Sustainable Design Guidelines

After the Buntrock Commons, the opportunity project at the past student center that would become the Center for Art and Dance, and the new Tostrud Center were developed, the facilities group formalized the design ideas and concepts that emerged through these processes into the St. Olaf Sustainable Design Guidelines.

Before the Regents Hall for Natural Sciences project went into development we believed the Guidelines would produce an equivalent to a LEED Gold building. We did a trial scoring of the project under LEED 2.1 during programming and found that we had more than enough credits to achieve LEED Platinum if we chose a couple of re-requisites.  This was dramatic because it meant that the building we would have built without regard to LEED – just because it was the way St. Olaf had chosen to build – was at the apex of green design and sustainability. In fact, Regents was selected for inclusion in Jerry Yudelson’s “The World’s Greenest Buildings”.

These have guided project development and operations since 2005:


St. Olaf College has a special call, as a college of the Church, to represent the best principles of stewardship of the gifts that the college has received in support of its unique mission.

Humans, in service to God, have special roles on behalf of the whole of creation. Made in the image of God, we are called to care for the earth as God cares for the earth. Caring for Creation, a social statement from the ELCA adopted in 1993.

Our call and the increasing need for humans to care for creation calls for guidance of the College’s continued commitment to constructing, renovating, and maintaining solid buildings, and care for the lands, that support and enhance its mission.

In this these efforts we pledge to:

• Full consider energy systems, life cycles, water use, scale and location, light pollution, carbon generation, recycling and waste management, materials, community and product sources, community and regional impacts, transportation, aesthetics, indoor environmental quality, construction site management, view sheds, open space, and other issues related to the campus, when planning, designing, and constructing buildings.

• Weigh the social, environmental, and health impacts on the students, staff, and faculty who work and play in, and maintain, the buildings and land, as well as the individuals involved in the construction of the buildings, care of the land, and the manufacture and disposal of the materials used on the campus.

• Emphasize the educational opportunities afforded by campus buildings and lands to teach students and the whole campus community about the connections between buildings and land management practices and the environment and ways to live in a more sustainable fashion.

In accordance with these principles the college has adopted the following, generally following the format of the Construction Specification Institute (CSI) for the sake of our architects and engineers who must respond them. It is true that some are qualitative, some quantitative, and some restrictive, and also true that some are just the way it is at St. Olaf, that some are required, and some are goals.

Division 01 – General Requirements

St. Olaf College has a strong preference for recycled-content building materials, generally in accordance with the EPA Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines.

Bidders and material suppliers should include documentation specifying the recycled-content of the materials they are proposing.

Special care must be taken when specifying steel materials. Steel should be high in recycled content.

St. Olaf works to achieve exterior colors through the use of natural materials to the greatest extent possible.

Food waste from the campus is composted and used on the campus.

The college farmland is worked with sustainable practices that focus on lower carbon-based chemical and fuel consumption, minimal disturbance of the soil, establishment of grass waterways and holding ponds, re-establishment of wetlands, more intentional response to the contours of the land, and terracing where applicable.

St. Olaf College requires that contractors submit waste management and recycling plans for construction wastes and by-products, with the intent that as much material as possible be recycled.

St. Olaf College requires that contractors submit their storm water management plan to the college as well as the RGUs.

At a minimum, each Design should assure that:

• The building envelope meets or exceeds the Minnesota Energy code.

• Entry vestibules are sized so that the first door encountered can close before the second is opened. Automatic openers for accessibility should also be timed to achieve this affect. When practical, one set of doors should be revolving to make a continuous air trap possible in extreme conditions of high or low temperatures or humidity.

• The building design makes the best use of daylighting. Whenever possible circulation ways will have daylight on one side and at each end. Doorways to spaces on the building perimeter should have sidelights and transom windows whenever possible, to facilitate driving daylight deeper into the building. When sidelights are not practical, doors should be provided with lites.

• Attention is paid to problem solar gain as well as positive gain. Strategies for control of unwanted gain need to be planned while protecting views and maintaining connections to the outside world. Plantings that can be positioned to take advantage of winter sun, while cutting down on hotter summer light, should be examined. Uncontrolled solar gain from daylighting may cause avoidable air-conditioning demands.

Division 02 – Sitework

At a minimum, Site and Landscape Design should assure that:

• Siting makes the best use of daylight, views, pedestrian and bicycle access, vehicular circulation, and public transit.

