Office of Student Life

Ohio Union

LEED Features

LEED Certification

Students were involved throughout the entire design and construction process of the Ohio Union facility. It was made very clear that they desired a facility that not only met their needs, but was also mindful of future students and the impact to the environment. The Ohio Union staff also recognized the importance of incorporating environmentally friendly practices and adhering to The Ohio State University’s commitment to sustainability. Therefore, it was decided to seek  LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certification. According to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), “LEED is a whole-building approach, which encourages and guides a collaborative, integrated design and construction process that optimizes environmental and economic factors.” The Ohio Union is only the second building on the Columbus campus to reach this designation.

We are proud of the following number of sustainability measures taken during the building project which fulfilled LEED credit requirements:  

Erosion and sedimentation control

According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, since 1995, 1.9 billion tons of soil is eroded per year and 112 million acres have been determined to be excessively eroding at rates of 1.3 billion tons per year. In order to protect Ohio waterways from this type of degradation construction crews for the Union implemented erosion and sedimentation control measures including silt fencing, and sediment traps to protect receiving stream channels from increased storm water volume and sedimentation levels.

Site Selection

In the 1990’s, Ohio ranked 8th in the nation in the amount of land converted to urban uses, but only 22nd in total population growth. As this trend is common in the US; USGBC awarded the Ohio State Student Union LEED credit for not selecting land which was prime farmland, wetlands, parkland, within the 100 year flood zone, or a habitat for endangered species.

Alternative Transportation

Public Transportation Access

COTA not only gets you to where you need to go on campus but also provides Ohio State students access to over 50 local attractions including the Arena District, COSI, Ballet Met, and Easton Town Center.

Bicycle Storage and Changing Rooms

Based on US Census estimates there are over 411,000 people nationally over the age of 16 who commute by bicycle daily. To aid in the effort to encourage use of alternative transportation The Ohio State Student union offers bicycle racks and showers to accommodate bicycle users who visit the union.

Storm Water Management

For 2009, the city of Columbus has budgeted over 37 million dollars to storm water treatment and system upgrades. The Ohio State Student Union has implemented best management practices to elevate the demand on these systems by reducing the rate and quantity of run off from the site and by treating storm water before it reaches the city system.

Heat Island Effect Non-Roof

During the design of the student union efforts were taken to utilize reflective paving materials such as concrete on site hardscapes in order to reduce heat islands. Heat islands can impact urban areas through increased energy consumption, higher emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases, and impaired air quality.

Water Efficient Landscaping

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, more than 7 billion gallons of water are used for residential and commercial irrigation per day. The landscape design for the Ohio Union uses no potable water for irrigation through the use native and adaptive vegetation therefore earning LEED credit for water conservation.

Water Use Reduction

Buildings account for 14% of potable water use consumption in the United States. In an effort to conserve water, the Ohio Union utilizes water efficient fixtures throughout the building to reduce water consumption by 30% when compared to an average building of its size.

Optimize Energy Performance

In the United States, buildings account for 39% of energy use. Through the use of energy efficient systems the Ohio Union uses 20% less energy than an average building of its size. For example, LED lights were used in the ballroom and all display cases.

The Ohio Union Project included third-party Building Commissioning to verify that the building’s energy related systems are installed, calibrated and perform according to the Owner’s Project Requirements, Basis of Design, and Construction Documents. A Fundamental Prerequisite of the LEED Rating System, benefits of Commissioning include reduced energy use, lower operating costs, and reduced contractor callbacks.

Ozone Depletion

According to The United States consumes 23,385 tons of CFC’s annually, however the Ohio Union uses none.

Storage and Collection of Recyclables

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in 2007 Americans generated 254 million tons of trash and recycled and composted 85 million tons of this material. The Ohio Union has provided recycling bins throughout the building to make recycling easier for its visitors.

Recycled Content

For every 1 ton of plastic that is recycled we save the equivalent of 2 people’s energy use for one year, the amount of water used by 1 person in 2 months time, and save 2,000 pounds of oil. A ton of glass produced from raw materials creates 384 pounds of mining waste while using 50% recycled glass cuts the waste by 75%.  The Ohio Union was constructed using 25% recycled materials.

Regional Materials

The Ohio Union was constructed using 20% regional materials stimulating the local economy and reducing emissions caused by the transportation of materials. Of the total value worth of “architectural” materials (excludes equipment like HVAC, electric, elevators, food service, etc.), 25% of it was purchased from companies in Ohio. In addition, the Design Team had 96 Ohio residents working on the Ohio Union Project during design and construction. 

