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   from the issue of March 22, 2007

Quilt Center construction goes green


When Dave Seda's crews lay the final brick, the International Quilt Study Center will be in the green - environmentally speaking.

LEVEL WORK - Innovative Concrete employees level and smooth concrete on the second floor deck of the International Quilt Study Center...
 LEVEL WORK - Innovative Concrete employees level and smooth concrete on the second floor deck of the International Quilt Study Center on March 16. The construction site is the first "green" build for the University of Nebraska and Hawkins Construction. Photo by Troy Fedderson/University Communications.

The new UNL center, under construction at 33rd and Holdrege streets, is on course to become the first University of Nebraska building to earn an environmentally friendly designation from the federal Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. The LEED concept - rooted in the ecology movement of the 1960s and recently reorganized by the United States Green Building Council - assesses the environmental impacts and sustainability of buildings, from site selection and materials used, to construction practices and final punch lists.

"When we are finished, the average person is not going to know the difference between this building and any other - aside from the plaque," said Seda, project supervisor for Hawkins Construction on the IQSC build site. "But it's an important distinction, something that allows us to take pride in this build."

The decision to build green was a relatively easy one for the university. According to Alan Wedige, IQSC project manager and architect with Facilities Management and Planning, university construction standards are close to LEED regulations. Furthermore, university officials saw the build as an opportunity for UNL to take a lead role in environmentally friendly construction in Nebraska.

"An environmentally friendly building was of interest to everyone related to the project, including the chancellor, Facilities Management and me," said Pat Crews, IQSC director and professor of Textiles, Clothing and Design. "Since our job at the university is to teach and inspire, then modeling environmentally friendly behavior by building a sustainable building seemed the right thing to do."

According to Wedige, the LEED program is focused on five areas of construction - sustainable site, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, and indoor air quality.

"Everything done on this construction site is documented," Wedige said. "And, we pay greater attention to everything that is being done, every decision that is being made."

For example, designers originally planned to purchase bricks from a company in Pennsylvania. However, due to LEED standards, the university opted for a purchase from a brick company in Sioux City, Iowa.

"If we bought the brick from the Pennsylvania company, then we have larger energy costs to get it out here," Wedige said. "The LEED program makes us focus more locally, using resources more efficiently so that we're not wasting things."

CONSTRUCTION ZONE - Aspects of the environmentally friendly construction and design of the International Quilt Study Center at 33rd and Holdrege...
CONSTRUCTION ZONE - Aspects of the environmentally friendly construction and design of the International Quilt Study Center at 33rd and Holdrege streets, include: SHOPPING LOCAL (upper left) To save on energy costs related to transportation, IQSC building designers opted for bricks made in Sioux City, Iowa, over an original order that would have come from Pennsylvania. For the IQSC project, 20 percent of building materials will be manufactured and transported from within a 500-mile radius of Lincoln. REDUCE, REUSE (right) The IQSC site includes construction waste containers labeled for recycling leftover products (such as scrap metal and concrete). On a regular construction site, nearly all refuse is sent to a local landfill. More than 75 percent of construction waste from the IQSC build will be recycled. ENERGY EFFICIENCY (bottom left) Through an energy-efficient HVAC system, better insulation and thermal efficient windows, the IQSC will use 35 percent less energy compared to a similar building.


That efficiency filters down to individual construction workers, who sort discarded building materials into industrial-sized containers labeled similar to those found in many recycle-conscious homes.

"At a regular construction site, all of this is thrown into one bin and taken to the landfill," said Seda, who is overseeing Hawkins' first "green" build. "Here, we sort it and it goes to a specialized recycling center."

While an important decision, the choice to build green did not greatly change plans for the IQSC project. According to Wedige, all UNL buildings are built close to the LEED standards, using high-quality materials that stand up to repeated use over time.

"Institutional buildings like we have on campus require a higher level of quality," said Wedige. "That's been one of the more reassuring parts of this process, learning that the university's design guidelines are close to what LEED requires."

The upgrade to LEED standards does add to construction expense - traditionally 1 to 2 percent, according to industry sources.

"But, you are using better quality equipment (such as HVAC systems) over a duration of time," Wedige said. "With better quality over time, you realize some cost savings. And it's not a whole lot more for this type of building as museums do cost more to build."

The IQSC application seeks a gold designation. Platinum is reserved for top green builds, followed by gold, then silver. Wedige said the university is confident the IQSC will rate, at the minimum, a silver.

"It's exciting to be ahead of the curve in modeling green behavior," said Crews. "It also seems very fitting to build a new home for the International Quilt Study Center based on sustainable practices to preserve the environment, since the mission of the center is to preserve an important cultural tradition for future generations to enjoy.

"Now, we will be preserving history as well as the environment."

Project Info

A Web cam is streaming live footage of the International Quilt Study Center build. Access it at

For more information on the U.S. Green Building Association's LEED program, go online to



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