• Projects on sensitive sites, those on or close to steep hillsides, natural lands, surrounding neighborhoods, neighboring campus buildings, go through the Minnesota EAW (Environmental Assessment Worksheet) protocol as matter of course, whether required by any regulating agency or not.

• Storm water runoff, while addressed in the EAW process, receives special attention. Storm water should be held on-site for use in irrigation, in the landscape and in greenhouses, as a source for water that is treated further (de-ionized lab water), and as sustenance for constructed wetlands on the site or nearby.

• Landscape design and materials are intentionally designed for slowing runoff or retaining it completely on the site. If storm water is discharged to the Northfield storm water system, it must be cleaned adequately

• Native occurring landscape materials are used to the greatest extent possible.


• Construction projects are designed so that excess soil from excavation or grading is incorporated into the project or used on the campus.

• Storm water runoff is slowed to the greatest extent possible, or, eliminated and the water held on the land.

• Fertilizers used on the campus proper are local and consist primarily of composted materials, thus closing an important loop in Rice/Dakota County agriculture production.

• Steep slopes and waterways are planted in native grasses, flowers, and other plant materials.

• All top soil is collected and stored on the site for re-use in the landscaping phase

• Other excavation material is stored on college lands as directed by the college Grounds Manager, unless specified in writing by the Grounds Manager or Director of Facilities.

• Sod is stripped before excavation and stored for composting as directed by the Grounds Manager or Director of Facilities.

• Geotextile materials incorporated into the project should be manufactured with recycled content.

Paving and Surfacing (Pedestrian)

• Bricks, pavers, and most other products in this section are manufactured within a 200-mile radius of Northfield, MN. Suppliers must submit documentation of the manufacture location, with an explanation accompanying submittals that do not meet this requirement.

• When applicable, pavers and bricks may include petroleum contaminated materials in their manufacture.

Paving and Surfacing (Vehicular)

• Suppliers must certify that concrete paving materials contain fly ash, recycled concrete, or ground granulated blast furnace slag in keeping with the EPA’s Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines. If a specific application does not comply, the supplier must submit a written clarification to the Director of Facilities.

• Sub base material for road and walkways includes crushed recycled concrete, and/or, ground bituminous pavement material. When possible, the contractor should crush and re-use concrete demolition materials from the project on-site. The contractor must mill bituminous paving materials that are being demolished, hold the material on site, and re-use within the project.

• Bituminous paving material includes recycled ground bituminous pavement and may include petroleum contaminated material.

Site Furniture

• Any metals incorporated in site furnishings are electrostatic powder coated rather than painted.

• Woods used in site furnishings are certified and use the most rot resistant materials available.

• Plastics incorporated in site furnishings should be high in recycled content. Suppliers must submit documentation of recycled content.


• Tree trimmings and brush from site clearing will be chipped by the contractor and stored for composting on the campus as directed by the college Grounds Manager or Director of Facilities.

• The Grounds Manager or Director of Facilities must evaluate all site trees. No trees may be removed without written permission. If removal is unavoidable, they may not be chipped until the college has evaluated them for their lumber or timber potential. If logging is chosen, the contractor will prepare logs as directed by college staff and store them on site.

• Trees that remain on the site are protected throughout the project. Absolutely no construction activities may happen within ten feet of any drip line. Trees must be fenced. Any damage to site trees will be charged at $500 per caliper inch.

• Paper-based hydraulic mulch consists of 100% post-consumer material.

• Wood-based hydraulic mulch consists of 100% recovered wood or paper.

• Compost used in the project will be supplied by the college and made from tree and lawn waste from the campus, ideally from the project site

• St. Olaf has a strong preference for mulching planting beds with chipped material from site clearing. If sufficient material is unavailable from the college, the supplier must certify that the submitted material is 100% recovered wood.

• Suppliers certify that plant materials were grown within a 200-mile radius of Northfield, MN unless written permission is granted by the Grounds Manager or Director of Facilities.

Division 03 – Concrete

• Whenever applicable, concrete is made with aggregate produced from recycled boiler fly ash or recycled concrete. The fly ash material produces lighter weight concrete and it is especially useful for elevated decks on steel pans. Structural systems can be engineered for less overall weight, or, for higher live load.

• Suppliers certify that concrete contains fly ash, recycled concrete, or ground granulated blast furnace slag in accordance with EPA recommendations.

• When concrete is used as an architectural finish material, the requirement may be waived to ensure color uniformity with written permission from the Director of Facilities.

