"Green" Wayfinding Signage Helps College Earn LEED Platinum Status

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First LEED Platinum higher education building in Minnesota contains sustainable signage. St. Paul based environmental design company Visual Communications Inc. facilitated the integration of sustainable wayfinding signage into Macalester College's "Institute of Global Citizenship."

As more architects, planners and corporate executives pay closer attention to "green" buildings when it's time for an expansion or a new facility, the official certification designation called "LEED" (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is becoming the standard to follow. Recently, Minnesota environmental design company Visual Communications Inc. http://www.visualcomm.com/ facilitated the integration of sustainable wayfinding signage http://www.visualcomm.com/wayfinding-Signage.html into Minnesota's first platinum-certified higher education building, The Institute of Global Citizenship, at Macalester College in St. Paul.

LEED http://www.usgbc.org/ was initiated in 1998 by the U.S. Green Building Council or USGBC, and has since become an international standard. Certification is obtained when a building demonstrates that it is "sustainable", in other words, it's designed in a way to save energy, emit less carbon dioxide, use recycled and recyclable materials, utilize water better, and generally provide for a healthier-than-normal environment for those working in and around the building.

The LEED initiative is now widely known amongst planners and architects, who focus a lot of attention on sustainable construction materials and elements such as carpeting, walls, floors and water systems. Now, environmentally friendly wayfinding signage is also getting more attention as a way to round out the LEED-qualifying package. Every building needs environmental graphic signage http://www.visualcomm.com/Environmental-Signage.html, especially directional and identification signs.

Visual Communications helped Macalester College take advantage of new advancements in sustainable wayfinding signage materials when Macalester was planning the new building to house their Institute of Global Citizenship http://www.macalester.edu/igc/ .

The signage that helped Macalester earn LEED points is a new product with a 100% sustainable life cycle. Called ECOSTONE, the material is manufactured from pre and post consumer waste paper. All of its by-products, including waste created in the manufacturing process, can be recycled back into the manufacturing process. The signs were fabricated by Archetype Signmakers in Eagan, MN.

Macalester's goal was to achieve the highest level of LEED certification - platinum - and they were able to do exactly that, earning points not just for the more obvious building and systems components, but for the wayfinding signs as well. The building, Markim Hall, is a $7.5 million, 17,000 square-foot facility and was the first higher education building to earn LEED platinum certification in the state of Minnesota. It opened in the fall of 2009.

According to Suzanne Savanick Hansen, sustainability manager at Macalester, "The signs used at Markim Hall were made out of a locally-made product which is 85% post-consumer waste. They were included in the category of 'local and recycled materials' to earn points toward our LEED certification." The product is very durable and can accept a wide variety of graphics. It was used not just for the wayfinding signage, but for interior window sills and counter tops.

"Green" signage components can extend beyond solid substrates for wayfinding signage. For example, lighting components can help a company earn points toward LEED or GBI (Green Building Institute) certification. Recently, Visual Communications helped a retail store in Apple Valley, Minnesota, earn the first GBI "Green Globe" designation in Minnesota, thanks to low-voltage LED lighting in signs for the interior and exterior of the store. New advances in LED lighting also include flexible light strips, enabling sign designers and manufacturers to build attractive yet more-eco-friendly lighted signs.

Since its inception in 1991, St. Paul-based Visual Communications has designed hundreds of environmental graphics and wayfinding systems in sectors such as education, entertainment, financial, government, health care, libraries, office campuses and retail.

Visual Communications has been a member of the USGBC since 2008, and is a member of SEGD, the Society for Environmental Graphic Design since 1989.

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