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KBS Dairy Gets LEED Certification

Mat Haan
MSU Kellogg Biological Station

The barn in the pasture-robotic milking system at the Michigan State University Kellogg Biological Station (KBS) is the first agricultural building in North America to receive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

LEED encourages practices that promote energy conservation, water use efficiency, carbon dioxide emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and natural resources stewardship during design, construction and building occupancy.
Cows at the KBS Dairy barn. ......................................................... .........Photo: Ike V. Iyioke.

What’s LEED Certification?
The LEED certification process, administered by the U.S. Green Building Council (https://www.usgbc.org), is more often associated with schools, museums, and office buildings in urban areas than with farms. 

The LEED certification can be earned for both new building construction and existing building renovations. Projects seeking LEED certification are required to incorporate certain principles into the new or renovated building design and construction.

Additional points are earned, based on the number and types of practices included in the construction process, to achieve the desired level of certification (Basic, Silver, Gold, or Platinum). LEED requirements and points are grouped into six areas: sustainable sites; water efficiency; energy and atmosphere; materials and resources; indoor environmental quality; and innovations and design process. The KBS dairy barn received LEED certification at the Silver level (New Construction - version 2.2) for the practices incorporated into the project. 

All LEED-certified buildings must be at least 15% more energy efficient than the standards for that type of building, based on computer modeling of the facility. The KBS dairy barn exceeded this requirement and received additional points by including practices that enable the facility to be 38% more energy efficient than industry standards. 

The use of recycled and regionally produced materials is also an important LEED principle; all LEED certified buildings are required to have a

long-term recycling plan in place to reduce the amount of paper, plastic, and other waste going to landfills. In addition to a long-term recycling plan, over 11 tons of wood, concrete, and metal generated during the construction process were recycled. Instead of going to a landfill, additional concrete waste was used as the base for the parking area and driveway to the barn.

What the KBS Dairy Did
Over 34% of construction materials were recovered, harvested, or manufactured within 500 miles of the construction site. The use of regional materials reduced the carbon footprint of the project by reducing transportation energy that would have been required to ship materials from a greater distance.
To improve air quality, all LEED-certified buildings are required to use refrigerant management systems that do not use ozone depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) or hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs).

To improve the internal air quality of the barn during construction and occupancy, paints, sealants, and adhesives used during construction were selected from a LEED-approved list of compounds producing a low level of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). A no-smoking policy was also put in place to reduce exposure of building occupants to second-hand smoke. 

LEED Certification Requirements
The LEED-certification process sets certain requirements for all LEED construction, while also providing flexibility to fit different situations. 

Because LEED is primarily used in urban areas, some of the points in the LEED checklist did not fit well with the construction of a dairy barn in a rural area. For example, LEED points are available for facilities built with easy access to public transportation and built within urban centers, points clearly not appropriate for a dairy barn.

To ensure that the KBS dairy included LEED principles in the design and construction of the barn and that it would achieve LEED certification on its completion, KBS worked closely with LEED Accredited Professionals throughout all phases of the design and construction process. 

Costs & Benefits of LEED
Design and construction of a building to LEED standards to achieve LEED certification is not without cost. Costs vary with the size of the project and the level of LEED certification desired.

Some costs are associated with the selection of different construction materials (wood from a source certified by the Forest Stewardship Council) or inclusion of green energy technology (solar panels or wind turbans) into the project; other costs are directly related to the commissioning, documentation, and fees associated with receiving LEED certification. LEED certification may increase project costs from 2.5 to 11% (or more), depending on the size of the project, level of certification, and types of practices included. Achieving LEED certification of the KBS pasture dairy barn increased project costs by about 4.5%. It is hoped that the inclusion of energy efficient design and incorporation of green building principles into the dairy barn will return this money to the dairy over time through lower energy costs for the farm.

It should not be the goal of every dairy farmer to achieve LEED certification for the construction of new facilities; however, small changes in design and construction of new facilities (along with updates in older facilities) can help save money in the long run.

“This new facility allows us to demonstrate to all dairy farmers how to incorporate features in a new barn that save energy, features that are both good for the environment and save them money,” says KBS director Kay Gross. “Many features of this barn that earned the LEED certification can be adopted by dairy farmers with different management and herd sizes.”

This project was made possible through a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and additional support from Michigan State University Extension, Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station, and the Michigan State University Office of the Provost, and College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. 

For additional information about the dairy, contact Mat Haan, KBS Pasture Dairy Project Coordinator, at 269-671-2360 or e-mail: pasture.dairy@kbs.msu.edu; you can also visit us on the web at http://www.kbs.msu.edu/research/pasture-dairy.

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