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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Three Years Later, 'Green' 4-H Center Going Strong

January 10, 2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- When the Nationwide and Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center opened in January 2008, it was the first building on the Ohio State University campus to be built according to LEED certification standards, designating it as a "green" building.

The building serves as the headquarters of Ohio State University Extension's 4-H youth development program.4-H Center

"Just knowing that we're working in a healthy, environmentally friendly building is a good feeling," said Allen Auck, Ohio 4-H program manager for events and activities. And, it's a source of pride that the center was the university's first to be LEED certified, even before a new university policy of incorporating green features into all new building and major (over $4 million) renovation projects.

"Ohio 4-H has to be given kudos for doing this on their own, before the policy was in effect," said Aparna Dial, director of Energy Services and Sustainability at Ohio State. "They were motivated to do the right thing without anyone else pushing for it." Today, the new Ohio Union and Student Academic Services building were both built using LEED's sustainable building guidelines, and the university has more than a dozen other LEED-based projects in the pipeline.

The capstone of the center's green features is the building's closed-loop geothermal heating and cooling system, which pumps water through a system of pipes nearly 300 feet deep to take advantage of the steady 50- to 55-degree below-ground temperature. This approach is a very efficient way to keep the building at a comfortable temperature year-round compared with those that rely on conventional means, said Patrick Smith, data analyst with Energy Services and Sustainability within Facilities Operations and Development. The result is that the 4-H building uses only about one-third the energy of an average office building: The center's average energy use of 28,546 BTUs per square foot per year is barely more than the 20,000 BTUs per square foot that the average vacant building uses, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and is significantly less than the 93,000 BTUs per square foot that the average office building requires.

Other green features include:

  • Plumbing fixtures in the building, including waterless urinals and dual-flush toilets in all restrooms. These have resulted in reducing the building's water usage to a fraction of what similar buildings use. In fact, since it was installed in October 2007, the building's water meter readings indicate that the building uses just 14 gallons of water per day. Dial and Smith suspect that water usage is actually somewhat higher -- the meter may not register when just a small amount is used -- but the result is that the center's total water bill paid to the university for fiscal year 2010 amounted to a mere $44.32.
  • Motion sensors automatically turn lights off when rooms are not in use. In addition, the building's windows are oriented to allow natural light into the building, so less artificial light is needed. Nearly 90 percent of the center's occupied space has natural sunlight.4HCenterLobby
  • The windows on the south and west sides of the building are double-paned with a stationary mini blind between the glass. In summer, when the sun is higher in the sky, these blinds block much of the sun's heat from entering the building; in winter, when the sun is lower, its rays shine through, helping warm the building.
  • Many of the materials in the building's interior are recycled or otherwise environmentally friendly. A gray brick veneer in the multipurpose area contains recycled plastic; other walls are composite boards that contain sunflower seed husks; the carpeting is recycled; and the paint, carpet and carpeting glue contain low levels of volatile organic compounds.

Auck said working in a green building has benefits that simply cannot be quantified.

"It's a good feeling to be able to show people that you can have a building of this size (46,000 square feet) that's green and sustainable, and also a very pleasing, user-friendly place to be," Auck said. "It's living proof that you don't have to be uncomfortable to be green."

The center's classroom and conference space is available for use by outside groups. For details, see the Ohio 4-H Center's website at


Martha Filipic
Allen Auck, Aparna Dial, Patrick J. Smith