UNI's Schindler Education Center earns LEED Gold Certification

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – Fifteen months after commemorating the massive renovation at the University of Northern Iowa Schindler Education Center, university officials, students, faculty, and design and construction team members are celebrating another milestone in the project’s history. In April 2018, the U.S. Green Building Council awarded Schindler Education Center LEEDv2009 Gold Certification for Commercial Interiors. 

The LEED 2009 Green Building Rating System for Commercial Interiors promotes healthy, durable and environmentally sound design solutions for building occupants. Up to 110 LEED credits are awarded in seven categories, including sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, innovation in design, and regional priority. Schindler Education Center earned 65 points to achieve Gold Certification.

UNI sought to update its 1970s facility—the largest teaching college in Iowa—into an environment that inspires and prepares future teachers for an ever-changing, globalized world. The environment was dark and outdated, leaving a noticeable gap between the training teachers received at UNI and their personal experience once they stepped inside a 21st century classroom. A significant renovation was necessary to maintain the level of excellence Schindler Education Center and its graduates came to expect. Design partners DLR Group and Stantec created a solution that fosters creativity, promotes collaboration, and encourages interaction among diverse user groups through careful integration of bright, adaptable, and technology-rich environments.

"One of the goals established when we conceived the Schindler Education Center remodeling project was to continue leading the state and nation in pre K-12 Education. Being good stewards of our resources and embracing sustainable practices to lower utility costs for the university over the lifespan of the building, while making the building healthy from VOC emissions is important to the university and all users,” said UNI architect Glenn Swanson. “Achieving the level of LEED Gold demonstrates the university's willingness to go the extra mile in sustainability efforts. We are very pleased with the outcome and the successes the remodeling of Schindler Education Center achieved."

Notable sustainable design elements that elevate the interior environment for Schindler Education Center students and faculty include lighting, indoor air quality, energy star rated equipment, furniture, construction waste management, and ongoing operation programs.

The previous commons area was underutilized due to its dark, unwelcoming vibe. Designers creatively improved the quality and quantity of natural daylight flowing throughout the interior of the building by installing a clerestory in the commons area. LED lighting is used inside the facility, and a bright interior design scheme helps with wayfinding and infuses color throughout the building. In addition, the project team selected low-emitting finish materials and furnishings to improve the indoor air quality for building occupants.

“The vast amount of natural light that now floods the commons area is the most significant change in the interior environment at Schindler Education Center,” said Chris Osore, AIA, LEED AP principal with DLR Group. “Our design team successfully turned a drab setting into a vibrant space buzzing with activity at all hours.”

The design team incorporated Energy Star rated equipment throughout the facility to save on operating and maintenance costs, including computers, LED displays, touchscreens, and A/V equipment. The project demonstrated that 89 percent of the total wood-based building materials are certified in accordance with the principles and criteria of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The selection of furniture helped the team achieve Certified Wood by demonstrating furnishings with wood-based materials. 

DLR Group and Stantec worked closely with Mortensen Construction throughout the construction process to divert 80 percent of construction waste from the landfill. In addition, the team implemented a rigorous indoor air quality plan throughout the duration of the project addressing HVAC protection, housekeeping, source control, and pathway interruption; all as a means to keep construction particles out of the indoor air. 

In addition to design and construction credits, the University’s approach to campus sustainability contributed to credits for a green cleaning and integrated pest management program, ensuring the facility will continue to exhibit sustainability and positively impact the environment and the experience for students and faculty for generations.

Although it did not directly contribute to the LEED Certification for Commercial Interiors, designers added a green roof to connect building occupants to nature and provide for additional outdoor gathering space.


Lindsay Cunningham, Office of University Relations, 319-273-2761, lindsay.cunningham@uni.edu

Penny Ramsey, DLR Group, 913-240-8783, pramsey@dlrgroup.com