• Paper tubes for the forming of cylindrical concrete contain post-consumer recycled paper.

Division 04 – Brick Masonry and Concrete Masonry Units

• CMUs should contain recycled materials when applicable. Possible material can be fly ash, wood fiber, and polystyrene. Ground face CMUs need not comply with this requirement if color consistency is a problem because of it.

• Bricks and CMUs should be manufactured within a 200-mile radius of Northfield, MN. Materials that cannot comply with this requirement must be submitted to the Director of Facilities for written approval.

• When design permits, recovered bricks are used.

Stone Products

• Stone in the project is quarried and machined within a 400-mile radius of Northfield, MN.

• Specialty stone materials such as slate and marble may not be available within a 400-mile radius. They should be submitted with detailed information about their place of origin. The Director of Facilities must approve them in writing.


Wood Products

• St. Olaf College has a strong preference for wood and wood products that do not appear on endangered wood species lists of the Woodworkers Alliance for Rainforest Protection (WARP), and the Convention on International Trade and Endangered Species. (CITES). Materials that do not comply with this requirement must be submitted to the Director of Facilities for written approval.

• St. Olaf College has a strong preference for solid and veneer wood products originating from a sustainably managed forest certified by the Rainforest Alliance or the Forest Stewardship Council.

• Rain forest, or otherwise endangered, woods are only used if plantation grown, or made available by natural event. It is possible to specify woods that become available via hurricane for example.

• St. Olaf College requires that plywood be urea-formaldehyde free.

• St. Olaf College requires that Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) used as blocking, millwork, and casework substrate meet the OSHA Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) and Time Weighted Average (TWA) for formaldehyde.

• St. Olaf College requires that particleboard used as blocking, millwork, casework substrate, underlayment, and door cores meet the OSHA PEL and TWA limits for formaldehyde.

• St. Olaf College requires that structural fiberboard (Oriented Strand Board or OSB) used in the project contain 80 to 100% total recovered materials

• St. Olaf College requires that timber frame structures use forest salvaged, reclaimed, or re-milled timbers for timber framing and trim.

• St. Olaf College requires that pressure treated woods be treated with ACQ pressure treatment, when pressure treated lumber is required. No arsenic containing treatments are allowed.

Plastic Laminate

• St. Olaf College requires plastic laminates to be installed with water-based, Low-Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) contact cement.

• St. Olaf College requires that millwork and casework adhesives be water-based, low, or no-VOC adhesives.

Custom Casework

• St. Olaf College requires that transparent wood finish systems be waterborne acrylic sealers with waterborne polyurethane finish coats, or oil-modified polyurethane sealers and finish coats with low VOC content.

Building Insulation

• St. Olaf College has a strong preference for slag (rock) wool insulation for steel fire protection. Suppliers must certify that rock wool insulation contains over 75%-recycled slag by weight.

• St. Olaf College requires extruded (no VOC or CFC blowing agents) foam panel products.

• Any polystyrene products should contain recycled polystyrene.

• St. Olaf College requires that extruded insulation be used in locations that are susceptible to water (at the perimeter foundation and at exterior brick or CMU cavity walls.

• St. Olaf College requires that any fiberglass insulation contain at least 20 to 25% recovered material by weight.

• St. Olaf College requires that suppliers certify that any polyisocyanurate insulation used in the project contains recycled materials.

Built – Up Bituminous Roofing

• St. Olaf College requires that all built-up roofing materials, when required for specific applications, be asbestos free.

Single-Ply Membrane Roofing

• St. Olaf College requires that elastomeric roofing materials contain recycled materials.

• St. Olaf College requires that all EPDM roofing applications be designed as ballast systems, unless, an existing structure cannot support the desired lbs/sf. When the structure dictates an adhered system, insulation and sheets must be mechanically attached. Ballast materials should be light colored in order to reflect heat load to greatest extent possible.

• When highly reflective roofs are needed, St. Olaf St. Olaf College prefers to use fully adhered TPO systems.

Metal Roofing

• St. Olaf College requires that any materials incorporated in metal roofs be certified lead free.

• Copper materials should include primarily recycled metal.

Joint Sealants

• St. Olaf College requires that joint sealant materials be certified free of mercury.

• St. Olaf College requires that interior joint sealant products be acrylic, silicone or siliconized acrylic low or no-VOC sealants where appropriate.
• St. Olaf College has a strong preference for compressible joint fillers that are not manufactured with CFC blowing agents.


