Energy building (Y2E2) looks a lot like the other buildings on campus. Its faâ¿¿Ã¿ade is mostly stone, its roof is mostly tile, and its surrounded by long colonnades with graceful arches.
But this building, the first of four to go up in what will be Stanford's new engineering quad, is different. It is as environmentally friendly as its designers at Boora Architects and Hargreaves Associates could make it; a level that the university calls LEED-platinum equivalent. Stanford did not seek official LEED platinum certification like some Bay Area builders; some building requirements, like the separate ventilation systems for the basement laboratories, aren't accounted for in the LEED system, and certification would have added a costly paperwork burden that, says Stanford civil and environmental engineering professor Richard Luthy, would have come out of the budget for solar cells, for example. While the building is too new for operating data to be available, Luthy expects about a 60 percent energy savings and about a 90 percent savings in potable water use.
I toured the 11,000 square meter building last week. I've toured a lot of green buildings, and I'm always impressed with how features that are good for the environment--like natural lighting--also create a space that feels good to the people working inside of it.
The Y2E2 building struck me by its level of detail. It's not just the four atria letting in natural light, the automatic louvers and windows bringing in cool air at night to chill the mostly carpet-less concrete floor for daytime cooling, or the grey-water system used for the toilets that gives this building its tiny environmental footprint. It's all the little things: like making the shelving and tables out of bamboo and recycled press-board; the fly ash, a byproduct of coal burning, that replaced cement in the concrete; the angled landscaping that sends rainwater into channels where it is collected and used for irrigation.