Brelsford WSU Visitor Center Sustainable Design and Construction

Pursuing LEED Silver Certification

What is LEED?

LEED, or Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, is an internationally recognized mark of excellence awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council providing building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions.At its core, LEED is a program that provides third-party verification of green buildings. Building projects satisfy prerequisites and earn points to achieve different levels of certification. Prerequisites and credits differ for each rating system, and teams choose the best fit for the project. Learn more about LEED, LEED facts, and the LEED rating systems at

LEED Rating System

Within each of the LEED credit categories, projects must satisfy prerequisites and earn points. The number of points the project earns determines its level of LEED certification. The Brelsford WSU Visitor Center is seeking LEED Silver certification and certification credit in the following areas:

Sustainable Sites Credits

Encourages strategies that minimize the impact of ecosystems and water resources

Community Connectivity

Located on the west edge of the WSU campus in Pullman, the Brelsford WSU Visitor Center is the new gateway for students and guests to the university. The central and vibrant location of the new Visitor Center project meets the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) requirements for community connectivity, which requires the project site be located within 0.5 miles of a residential zone or neighborhood with an average density of 10 units per acre net; is within 0.5 miles of at least 10 basic services; and has pedestrian access between the building and the services. The development of urban areas like this helps restore, invigorate and sustain established urban living patterns, creating a more stable and interactive community. New developments located within walking distance of existing basic services also limit urban sprawl and reduce transportation impacts, such as air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
Photo by Robert Hubner

Cool Roof

In order to reduce heat islands and minimize the thermal impact on microclimates, 86.92 percent of the Visitor Center’s roof is covered using roofing materials with a high solar reflectance index (SRI). To achieve the credit, the high-albedo roof area must cover a minimum weighted average of 75 percent or more of the total roof area. In conventional buildings, the non-reflective roofing surfaces contribute to the heat-island effect by absorbing the sun’s warmth, which then radiates in the surroundings. As a result, ambient temperatures are artificially inflated, increasing cooling loads, electricity consumption and emissions of greenhouse gases. Through careful roof material selection, compliant procurement and installation, this project helps mitigate the heat-island effect.

Heat Reduction Strategies

The building’s design uses hardscape surfaces and architectural shading devices to further reduce heat absorption and mitigate the heat-island effect. To be eligible for this credit, at least 50 percent of the total hardscape must have one or more of the following: a solar reflectance index value of 29 or higher, be shaded by a tree canopy within five years, or be a pervious paver. The total area of compliant hardscape surfaces on the Visitor Center site is approximately 55 percent, or 14,471 square feet. One of the primary strategies for increasing heat reduction was material selection and carefully evaluating the solar reflectance value of each material, like using concrete instead of asphalt.

Materials and Resources Credits

Encourages using sustainable building materials and reducing waste

Construction Waste Management

Construction waste is one of the most significant environmental impacts of the construction industry. In an effort to lessen this negative impact, the Visitor Center project diverted 93 percent of all construction waste from the landfill. This tremendous achievement earned the project both of the available points in the Construction Waste Management credit. Beyond being fiscally responsible, recycling and reusing construction and demolition debris reduces demand for virgin resources and reduces the environmental impacts associated with resource extraction, processing and transportation.

Certified Wood

More than 50 percent of all the wood used on the new Visitor Center is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The certification is a seal awarded to forward managers who adopt environmentally and socially responsible forest management practices, and companies that manufacture and sell projects made from certified wood. Using FSC wood helps avoid the negative environmental impacts of irresponsible forest practices that include forest destruction, wildlife habitat loss, soil erosion, stream sedimentation, water and air pollution, and ware generation.

WSU Research Put Into Practice

WSU’s Composite Materials Engineering Center (CMEC) developed the testing and grading methods used on the oriented strand board (OSB), cross laminated timbers (CLT), and glue-laminated beams that are used throughout the new Visitor Center. OSB was used for the visitor desk and wine display. CLT was used for the gallery roof assembly, which is exposed on the interior and supported by glued-laminated beams. The 3,800 square-foot roof uses only 15 factory-cut panels, allowing faster erection times and requiring virtually no cutting or alterations on the jobsite. The panels, which are 8-feet wide and up to 32-feet long, are fabricated in Penticton, British Columbia, and trucked 300 miles to Pullman. All wood in the CLT assemblies are from FSC-certified regional forests helping the Visitor Center build on the Certified Wood credit to reach its goal of LEED Silver. Additionally, unlike steel or concrete, CLT has the added benefit of sequestering carbon, since atmospheric carbon dioxide taken in by the trees remains in the finished product. The same goes for other wood products.

