‘Green’ renovation of century-old building exhibits environmental responsibility

September 24, 1998
Contact: umichnews@umich.edu

ANN ARBOR—When the dust clears after the multimillion dollar renovation of the Dana Building on the University of Michigan campus, most people walking down the U-M Diag won’t notice anything different.

The outside of the building, a campus landmark that’s approaching 100 years old, will look just about the same. It won’t occupy an additional square inch of real estate, but the inside will contain 20 percent more useable space for the growing U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE). It will also be a healthier, more flexible place that uses half the energy of an average building its size and function.     

“Our students will not only learn in the building, but from the building,” says SNRE Dean Daniel Mazmanian, who sees the renovation as a golden opportunity for the School to practice what it teaches by making environmental concerns a top priority.

At a time of growing public awareness of environmental problems from global warming to urban sprawl, the project provides a model for “green” renovations of homes and offices.

Among the strategies used by project planners:

  • Instead of dumping used building materials in a landfill, salvage and re-use or recycle everything you can, from concrete and scrap metal to bricks, wood beams, and rafters. In the Dana renovation, students and faculty member Robert Grese stacked more than 5,000 brick pavers, discovered under concrete slabs in the old building’s courtyard, for later use in building landscaping.
  • Buy wood products only from certified suppliers who can document that the wood originated in forests that are sustainably managed.
  • Discuss environmental concerns with contractors before the job starts. Let them know at the outset that it’s important to you to save surrounding plants and trees. In the Dana Building renovation, a crane used for roof reconstruction was carefully positioned to save mature trees and a garden of native plants.
  • Ask contractors to turn off equipment that’s not being used, and even to pay for their own electricity as an economic incentive not to waste energy and create unnecessary air and noise pollution.
  • Maximize natural light by installing skylights, light tubes or more windows. Install fluorescent lamps with electronic ballasts, and consider daylight sensors and occupancy sensors in common spaces.
  • When deciding on different types of products or materials, consider the entire life cycle of the products, such as the embodied energy and heat insulation value of insulation materials. Also, buying what’s locally produced saves on transportation, and supports the local economy.
  • Use the least toxic products available for paint stripping, and for re-finishing walls, floors, and furniture.


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