LEED Certification: Providing an Independent, Third-Party Verification System

LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a voluntary, consensus-based national rating system for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings. LEED certification is an independent, third-party verification that a building was designed, constructed and will operate as it was intended relative to energy efficiency and sustainability.

The LEED for New Construction Rating System is a nationally accepted method for guiding and recognizing high-performance commercial and institutional projects, including office buildings, retail commercial, educational facilities, manufacturing plants and laboratories, residential buildings and recreational facilities.

LEED certification criteria emphasize sustainable building practices and state-of-the-art strategies in these areas:

  • Sustainable site development
  • Water savings
  • Energy efficiency
  • Materials and resources selection
  • Indoor environmental quality
  • Innovation and design process

Sustainable refers to building design, construction and operation practices that significantly reduce resource consumption and environmental impacts.

Many information resources concerning sustainable buildings exist. Visit the Related Links page for suggested sites.

Why Sustainable (“Green”) Buildings Such as ORAU’s CSE are Better than Normal, Built-to-code Buildings

The world’s population has grown exponentially during the last 100 years and is now composed of more than 6 billion people. By 2050, the number is expected to reach 9 billion. In addition, previously underdeveloped countries, such as China and India, are now competing for limited resources. Those two factors alone are creating serious issues for our environment.

The building sector is the largest user of energy in the United States. Buildings account for 40 percent of all energy consumption and a significant portion of our resource consumption. Making our buildings sustainable—that is, more efficient in the use of energy and resources—is one way to achieve considerable progress in lessening our negative effect on the environment.

According to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), sustainable buildings save on average:

  • 30 percent in energy
  • 35 percent in carbon emissions
  • 30 to 50 percent in water use
  • 50 to 90 percent in waste cost savings

ORAU Center for Science EducationORAU’s CSE Building: Sustainable Design, Construction and Operation

The design of the CSE incorporates several strategies for minimizing the building’s impact on the environment.

  • Open space was maximized on the site by keeping the footprint of the building small and making it four stories tall rather than wider and longer. Similarly, parking was kept to the minimum required by the City of Oak Ridge.
  • By employing more efficient plumbing fixtures and automatic controls, water usage will be reduced by 30 percent.
  • The building was developed to help minimize energy use, featuring:
    • an ideal solar orientation on an east–west axis
    • high-performance glass throughout
    • shaded windows
    • a building envelope, or walls and roof, with a higher than normal insulation value
    • a white roof with a high reflectance value
  • The building employs a high-efficiency HVAC (heating, ventilating and air conditioning) system that uses a central boiler and chiller combined with VAV (variable air volume) boxes serving individual spaces.
  • Two-step light fixtures, individual task lighting, daylight and occupancy sensors, and nighttime cutoff save energy.

During construction, the emphasis was on resource conservation and environmental quality.

  • Materials used consisted of more than 20 percent recycled content.
  • More than 50 percent of materials used on the project were extracted and manufactured within 500 miles of the site.
  • Nearly 70 percent of construction waste was diverted from landfills and used as recycled materials elsewhere.
  • Indoor air quality controls were implemented to minimize the amount of exposure to moisture and deter the growth of mold, as well as limit the amount of dust and contaminants in the air, ductwork and HVAC equipment.
  • Paints, adhesives, carpets and wood products all had low VOCs (volatile organic compounds).

During the operation of the CSE, the facilities group will continue to monitor the performance of the facility and make adjustments accordingly to ensure that it functions as designed.

  • Measurement and verification meters have been installed so that data exists to verify performance of each individual system.
  • After the building has been occupied for 6 to 18 months, a survey will be conducted by the facilities group to obtain feedback on the thermal comfort of the occupants. If necessary, corrective actions will follow.

Given that sustainability is integral to having a building that is friendly to the environment and the building inhabitants, of important consideration are the specific criteria that support sustainability. The USGBC provides a checklist to help project teams track their credits against requirements for certification.

The checklist completed for the ORAU CSE building reflects its accomplishments in meeting LEED certification. The CSE building is LEED certified to the Gold level.

LEED Certification Criteria Emphasize Sustainable Building Practices and State-of-the-Art Strategies

See the example gallery for LEED attributes of the ORAU Center for Science Education.

Diagram showing building orientation

Site Sustainability Development

West/east building orientation and an evironmentally efficient wall system.

Handsink with automatic faucet

Water Savings
Water-saving toilets and urinals, and automatic faucets

Ceiling-mounted light sensor

Energy Efficiency
Step-lighting and
light sensors

Wall construction using certified woodMaterials and Resources Selection
Recycled and regionally obtained materials, and U.S. FSC–certified wood

Digital thermostatEnergy Efficiency
CO2 detectors in conference rooms for automatic adjustment of intake of outdoor air, and digital thermostats

Open space surrounding the CSE

Innovation and Design Processes
Copious amounts of open space around CSE structure

General Facts about the CSE

Size and Approximate Cost

  • Four-story office building
  • 73,000 square feet
  • $20.2 million


  • ORAU’s President’s Office
  • ORAU Communications and Marketing Department
  • ORAU Information Services Department
  • ORAU Human Resources Department
  • ORAU/ORISE Science Education Programs

Other Details

  • The CSE houses a state-of-the-art classroom for teachers and students
  • The facility is located across from the Pollard Technology Conference Center and ORAU’s Building MC-212 (built in 2004) and has the address 100 ORAU Way.
  • Construction of the CSE was managed by Partners Development of Knoxville.