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Posted on Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Ann Arbor Municipal Center project wins Gold LEED certification from Green Building Council

By Ryan J. Stanton

Ann Arbor's recently renovated and expanded city hall at 301 E. Huron St. has been awarded Gold LEED status by the U.S. Green Building Council.

City officials announced the news on Tuesday, noting the award recognizes the entire Ann Arbor Municipal Center project, including the new Justice Center addition, landscaped municipal plaza rain gardens, green roof promenade and porous pavement in the parking lot.

The gold-level Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design award from the USGBC requires a construction project to achieve a minimum of 39 points for green building and site design, construction and operations. Ann Arbor's Municipal Center obtained 44 points.


This rain garden feature in front of the Ann Arbor Municipal Center was one of the elements that led to a Gold LEED certification.

Ryan J. Stanton |

"Everybody worked really hard for it," said Bill Wheeler, who served as the city's project manager and is now retired. "I was really happy to hear we made it and we actually got several points more than we needed to get into the Gold, so it was very good — a very nice feeling."

The only higher certification is Platinum LEED, which requires at least 52 points.

The city provided the following description of project elements that led to the Gold LEED award.

  • Many of the Municipal Center's building materials were obtained from regional and recycled-content materials. Construction debris was recycled on site and sustainably harvested wood was used throughout.
  • Ann Arbor's Justice Center building, which houses the 15th District Court, Ann Arbor's Safety Services Administration and Police, and Information Technology Services, was constructed with highly-efficient exterior walls. More than three inches of super-rated insulation were used to keep the cold and heat outside while maintaining comfortable interior temperatures.
  • The thermal-sealed windows block the outdoor temperatures and allow for natural interior lighting.
  • The embedded ceramic window stripes serve as built-in blinds to soften incoming light. Many windows may be opened for natural air circulation.
  • The highly efficient Energy Star furnace and air conditioning systems are maintained via monitors to provide a comfortable thermal environment.
  • Rooftop solar collectors supply domestic hot water and preheat the boiler water.
  • Low-flow water fixtures are used throughout the building to reduce water waste.
  • Motion detectors adjust the lighting levels to match the building's actual usage to save energy. Sensors also monitor light levels to reduce interior lighting when natural sunlight supplies additional illumination.
  • More than 40 percent of the site's surface is covered with rain gardens or porous pavement. An open-grid pedestrian bridge allows rain water to enter directly into the largest rain garden. Nearly five inches of rain from a single storm can be captured on site. Urban planners label a 4.75-inch heavy rainfall in Southeast Michigan as a 1 percent annual chance event.
  • Many native plants and trees are used around the Municipal Center buildings. These hardy species thrive in typical Michigan weather conditions.
  • During the growing season visitors can enjoy the green roof on the second-story promenade. The green roof features more than 5,000, 12x24x4-inch vegetative trays, each planted with a variety of sedum plants, scattered with alium for color and height.
  • The vegetative trays cover 10,318 square feet of the promenade's total 18,000-square-foot roof surface. A green roof can save up to 25 percent on heating and cooling costs by providing additional insulation, which helps maintain a constant temperature inside the building. Water evaporation from the plants during the summer keeps the building cooler, too.

Quinn Evans was the architectural firm for the Ann Arbor Municipal Center. The landscape architects were InSite Design Studio Inc. with Conservation Design Forum. More details on the Municipal Center's LEED components are available online at

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Fri, Nov 2, 2012 : 2:56 a.m.

LEED is a total and complete waste of money because it pushes construction spending in areas that make no sense in Michigan. Roof gardens are a good example - total waste. Many of the items so lovingly listed are required by the current energy code anyway. The only items that make any sense are solar hot water and native plants for required landscaping. The rest of that list not required by code is wasteful garbage. Have fun maintaining the low flow toilet fixtures!! LOL


Thu, Nov 1, 2012 : 10:03 a.m.

How much would it have cost for the building not to be ugly as sin?

Kai Petainen

Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 9:35 p.m.

i complain when i complain.. but i also compliment... congrats on the certification! this is cool stuff....


Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 7:29 p.m.

Kai, ironic how exterior lighting is on 24/7. When I call the city to let them know, noone there cares and doesn't even understand why I am calling. And Most of our city officials walk right past these lights that are purely wasting energy 12 hours/day. Energy savings is more about people than buildings.


Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 8:16 p.m.

No farmland, open space or park land was destroyed to create the building. Runoff is fully detained on site in a very picturesque and walkable space. Personally, I find protecting water resources as important as police and fire safety - the latter can be acute needs but water is a chronic need. The building envelope is much more energy efficient than most commercial builders would provide since they take a much shorter view of their payback. The environmental control systems are now more energy efficient in the old and new buildings. I applaud the mayor for standing up for this project against the chronic naysayers. This is good for our city and will attract intelligent, positive minded and caring people to the city to live and work here. Finally, ask the police if they appreciate the new work environment.

Jack Eaton

Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 3:42 p.m.

Dog Guy asked "How much did this honor cost us?" This is a good question. The Ann Arbor Chronicle reported that AATA has budgeted $80,000 for its efforts to seek Leed certification of the $8 million dollar Blake Transit Center building. I don't know whether the cost of certification is based on the cost of the building. Perhaps Mr. Stanton could ask how much the City spent to receive this certification.


Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 3:08 p.m.

It's easy to look good while spending someone elses money, if I had that option I'd be so green I'd put the city to shame.


Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 2:37 p.m.

Pretty amazing how Ann Arbor always has plenty of money for anything that even sounds green. Libraries and enough police to enforce traffic speeds and stopsigns seem to be things that grudgingly get funded minimumly. Priorities are pretty messed up. More worried about looking and sounding good than actual quality of life here.


Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 2:41 p.m.

As I have been told many times by commenters when I burst their little bubbles - if we don't like how this city is being run, led and changed, we will have to move.


Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 1:57 p.m.

This is a very dubious the recent article regarding how easy it is to be green and how the results are not always worth the effort.

Dog Guy

Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 12:48 p.m.

How much did this honor cost us?


Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 6:59 p.m.

$55 Million. Give or take.


Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 1:45 p.m.

It's a dubious "honor"! Costing much more for so called "Green" than standard materials, It's kinda like the difference between "Organic" and "Regular" pay more for "Organic" when both sources (organic & regular-non-organic) are both produced the same way, grown in dirt, (in the case of veggies), watered by the same rain, etc. It costs more to "hand-pick bugs off veggies than to spray bugs off, but they both have had "bugs crawling on them! In California, where many of our vegetables are grown, it was discovered that items labeled "Organic" were being grown and treated exactly the same as non-organic. Only difference was when they were sold to you one box was labeled "Organic" and the other box,,,,same vegetable, same field, same processes used, were not labeled organic.


Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 1:31 p.m.

Short term, you don't want to know. What they will tell you is that VERY LONG TERM, there is savings.


Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 12:36 p.m.

Well, I'll say this - though I disagreed with the need for a "new" structure which never actually replaced anything, at least the project was done "correctly," from an engineering standpoint.


Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 10:30 a.m.

It also won for "Ugliest Sculpture", "Non-Functional $1 Million Artwork That No One Cares About", and "Public Toilet Wins Art Award".