Sustainable buildings open on all UNT System campuses, expanding commitment to being green

Academic Building 2, UNT Dallas
Academic Building 2, UNT Dallas
Life Sciences Complex, UNT main campus, Denton
Life Sciences Complex, UNT main campus, Denton
Thursday, August 19, 2010

When more than 37,000 students at the University of North Texas System return to school this month, they will be learning in an environment that is greener than before.

Three new buildings on the UNT System campuses -- UNT Dallas, UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth and UNT -- will feature 300,000 square feet of environmentally friendly teaching and research space. Environmental amenities include rainwater collection systems, locker rooms to encourage bicycling to work, sustainable architectural finishes and local construction materials. Buildings will house state-of-the-art research laboratories, classrooms and medical training facilities.

System officials are pursuing gold-level LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for all of the buildings, which means the design, construction and operation meet strict environmental standards.

"We have an obligation to leave to future generations campuses that minimize use of resources and don't harm the environment," said Rich Escalante, vice chancellor for administrative services. "There is also the very practical matter of cost. We keep our buildings 50 to 75 years, and by building in this manner, the sustainable features of the buildings pay for themselves through their efficiencies within eight years. Plus, environmentally responsible buildings mean healthier buildings with better air quality."

The UNT System commitment to building green grew from an initiative by Chancellor Lee Jackson to construct future buildings to meet or exceed the latest efficiency and environmental standards.

Sustainability, however, is not new to UNT's flagship campus. Denton's legacy of environmentalism began more than 100 years ago when students chose green as the school color. In the 1930s, UNT's first research faculty member, J.K.G. Silvey, contracted with the city of Dallas to improve water quality. Today, UNT offers 65 courses with a sustainability focus, and faculty in many disciplines are searching for ways to reduce society's impact on the environment. In its daily operations, UNT is dedicated to treading lightly.

Three additional LEED construction projects -- a new stadium, a Business Leadership Building and a parking garage -- are being managed by the UNT System on the UNT flagship campus.

Here is a look at the three buildings opening or nearing completion:

Life Sciences Complex, UNT main campus, Denton

The four-story state-of-the-art research facility for biochemistry and molecular biology, developmental physiology, genetics and plant science will expand UNT's research capabilities in the life sciences. A climate-controlled rooftop research greenhouse is designed for technologically advanced plant science research, and an aquatics laboratory will allow researchers to study a wide range of human health issues, from blood clots and oxygen deprivation to diabetes and cancer, as well as marine conservation.

Among the environmental features are:

  • Bicycle racks and a designated area for showering and changing to encourage walking, bicycling or jogging to work.
  • Conservation of existing natural areas and restoration of damaged areas to provide habitat and promote biodiversity. Landscape grounds will restore a minimum of 50 percent of the site area with native or adapted vegetation.
  • Water-efficient landscaping, which will reduce water consumption for irrigation by at least 50 percent. That includes incorporating plants that require less water and a more efficient irrigation system that collects and reuses rainwater. Low-flow plumbing fixtures will cut water use inside the building by at least 30 percent.
  • About 20 percent of the construction materials come from regional sources, and nearly all wood-based materials certified for environmentally responsible forest management.
  • About 85 percent of construction waste was diverted from landfills to recycling.

Learn more about sustainability and green living at UNT:

Academic Building 2, UNT Dallas

The three-story, 102,000-square-foot building will contain classrooms, laboratories, an expanded library and staff and faculty offices and will allow the university to admit freshmen and sophomores for the first time this semester. It is the campus' second building.

Environmental features include:

  • A roof garden that will help the building stay cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. The garden features Prairie Buffalo grass, which only needs trimming once a year and requires the least amount of water to stay alive.
  • Low-flow plumbing fixtures will cut water use inside the building by at least 30 percent.
  • All paved surfaces are solar reflective, which means they are light in color and reflect rather than absorb heat from sunlight.
  • Drains throughout the building's slanted roofs will allow rainwater to flow to a 60,000-gallon cistern in the courtyard where it will be used to irrigate the campus.
  • The building maximizes the use of natural light through large windows and skylights. In addition, 448 solar panels line the north roof of the building, which should produce 100.4 kilowatts of power -- enough to run 1,000 100-watt light bulbs.
  • Wood paneling on walls and ceilings is made of recycled wood veneer.

Medical Education and Training Building, UNT Health Science Center, Fort Worth

Two floors of the 112,000-square foot building are now complete and in use, and the three remaining floors will be complete in summer 2011. When finished, the building will house a large osteopathic manipulative medicine training room, a state-of-the-art patient simulation training facility, physical therapy instruction labs, offices and small and large classrooms and meeting rooms.

Some environmental features are:

  • Building is within walking distance to community services such as restaurants and retail, which encourages pedestrian traffic rather than vehicles.
  • Locally sourced materials, particularly the Cordova Shell limestone from Cedar Park, near Austin, and all structural steel sourced from iron ore and fabricated in Arkansas and Oklahoma.
  • Drought-resistant native plants.
  • About 92 percent of construction waste -- or 28,340 tons of debris, wood, metal, cardboard, concrete and sheetrock -- diverted from landfills to recycling.
  • Low-flow plumbing fixtures will cut water use inside the building by at least 30 percent.
  • Natural lighting reduces the needs for electrical lighting.
  • Educational materials and pamphlets will be available to learn about the building's sustainable features. Informational signs throughout the building will provide specific details on why this is a green project.

Media contacts:

For UNT Denton, contact Sarah Bahari at 940-565-4835 or or Buddy Price at 940-565-2943 or

For UNT Dallas, contact David Porter at 972-780-3615 or

For the Health Science Center, contact Dana Benton Russell at 817-735-2446 or

View photos of the UNT Health Sciences Center.

Watch YouTube video of the Life Sciences Building.

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108