By John Gibbons
Throughout 2015 the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) in Edgewater, Md., has marked its 50th year of operation. Now there’s another reason for SERC to celebrate: One year after opening its Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED)-certified Mathias Laboratory, SERC has received a prestigious GreenGov Presidential Award for the building’s green design and sustainable operation.
The White House announced eight awards in seven different categories on Nov. 23. The recipients were people and projects that have made extraordinary achievements in the pursuit of President Obama’s Federal Sustainability goals.
As one of the most energy-efficient laboratories in the country, the Mathias Lab received the GreenGov Building the Future Award. The lab, which is LEED-certified “Platinum,” is the Smithsonian’s greenest building and emits 37 percent less carbon dioxide than a comparable laboratory that does not meet LEED standards.
“This award recognizes SERC’s commitment to lead a sustainable future and help reverse climate change; and it provides a wonderful facility for our innovative research on the most pressing environmental problems of the next 50 years,” says Anson Hines, SERC director.
The new laboratory’s specially designed features include:
• Roof-mounted panels that provide sun-heated hot water to an innovative interconnected system that recycles 100 percent of its water
• An HVAC system supplied by a large geothermal well field (250 wells 430 feet deep)
• Low-flow fume hoods for chemistry experiments
• Space for nearly 650 solar panels that provide almost 16 percent of the building’s electricity
With its completion, LEED certification and now the honor of a GreenGov Presidential Award, SERC’s Mathias Lab has set the bar high for the Smithsonian.
“Our current goal for all Smithsonian new construction and renovation is LEED Gold, but the Mathias Laboratory exceeded our policy by achieving LEED Platinum certification,” says Nancy Bechtol, director of Smithsonian’s Office of Facilities Engineering and Operations. “Our next objective is to build a Net Zero facility at SERC, and we are up for the challenge!”