Material Reuse

The Ohio Union reused many building materials salvaged and refinished from the previous union such as: the exterior limestone panels on the south elevation, the sandstone pavers, the wood floor of Woody’s, the stone/granite surround of the main fireplaces, and the large meeting room panels. In addition several of the trees that had to be taken down on the site were harvested for the fireplace mantels and some furniture. This not only diverts waste materials from the landfill but continues the historical significance of each of these components. In addition to all the building materials that were reused there were many more that were donated to Habitat for Humanity to reused by others.

Certified Wood

According to, 40.9 billion board feet of lumber was consumed in the United States in 2008. At least 50% of the wood used in the Ohio Union is Forest Stewardship Council Certified which indicates it originated in managed forests.

Minimum Indoor Air Quality Performance

For this prerequisite a minimum indoor air quality performance was created in order to enhance indoor air quality in the Ohio Union which will contribute to the health and well-being of the occupants. This was achieved through the design of the mechanical ventilation system which increases the ventilation rate to the space which will balance energy efficiency and occupant health.

Environmental Tobacco Smoke Control

The Ohio Union Team designed the project to be a smoke free facility with exterior smoking areas at least 25 feet away from entries, outdoor air intakes and operable windows. This measure was taken in order to minimize the exposure of building occupants, indoor surfaces, and ventilation air distribution systems from Tobacco smoke. Since opening, the union has taken an active role in the univeristy's tobacco-free initiatives.

Outdoor Air Delivery Monitoring

A monitoring system complete with an audible alarm has been installed to monitor the air quality being delivered to the interior of the building to detect carbon dioxide levels and to allow for ventilation adjustments in order to sustain occupant comfort and well-being.

Construction IAQ Management Plan, During Construction

Efforts were taken by the construction team and the HVAC engineers to protect the air quality for both laborers and building occupants through the protection of the air handling equipment and ductwork through the use of air filters and source pollutant control in order to reduce air quality problems resulting from the construction process.

Low emitting Materials

Low emitting adhesives, sealants, carpet systems, and composite wood and agrifiber products, were selected for the Ohio Union in an effort to reduce the quantity of indoor air contaminants that are odorous, irritating, and/ or harmful to the installers and occupants of the space.

Indoor Chemical and Pollutant Source Control

In order to minimize the exposure of building occupants to potentially hazardous particulates and chemical pollutants The design team has incorporated recessed walk off mats at entry locations, and the team has provided for self-closing doors, full height partitions, and increased filtration media with a MERV index of at least 13 for areas where hazardous gases or chemicals may be present or used. These spaces have also been mechanically exhausted in order to further reduce these pollutants.

Thermal Comfort Design

The intent of this credit is to provide a comfortable thermal environment that supports the productivity and well being of building occupants. In order to achieve this credit the HVAC systems and the building envelope were designed to meet the standard of ASHREA 55-2004 Thermal Comfort Conditions for Human Occupancy.

Innovation Design – Pulper System

The OSU Union will eliminate burden on municipal water systems and reduce Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) by replacing garbage disposals with a food waste pulper system. Significantly reduce demand for process intensive treatment of municipal water by eliminating introduction of food waste into sink drains through garbage disposals. In addition, substantially reduce total volume of waste and water consumption. This process will divert from the municipal waste system and will reintroduce valuable nutrients into soils naturally by composting processed (pulped) food waste.

Green Cleaning

The Ohio Union is committed to using environmentally preferable cleaning products and practices as the guiding components of our Housekeeping Policies and Procedures. The purpose of using such products are to reduce the exposure of building occupants and housekeeping personnel to potentially hazardous chemical contaminants that adversely impact air quality, occupant well-being, and the environment, while maintaining the highest possible cleanliness standards possible.

"Green” Culinary Products

The Foodservice Department at the Ohio Union will use only recyclable, compostable, and items that are able to be pulped in our operations. Here is a brief overview of some of the items we will use:

  • Straws, manufactured by Eco Products, are made of PLA plastic derived from corn. 
  • “Paper” plates, also from Eco Products, are made from sugarcane. Sugarcane takes only one year to reach maturity, as opposed to trees which can take up to 30 years. The raw stalk pulp is used after the “cane sugar” is extracted, thereby reusing an already “used” resource. Previously, the excess crushed stalks were burned or discarded. Sugarcane will also compost in as little as 45 days.
  • To-go boxes, manufactured by Fold-Pak, are made from 100% recycled paper; using minimum of 35% post-consumer reclaimed paper. These Bio-Plus Earth containers are endorsed by the Green Restaurant Association.

 For questions related to LEED or other Ohio Union sustainability initiatives, contact Tom Reeves at (614) 247-8207.