ACC Highland Campus Phase 2 earns LEED Gold certification

Austin Community College District’s (ACC) newest campus, Highland Phase 2, is being recognized for its sustainable design and construction. The campus was awarded Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council — a designation awarded to environmentally sustainable buildings.

“ACC remains committed to reducing our carbon footprint and becoming a leader in sustainability efforts,” says Andy Kim, ACC Energy/Sustainability director. “LEED certification is internationally known. I am proud of the work ACC continues to do to protect the environment and reduce costs through energy efficiency, waste reduction, and water-saving efforts.”

This is the third ACC campus to earn the LEED Gold certification, with Highland Phase 1 and San Gabriel also receiving the distinction. In addition, three other ACC campuses –– Round Rock, Hays, and Elgin ––  are LEED-Silver Certified. 

Highland Phase 2 sustainable features include:

  • 58 percent of existing mall structure reused
  • More than 30 percent of new materials made of recycled contents
  • 18 percent of new materials harvested and manufactured regionally
  • 90 percent of all wood products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council
  • Minimized landfill use with more than 80 percent of construction waste recycled

The campus also features ongoing sustainability, with 200kW solar panels, water-saving plumbing fixtures, drought-tolerant plants, and light-colored paving and roof to minimize the heat island effect. 

ACC selected the team of Barnes Gromatzky Kosarek Architects (BGKA) as lead designers and Architect of Record in collaboration with Perkins & Will serving as Architect and Interior Design Consultant for the sustainable design. Together, the project began by salvaging materials before abatement and demolition of the interior spaces. 

“Furthering the project’s adaptive reuse and sustainability goals, the design team salvaged glass from the mall’s storefronts to be repurposed as aggregate in the patched areas of the concrete floors and new sidewalks,” according to BGKA. “The steel removed in the cutting out of the paseo was painted black to indicate that it was repurposed and was used within the mixing areas to frame special jewel boxes designed for student interaction. Additional items salvaged included a 1970’s neon camera sign that is at the entry to the new photography lab and the fiberglass larger-than-life banana split connected to the entry toward culinary arts.”

Furthering the sustainable efforts was the design of the chilled beam HVAC system. The chilled beam is an air recirculation device that uses water to transfer sensible heating or cooling into a space. The low velocity of air provides not only high energy savings and ease of maintenance but also high-quality acoustic spaces appropriate for music recording and learning.

Building green is a college priority. ACC currently diverts more than 50  percent of waste from landfills and is nearing its goal to become Zero Waste by 2040 and achieve climate neutrality by 2050. ACC Elgin and Round Rock campuses already use 100% renewable energy from Texas wind. 

The blueprint for implementing college-wide sustainability reforms was created in 2009 by the ACC Board of Trustees. Other green and sustainable projects at the college include:

  • Electric Vehicle charging stations network on all campuses.
  • Alternative transportation such as Green Pass, Green Car, and
  • Paper towel composting and specialty recycling programs.
  • Solar panels and benches
  • Rainwater/AC condensate reclamation
  • LED lights and sensors

For more information about ACC’s sustainability and green initiatives, visit