The University of New Mexico’s Physics and Astronomy and Interdisciplinary Science building, affectionately known as PAÍS, was recently awarded Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Gold status, the United States Green Building Council's second-highest award for sustainable design and construction next to Platinum.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), is the most widely used green building rating system in the world and an international symbol of excellence. it includes a set of rating systems for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of green buildings, homes, and neighborhoods, which aims to help building owners and operators be environmentally responsible and use resources efficiently helping to make the world more sustainable.

Projects pursuing LEED certification earn points for green building strategies across several categories. Based on the number pf points achieved, a project earns one of four LEED rating levels: Platinum, Gold, Silver and Certified. All new construction and major renovations at UNM must meet, at minimum, LEED Silver standards. In the past decade, UNM has neearly 30 LEED certified building, 18 of which are at Gold or Platinum level.

“The University of New Mexico’s PAÍS LEED certification demonstrates tremendous green building leadership,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, president and CEO, USGBC. “LEED was created to make the world a better place and revolutionize our buildings and communities by providing everyone with access to healthy, green and high performing buildings. PAÍS is a prime example of how the innovative work of project teams can create local solutions that contribute to making a global difference.”

“Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the Department of Physics & Astronomy, the Interdisciplinary Science Cooperative, and UNM Planning, Design, and Construction, PAÍS has become a state-of-the-art science building that also embodies the values of its inhabitants,” said Christopher Lippitt, associate dean for Research, College of Arts & Sciences and associate professor, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies. “Dedicated bicycle parking to reduce vehicle emissions, use of materials from the old reservoir for projects around campus to limit the waste entering a landfill, and smart controlled heating, cooling, and lighting to reduce building emissions, all contributed to the LEED Gold designation of PAÍS. Thanks to the entire team for leading UNM towards a more sustainable future.” 

“PAÍS, UNM’s fabulous Physics, Astronomy & Interdisciplinary Sciences facility achieved LEED Gold certification. Congratulations to the entire design team, our contractors and UNM PDC on achieving this significant measurement of success,” added University Architect Amy Coburn, director of UNM’s Planning, Design and Construction department.  

PAÍS achieved LEED certification for implementing practical and measurable strategies and solutions in areas including sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. Green buildings allow companies to operate more sustainably and give the people inside them a healthier, more comfortable space to work. Certification is proof that buildings are going above and beyond to ensure the space is constructed and operated to the highest level of sustainability.

PAÍS is where a variety of interdisciplinary science centers, all at the forefront of their various fields, are conducting path-breaking research. Students work closely with faculty in a collaborative, hands-on, and interdisciplinary model of education to address questions that are beyond the reach of any single discipline. The move toward a more interdisciplinary approach is something many of the top research universities across the country are doing. Studies have shown these spaces can help increase conversations among researchers that can lead to innovative ideas.

The building, which is nearly 140,000 square-feet, was designed to include a high-performance section that meets very high standards for vibration and electromagnetic interference (EMI) criteria due to the sensitive nature of the experimentation and research that will take place in the labs. Classroom space, meetings rooms, offices and, of course, research labs are all state-of-the-art. Its construction was made possible by General Obligation (GO) Bond money approved by New Mexico voters in 2016, the State of New Mexico and UNM. PAÍS was the largest investment in science in New Mexico state history at the time.

"I'm sure everyone working in PAIS appreciates that our beautiful facility has achieved this great achievement in sustainability,” said Richard Rand, professor and chair, Department of Physics and Astronomy. “The teams from Van H. Gilbert Architects, Bradbury Stamm Construction, and other contractors, as well as the UNM PDC team, all deserve credit."

For more information on UNM sustainability efforts, visit Energy Conservation.