Water Efficiency Credits

Promotes smarter use of water, inside and out, to reduce potable water consumption

Water-Efficient Landscaping

The landscaping and irrigation systems for the new Visitor Center are designed to reduce irrigation and on-site water consumption. Using native plants and landscaping techniques, the project has achieved a 59.82 percentage reduction of potable water from the building’s baseline, well beyond the credit’s 50 percent requirement. The water-efficient landscapes help conserve local and regional potable water resources, as well as provides reliable water sources for future generations.

Reduction in Water Use

Design of the Visitor Center aims to maximize water efficiency within the building and reduce the burden on the municipal water system. Using low-flow water closets, urinals and faucets, the Visitor Center uses 47 percent less water than the water-use baseline calculated for the building. This significant reduction qualifies the project for the highest level of points available for the water-use reduction credit, and earns the Visitor Center an additional point due to regional priority of this credit. Located in an arid region, the USGBC Regional Council determines the priorities and incentivizes projects that address geographically specific environmental priorities such as water-use reduction.

Energy and Atmosphere Credits

Promotes better building energy performance through innovative strategies

Measurement Verification

To better understand how LEED certified buildings perform in the operational phase, this project has committed to share energy and water consumption data on an ongoing and annual basis. This information will be anonymous and aggregated with the performance data of other LEED certified buildings to help further research of high performance operations. Through data sharing, the project not only adds to the body of research data of high performing buildings but also earns the Measurement and Verification credit (using Option 3 compliance path).

Green Power

After reducing energy consumption through the use of natural daylighting and efficient lighting and mechanical systems, this building goes the extra step to procure electricity generated from renewable, carbon-free generation sources. This project has committed to a two-year purchase of 76,000 Kilowatt Hour (kWh) of off-site generated renewable energy to reduce the impact of the building and also help incentivize additional production of renewable energy. This exceptional level of commitment to purchase more than 73 percent renewable energy not only satisfies the Green Power credit but also earns one extra Exemplary Performance credit.

Indoor Environmental Quality Credits

Promotes better indoor air quality and access to daylight and views

Low Emitting Materials

Many buildings contain compounds and contaminants that have a negative impact on indoor air quality (IAQ) and the Earth’s atmosphere. The most common is volatile organic compounds (VOC’s). To reduce the quantity of indoor air contaminants harmful to installers and occupants, the Visitor Center used low-emitting materials for all paints and coatings on the interior of the building.

Construction Indoor Air Quality Plan

Americans spend an average of 90 percent of their time indoors; as a result, the quality of the indoor environment has a significant influence on well-being and quality of life. To mitigate any indoor air quality (IAQ) problems resulting from the construction process the team implemented a stringent IAQ Management Plan throughout the construction and preoccupancy phases. Construction activities can affect the building long after occupancy, so the goal of the IAQ management plan was to help sustain long-term worker and occupant comfort and well-being.


The Visitor Center was designed to maximize the amount of daylighting and views from regularly occupied spaces. This approach provides building occupants with a connection between indoor spaces and the outdoors and can also reduce lighting energy use by 50 to 80 percent. Maximizing daylighting conserves natural resources and reduces air pollution impacts due to energy production and consumption. Current daylighting models estimate that at least 81 percent of the regularly occupied area in the Visitor Center is above 21 foot candles. A foot candle is a unit of illumination equal to that given by a source of one candle at a distance of one foot.

Innovation Credits

Addresses sustainable building expertise as well as design measures not covered under the five main LEED credit categories

Low-Mercury Fixtures

This project establishes and maintains a toxic material source reduction program to reduce the amount of mercury brought onto the building site through purchases of lamps. Mercury causes serious ecological and human health problems when released to the environment through human activities. Although coal-fired electricity plants are the largest source of mercury air emissions in the United States, mercury is also present in building products such as fluorescent lamps, some types of batteries, thermostats, thermometers and switches. Once these products leave buildings, they often become part of the solid waste stream and contribute to air, land and water contamination. To avoid these emissions, this project has a lighting purchasing plan that specifies maximum levels of mercury permitted in mercury-containing lamps purchased for the building and associated grounds, including lamps for both indoor and outdoor fixtures, as well as both hard-wired and portable fixtures. The plan specifies a target for the overall average of mercury content in lamps of 80 picograms per lumen-hour or less. Following this plan qualifies this project for one innovation credit.

Integrated Pest Management

Borrowing a credit from the LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance rating system, this project voluntarily commits to an integrated pest management (IPM) plan during building’s operations. Pests can be harmful to the building itself while serving as disease vectors that affect occupants’ well-being and productivity. However, the use of many conventional pesticide products can also harm occupants and present hazards to workers during application. This project’s IPM strategy prevents pests from entering the building and creates an environment that is not conducive to them, thereby reducing or eliminating the need for toxic pesticides. When pesticides must be used, minimizing the amounts used, selecting the least toxic materials, and applying them appropriately can reduce the potential for adverse effects on building occupants and the environment. Following this plan qualifies this project for one innovation credit.