The Anatomy of a Green Van Andel Institute

Visitors to VAI often comment on our building’s beautiful architecture. Interestingly, many of these design elements are green, or sustainable features that help us reduce the impact on the environment and minimize energy consumption. From the large windows and glass roof structures outlining both sides of the building to the innovative energy and resource management systems within, we have taken important steps to reduce our impact on the environment, and preserve and improve it for future generations.

Sustainability, or meeting the needs of the present without compromising the future, is an important institutional value. Incorporating sustainable concepts into the design and construction of VAI’s phase II expansion in 2009 earned us Platinum level Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification through the LEED Green Building Rating System™. The rating system is the nationally accepted benchmark to recognize buildings and building owners whose goal is to reduce the impact on the environment and minimize energy consumption.

Here are a few of the Institute’s innovative green features:

  • Intelligent lighting controls and smart building controls that reduce energy consumption;
  • Triple pane insulated glass with low-E coatings on two surfaces that keeps winter heat in and reduces summer solar heat gain;
  • A large array of solar panels on the roof that reduce energy demands on the HVAC equipment;
  • A 33,000 gallon rainwater storage tank used in irrigation and for cooling tower make-up water;
  • Low-flow toilets that reduce water consumption and the demand on the sanitary waste system;
  • Numerous self-learning system controls that reduce energy usage organization-wide;
  • Green roofs and ivy walls that reduce heat island effect, control rainwater runoff and provide improved views in the urban environment.

Other features like the compost program and the Institute-wide recycling program operate behind the scenes to ensure that we remain a very low waste facility. Overseeing the recycling program and the promotion of several other sustainable practices, is VAI’s Green Team. This group spans many departments at the Institute and works to educate employees on how they can promote and support sustainable practices, and take advantage of green products and services in the workplace.

For more on our efforts in environmental design and sustainability, visit our facilities page.