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NMSU Chamisa II housing achieves LEED Gold status

New Mexico State University's new Chamisa II housing has achieved LEED Gold certification, becoming the first multi-family home structure in the state of New Mexico to do so.

The Chamisa Village sign is surrounded by Mexican feather grass in the foreground, with Chamisa student housing in the background.
New Mexico State University's Chamisa II, phase two of the Chamisa Village campus residence project, has achieved LEED Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. Chamisa II is the first multi-family structure in the state of New Mexico to achieve this rating. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)
Four NMSU students sit on an Aggies bench outside one of the new LEED Gold certified Chamisa II student housing buildings.
Students enjoy a sunny spring afternoon outside the Chamisa II residential complex on campus. The facility was just recognized by the U.S. Green Building Council with LEED Gold certification for its sustainable design and construction, along with high performance and energy-saving features. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)
This green Chamisa II kitchen features energy efficient appliances and lights that automatically turn on when you enter a room and turn off when you leave it.
This Chamisa II kitchen features energy-efficient appliances and lighting that automatically shuts off after a period of no use. These features, combined with low-flow sinks, showers and toilets and the sustainable design and building practices, all contribute to Chamisa II's U.S. Green Building Council's LEED Gold certification. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, was developed in 2000 by the U.S. Green Building Council and provides independent, third-party verification that a building, home or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in key areas of human and environmental health, including sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.

Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson signed an executive order in 2006 requiring that all future state-funded building projects of more than 15,000 square feet be built to meet LEED Silver standards.

Chamisa II exceeds this standard - by several points.

"When you get LEED status, you earn all these points for all sorts of things," said Julie Weber, director of Housing and Residential Life at NMSU. "The things that students will see are when you walk in the apartment, the lights are motion sensitive, so they turn on automatically for you, but when you head off into your bedroom, you can't leave them on by accident and waste electricity. All of our appliances are energy efficient; it's a nonsmoking facility; toilets, showers and sinks are all low-flow."

Weber said that items like the low-flow showerheads were tested in other apartments on campus before Chamisa II was completed and students did not seem to mind the change. She said that while the LEED certification is important to the university, so is student quality of life.

Some of the things students will likely not see are the recycled insulation that was installed, the trailers that collected the recyclable construction-related waste, the water collection system that takes water from the roof of each building and drains it into storage ponds for use in irrigation systems at Chamisa Village. The white roof surface of each building is reflective and reduces the heat island effect and improves energy efficiency. Installing low-e glazing on the windows, R-19 wall insulation, R-30 roof insulation and high efficacy lighting has reduced energy consumption.

"Our landscaping is drought-resistant, which is a good thing, considering we haven't had rain in forever," Weber said. "When we do have rain, all of our rainwater is caught from the roof and in the retention ponds, and is then recirculated into our irrigation systems, so we use much less water within the facility and still manage to landscape."

Indoor water consumption has been reduced through the installation of high-efficiency 1.28 gallon per flush toilets, 1.6 gallon per minute showerheads and 1.5 gallon per minute bathroom sinks.

"The most important thing is how much of a team effort this was," Weber said. "This isn't something that housing did, or our architect did, or facilities and services did - everybody had to work to together. Meeting LEED Silver is hard enough, but to actually get into Gold status is quite an accomplishment."