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08/29/2011 01:21 PM     print story email story  

First-Ever LEED Platinum Student Housing at USC News

The University of Southern California expects to receive the first-ever LEED platinum certification for a student housing community that opens this week.

Platinum is the highest level of certification offered by the US Green Building Council under its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.

The mixed-use development, called West 27th Place, shold receive official notification of certification soon.

The green features of West 27th Place begins with its location. Its situated near multiple community resources and ample public transportation, including a stop on USC Transit’s A Route and a station on the new Expo light rail line.

The parking garage offers preferred spaces for low-emitting and fuel-efficient vehicles as well as abundant bicycle storage.

“There are some luxury items that may at face value seem incompatible with sustainable development, but what we’ve found is that austerity does not necessarily represent ecofriendly construction,” says David Hilliard, president of Symphony Development, the developer of West 27th Place.

“For example, we have high quality flooring in both the laminated hardwood and carpeted areas. We were able to receive LEED points because the flooring was LEED-rated based on recycled materials. It turned out that we could achieve a high level of quality in the building and satisfy the LEED component," he adds.

Other features include a resort-style salt water swimming pool and spa that uses fewer chemicals than a conventional pool; a 24-hour fitness center and computer lab with recycled materials used for furnishings and floor coverings; motion-sensing lights in common areas; drought-resistant landscaping; and Energy Star appliances throughout all of the 161 apartment units.

The project generated 95% less construction waste than other similar projects because of its use of modular framing and  recycling materials like wallboard and bricks.

USC says the City of Los Angeles encouraged the project, offering to expedite planning approvals if the school registered for any type of green certification.

"We started aiming for silver certification. We found that if we were careful in our selection of materials and construction techniques, we could gain additional points here and there at a relatively small increase in cost. Suddenly we found ourselves aiming for gold, then platinum certification," Hilliard says.

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