As a signatory to the American College and University Presidents' Climate commitment, the University of Baltimore is pursuing strategies to help eliminate global-warming emissions and achieve climate neutrality.

The new 12-story John and Frances Angelos Law Center presented the first large-scale opportunity to demonstrate the university's depth of commitment to that goal. As designed, the project was able to earn the first LEED-Platinum rating for a law school in the U.S.

Despite the achievement, Michael Barber, project manager at architectural firm Ayers Saint Gross, says the team did not set out to meet a particular standard.

"The philosophy at the outset wasn't to achieve a LEED-Platinum rating by going down a checklist," he says. "It was a process of looking at the site, the Baltimore climate and the school's program to figure out what made sense—in terms of leveraging technology and the building's orientation—to make the building as high performing as we could within the budget."

As a result of those efforts, the building was designed to reduce energy consumption by 43% and water use by 56% from baseline standards.

Energy conservation goals were met through the building's solar orientation, natural ventilation, a highly efficient facade systems, daylighting and the concrete structure.

Architects took advantage of energy and daylight modeling to optimize design of the curtain wall in response to site orientation. Window sizes, density of frit patterns and configurations of sunshades were based on these studies. Automated sunshades reduce solar heat gain, control glare and optimize daylight.

Natural ventilation and user-notification control systems decrease energy use. Air transfer devices allow air to flow passively from the exterior envelope to the atrium, where a natural stack effect exhausts it through the roof.

"One of the most impressive aspects of the project was the very close integration of the architectural design with the MEP design," says John Morris, vice president at Mueller Associates Inc. "Everything was done to keep the design as clean as possible."

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