COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Even in the dead of winter, something green has sprouted on Ohio State's campus.

The new Nationwide and Ohio Farm Bureau Ohio 4-H Center has opened, with two dozen faculty, staff and student workers beginning their move into new offices on Jan. 2. The center was built to the specifications of the national LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program and is the first "green" building on the campus of Ohio State University. It is located at 2201 Fred Taylor Drive, across from the Schottenstein Center.

Faculty and staff members began moving into their new offices on Jan. 2, said Ryan Schmiesing, who helps lead the program for Ohio State University Extension.

"It's a quality work environment and will promote collaboration and teamwork," said Schmiesing, co-state 4-H leader and assistant director of OSU Extension. "Being in the new building will probably change the way we do our work, not only at the state level, but all over the state. We now have the facility -- the environment -- to promote a culture of doing more high-quality youth development programming on a statewide level. We're not sure what that will look like exactly, but the new building will definitely have an impact."

The building's green features include:

A geothermal heating and cooling system. Underneath the center's parking lot, builders drilled 72 holes -- 285 feet deep and 5 inches in diameter. Water flowing through the closed-loop system remains consistent at approximately 55 degrees to help heat the building in the winter and cool in warmer weather. In addition, ceiling fans help circulate air to assist with heating and cooling. Officials estimate that the 4-H center will save 30 percent on heating and cooling costs.

The roofing material is a thick (60-mil) highly reflective white membrane. Sunlight bounces off of the material, making it easier to cool the building in the summer.

The building and its windows are oriented to allow a lot of natural light into the building, so less artificial light will be needed. In fact, nearly 90 percent of the center's occupied space will have natural sunlight.

The walls have a full 6 inches of insulation.

The windows on the south and west sides of the building are double-paned with a stationary "mini blind" in between the panes. In the summer, when the sun is higher in the sky, these blinds will block much of the heat from the sunlight. In the winter, when the sun is lower in the sky, its light and heat will be able to enter 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 some 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.

The center contains a bicycle storage area and a shower to encourage people to ride bikes to work. Also, designated parking spaces encourage car pools.

Approximately 89 percent of the construction debris was recycled.

The center is the first stand-alone 4-H center on a university campus, said Bill McCleery, development officer for Ohio 4-H. Nationally, 106 land-grant universities deliver 4-H youth development programming through statewide Extension services, such as Ohio State University Extension. This puts the Ohio 4-H program in a unique position to lead efforts in innovative youth development programming, Schmiesing said.

"Two-thirds of the new building is composed of conference facilities," he said. "We can host meetings of 20 people, all the way up to 300. Having such space available all in one location is a huge benefit." The 4-H program hopes to make the space available for other educational programs and youth groups throughout the state.

The official ribbon-cutting ceremony and building dedication is set for 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on April 4.

SOURCE: Ohio State University.