Aquinas College Science Center Named Green Project of the Year by USGBC

We’re pleased to share that the Albertus Magnus Hall of Science, on the campus of Aquinas College, has received the honor of Green Building of the Year by the Michigan Chapter of the US Green Building Council. The Science Center won in the new construction category. You can see a full list of winners here. In addition to being named Green Building of the Year, the Albertus Magnus Science Center is LEED Gold certified.

We applaud Aquinas College for their commitment to sustainability and the green building process!

The USGBC’s Leadership Awards honor and recognize projects with outstanding achievement in the realm of green building design and construction. TowerPinkster is committed to green building design and construction. Read more about the AIA 2030 Commitment here. This post was written with immense help from Kelsey Groesbeck, PE.


A brief history + the importance of site design.

Aquinas College built its original science building in 1959 and renovated it in 1989. Roughly 25 years later, the college realized that another major renovation and addition would be necessary to continue providing students the educational excellence they had come to expect.

Aquinas College is well-known for their sustainability practices and dedication to preserving as much of the natural beauty of their 107-acre campus as possible. To that end, the science center’s site was originally selected to allow phasing and reuse of the existing structure. Minimizing the development impact was an intentional choice of the design. Utilizing the existing site also helped maintain the building’s role as an icon on the southern edge of campus.

A site design helps limit site disturbances, evaluates stormwater pretreatment, and implements soil erosion and sedimentation control measures. The project limited site clearing to approximately 80 mature trees on what was a heavily wooded site. The trees were harvested and placed into a timber exchange to be dried and used in future finished carpentry. Some trees were also used to make reclaimed resin tables. In addition to shaded parking and planters, the science building features a green roof that can be used for outdoor classes and gatherings, as well as a white reflective roof to help further reduce the heat island effect.

Water-saving fixtures help reduce indoor water usage by roughly 40% over standard fixtures. Native plants were selected to limit the need for irrigation. Metering tracks domestic water service, hot water, and purified water consumption.

Designing energy-friendly lab spaces.

Lab buildings are huge energy consumers (an average of 115 kBtu/square foot of energy per year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration). By comparison, Aquinas’s Science Center is estimated to have a site EUI (Energy Use Intensity) of 78, a 32% reduction compared to the national median.

Costs for interior LED lighting were reduced by more than 20% by employing daylighting strategies. Trane Trace 700 models were used to determine the anticipated energy savings of 17% above baseline. This results in more than $38,000 of energy savings annually. Energy meters monitor end uses throughout the life of the building to maintain system performance. Enhanced commissioning services were conducted to ensure the building systems were installed and functioning as intended.

Structural considerations.

The large addition to the Science Center was designed to reused 59.2% of the existing structure. By renovating the existing 43,000 square-foot building, the school was able to reduce building life cycle costs. The renovated learning spaces feature environmentally friendly finishes, EPD (Environmental Product Declaration) products, and new technology. Over 75% of the demo waste was diverted from landfills, and local materials helped reduce the project’s overall carbon footprint.

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Aquinas College is well-known for preserving the natural beauty of the school’s 107-acre campus. The project specifically worked to limit the number of mature trees removed to make room for the new addition.
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A green roof/patio gives students and class the opportunity to learn, study, and gather outside while staying connected to the main building.
Science on display
The building’s design intentionally puts “Science on Display” throughout the building. Light fixtures in the main atrium are modeled after hydrocarbon molecules.


The science center’s HVAC systems were designed to increase air exchanges and greatly improve indoor air quality. Lab ventilation requires rigorous attention to air quality and safety. To ensure proper ventilation and fresh air is The Albertus Magnus Science Center utilizes fume hoods, Phoenix air valves, rooftop exhaust fans, and dedicated outdoor air systems to extract potentially harmful particulates while also delivering fresh ventilation air for students and staff. These spaces are highly controlled and monitored to ensure safety.

The previously established campus and project site is situated near several students and staff amenities. The science building is walkable to bus stops and houses bicycle parking, as well as showers to promote bike commuting. The building is also located within a wooded area and next to a public park there are many opportunities to spend time outdoors for exercise or relaxation.

AQ promotes STEM and sustainable education by putting “science on display”. These moments are integrated into the design to promote sustainability in an ambient way to the users. As an example, the green roof is used as a classroom, providing an excellent example of sustainability.