Doors and Frames – (Steel and Aluminum)

• Electrostatic powder coat factory finishes should be used on all hollow metal frames and doors instead of paints.

• Use high performance acrylic for metal doors and frames that must be painted on site.

Flush Wood Doors

• Most wooden doors should be solid woods rather than veneers.

• See particle board formaldehyde limits above.


• In general, paints, other coatings, and adhesives should be no-VOC materials. Low-VOC substitutes may be submitted for evaluation but may not be used without written permission from the Director of Facilities.

• There may be applications that require the use of alkyd or epoxy materials but we want to be intentional about where they are specified and how they are used, and they may only be used with permission from the Director of Facilities.

Gypsum Drywall

• St. Olaf College has a strong preference for gypsum board containing recycled or synthetic gypsum and having facing paper manufactured from recycled newsprint.

• St. Olaf College requires that suppliers provide no or low-VOC joint compound.

• St. Olaf College requires that multi-layer gypsum board applications be screw attached and not laminated with adhesives.


• Ceramic tiles may include recycled glass or mining wastes.

Special Ceiling Surfaces

• Cellulose fiber ceiling tiles, when specified, should contain 100% post-consumer recovered paper. When mineral fiber ceiling panels are specified, St. Olaf College prefers that the panels contain recycled material.

• St. Olaf College requires non-absorptive core panels and tiles in moist or high humidity areas. Only USDA approved Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic (FRP) panels are allowed in food preparation areas.

• Powder coated steel grid system should be used in dry areas.

• Aluminum grid systems should be used in locations subject to moisture or high humidity.

Wood Flooring

• When appropriate varieties are available, wood flooring should be milled from reclaimed and re-milled timbers.

• Adhesives, if used, in wood flooring systems should be no or low-VOC.

Resilient Tile and Sheet Flooring

• St. Olaf College has a preference for linoleum when resilient sheet flooring is specified.

• Flooring adhesives should be water-based with no or low-VOC.

• When rubber floor tiles and sheets are specified they should contain 90-100% recycled material.

Resilient Flooring Accessories

• St. Olaf College has a preference for wood, ceramic, or slate baseboards. When flexible base materials are specified, the preference is for rubber base instead of vinyl base to avoid VOC emissions.

• Adhesives for wall base must be water-based with no or low-VOC.

Carpets (roll goods and tile)

• All materials must comply with the Carpet and Rug Institute Green Label program.

• Carpet and sheet flooring are always recyclable, or, made from recycled materials.

• Where applicable, hard surface treatments should be chosen that require no, or low, chemical use for sealing and finishing.

• St. Olaf uses carpet materials that have recycled content and are themselves recyclable. Suppliers must provide the manufacturer’s recycling program.

• Specify carpet tile for all high traffic areas.

• Carpet adhesives must be water based and be no or low-VOC if an adhesive is required for installation.

• St. Olaf College does not allow the use of carpet padding.


• Water based paints must be used throughout unless special requirements preclude their use. Water based latex should be used for general purpose and water based high performance acrylic paint where greater durability is required. Solvent-based paints may only be used with written permission from the Director of Facilities and where its special properties are required.

• VOC content for solvent based paints, if they are ever approved, is limited to less than 380 grams of VOC per liter (3.20 lb/gal) of paint. Calculation of VOC content excludes water and tinting compounds added at point of sale.

• VOC content for water based paints is limited to less than 150 g/L (1.25 lb./gal) for primers and flat paint, and less than 250 g/L (2.10 lb./gal) for other types.

• Explore availability of recycled-content latex paints for interior use when appropriate.

• Certify that coatings do not contain metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium.

• When necessary, specify paints having a flash point greater than 60 degrees C (140 degrees F) so that extra paint will not be classified as hazardous waste due to ignitability.


• No vinyl wall coverings.

• Wall coverings should be made with recycled materials. Hard, soft, and tackable surfaces are available including textiles, metal, wood, and stone-like composites.

• Certify that sound-deadening board contains 80 to 100% recycled materials (if fiberboard is used) or 100% post-consumer recovered paper (if laminated paperboard is used).

• Wall covering adhesives should be no or low-VOC, and must not allow mildew or microbial growth.


Toilet and Shower Partitions

• Shower and restroom dividers should contain recycled plastic or steel.


• Recycled content and recyclability are important considerations in equipment selection.

• No asbestos containing equipment or components can be specified.

• No PCB containing equipment or components can be specified.

