Sustainability Center Receives LEED Platinum

February 5, 2018

NORTHRIDGE, CA - The new Associated Students (AS) Sustainability Center at California State University, Northridge (CSUN) has set a new standard in environmentally friendly and sustainable buildings by receiving a score of 82 on the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system certifying the building as LEED Platinum.

LEED (which stands for Leadership in Energy Efficiency and Design) is a certification program and globally recognized benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high-performance green buildings. Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council in 2000 through a consensus process, LEED serves as a market-driven tool and third-party verified standard of sustainable design and operation across the entire building lifecycle. Under LEED, there are 100 possible base points distributed across six credit categories including Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, and Innovation in Design. A score of 80 and above is required to receive the highest level of Platinum Certification.

Making its mark as the first building of its kind on any California State University, the AS Sustainability Center opened its doors on Thursday, October 26th, 2017. The AS Sustainability Center serves primarily as an expanded central collections location for the campus recyclables. It also acts as the home of AS Sustainability and Recycling Services, the Institute for Sustainability, and as the focal point for the university community providing educational programs and services related to the environment and sustainability.

Some of the significant features of the building include:

  • The daylighting in the Center has been carefully selected to illuminate each space efficiently. Daylight harvesting is an integral component and energy management technique that reduces overhead lighting use by utilizing natural or ambient light present in the different building spaces. The daylighting feature is aided by various photosensors located along the north facing facade and by light dimming or switching OFF capabilities when sufficient ambient light is present or when space is unoccupied. 
  • The lighting in the Center has been carefully selected to illuminate each space efficiently. Photosensors placed along the north facing façade, take advantage of natural daylight entering the building. The photosensors reduce the artificial lighting levels when adequate natural daylight is present. Occupancy sensors are also located throughout to conserve energy. 
  • The Center has operable windows throughout, giving occupancy access to natural ventilation and a connection to outdoors. Sensors built into the window frame automatically shut-down the HVAC system for the room when the window is open. 
  • The Center collects water from the lavatories, shower, and HVAC condensate for irrigation use. The self-contained greywater collection unit is located underground, where the water is lightly filtered, sanitized with ultraviolet light, and distributed to the weather-monitoring irrigation system.
  • An existing paved service yard devoid of landscaping has been transformed into a regionally appropriate drought-tolerant garden that complements the aspirations of the Center. Plant material has been specially selected based on their environmental performance benefits: reducing water demand, creating habitat, filtering stormwater, and minimizing energy use by lowering ambient air temperatures. 
  • The Center uses a high-efficiency Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) system. The solar photovoltaic system powers the all-electric cooling and heating system. No natural gas is used, thereby reducing the carbon footprint of the building.
  • The Center has 85 roof-mounted solar photovoltaic panels totaling 24 kW of solar energy. The electricity generated from this system averages 34,000 kWh per year. 
  • Two flat plate solar collectors on the roof provide the majority of the domestic hot water for the Center. This system uses temperature-sensing pumps and controllers to operate two storage tanks on sunny days and isolate one tank on cloudy days, concentrating the heating energy and limits the backup electric heat needed. 
  • Our Outreach and Operations team work area has been fitted with nearly-new repurposed desks and pedestals. Furnishings were donated by Interior Removal Specialist, Inc., and CSUN/PPM Asset Management.
  • Water use is limited using a Vacuum Composting System that can operate at 1/20 gallon per flush. The primary components are the Vacuum Toilets, Vacuum Pump, and a Composter where the breakdown of waste is accelerated with the use of aerobic microbes, heat, and evaporation. The resulting byproduct has the consistency of common soil.

The AS Sustainability Center’s chief goal is to reduce the campus waste stream by as much as 50%, working towards a zero waste standard goal. The zero waste standard goal strives to “minimize waste as much as possible by capturing recyclables through the five R’s: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, and restore,” as said by Roland Valiente, the Recycling Operations Supervisor, and Cynthia Signett, the Recycling Coordinator, of AS Sustainability and Recycling Services. This building is a hallmark achievement to add to the countless efforts towards making California State University, Northridge a sustainable campus. For more information on the Center, visit