• No mercury containing equipment or components can be specified.


Furniture and Accessories

• St. Olaf College has a strong preference for wood furniture manufactured using wood from a sustainable source. Submittals should include certification of woods incorporated into the products. Alternates may not be used without written permission from the Director of Facilities.

• St. Olaf College strongly prefers that furniture which is not solid wood use low or no-formaldehyde particleboard and/or MDF. Submittals must include material certification. Alternates may not be used in the project without written permission from the Director of Facilities.

• Consider selecting aluminum or steel furniture that has a natural finish or an electrostatic powder coat.

• St. Olaf prefers that furnishing adhesives be hot melt glues, which are 100% solid thermoplastics (no solvents needed), and/or water-based adhesives.

• Suppliers must provide results of air emissions testing to be evaluated by the college before specified furnishings can be approved for use in the project.


• Elevator speed should be set to discourage convenience use to the greatest extent possible.


• Lavatory faucets and urinal and toilet flush valves are automatic devices.

• When practical, exhaust air is routed through heat reclaiming devices and the saved energy used to temper new outdoor air or domestic hot water. Care must be taken with lab air so that any condensation of harmful chemicals is addressed.

• VAVs (variable air volume boxes) are used wherever practical to facilitate precise control of conditions within spaces. Fan powered VAVs are favored for some applications as they can choose to use return air to make up the variable volume under some circumstances.

• Spaces that require humidification, close temperature control, control of static air pressure, or air conditioning do not have operable windows.

• All projects include digital control of energy using building systems. St. Olaf uses Trane’s latest issue distributed digital control program, or energy management system (EMS), and we control systems down to individual rooms, directly track gross consumption via inputs from gas, electric, and oil metering devices, track water consumption, water treatment for systems, steam and chilled water production.

• Fan powered VAVs will be installed only above public spaces, not above discreet rooms they serve, and all VAVs will only be installed above lay-in ceilings. Access for service is key to keeping these devices operating effectively.

• Intensively used spaces may be equipped with CO2 monitoring sensors that can signal the need for increased ventilation rates.

Pipes and Pipe Fittings

• St. Olaf College has a strong preference that PVC and ABS plastic sewer piping, if specified, includes recycled content.


• Specify water saving toilets, urinals, lavatories and showerheads.

• Appliances should be selected with energy and water saving features as a primary goal.

Division 16 – Electrical


At a minimum, Energy Consuming and Controlling Devices should be selected and designed to assure that:

• We avoid dimming most types of lamps. Many non-incandescent lamps that will be dimmed must be burned in for 120 hours before they are placed into service; facilities that make heavy use of these lamps have large rooms with fixtures that only burn lamps that will eventually replace those in use. This is a considerable waste of scarce staff time as well as energy.

• Spaces that require dimmed light for presentation use one of two options:

A. Fluorescent fixture installations may be “stepped”; that is, groups of fixtures will be shut off until a desired light level is achieved.
B. St. Olaf has developed a unique task light system that uses available low-voltage, 3-watt lamps that are further dimmable right at the writing surface so that space lighting can be shut all the way down. This provides for using energy efficient fluorescent fixtures and lamps, but eliminates the need to dim them.

• Electric hand dryers are not used on the campus.

• Electric motors from one horsepower up are installed with variable speed drives when applicable. That is, there are some constant volume applications that do not make any payback possible, but applications that require proportional reset of fluid or static air pressure should be fitted with variable speed drives. These could include heating and cooling water pumps, domestic water pumps, all air-handling applications, campus chilled water pumps, steam condensate pumps, cooling tower fans and pumps.

• Most discreet space lighting uses motion detection switching.

• St. Olaf College prefers that incandescent lights not be used except in the case of very specialized installations and then with written permission from the Director of Facilities.

• Lighting ballasts must be certified PCB free.

• Exit signs should be illuminated by light-emitting diodes (LED).

• Most electric motors (over 1 hp) must be fitted with variable speed drives

• When appropriate, specify occupancy sensors. When specified, provide one sensor per 12 fixtures or per 600 to 800 square feet.

• Specify stepped daylighting (no dimming of ballasted lamps) control in areas with skylights or within 15 feet of large windows.

• Specify override switches for all lighting circuits that are allowed by code.

• Provide dual lighting control for all areas over 100 SF. Locate switches within controlled area.

• Evaluate each application of exterior lighting for streets, parking, walkways, trails and parks for photovoltaic powered fixtures or central PV arrays.