LEED Gold Awarded to the Native American Cultural Center


NAU’s Native American Cultural Center was recently awarded LEED Gold Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The LEED rating system is an internationally recognized program that provides certification for buildings, communities, and homes with exceptional environmental and health performance demonstrated throughout the design, construction, and operational processes.

This project was completed in 2011, thanks to allocations from general university funds, and approximately $3 million in donations—including a $2 million donation from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. The building integrated Native American design and sustainability principles provided by input from neighboring Native American tribes throughout the design and construction phases of development.

The original concept for the center was to create a space that serves a bigger purpose, and provides an avenue for individuals and groups to be educated about the traditional knowledge of Native Americans and Indigenous Peoples. “This is reflected within the environmental elements of the center,” says Kathleen Frank, director of the Native American Cultural Center. “Preserve what is around you, and utilize the resources that surround you.”

The center is a one-of-a-kind gathering place for Native American students and organizations from all Arizona tribes. These students can visit the center to receive tribal mentorship, connect with their peers, and re-connect with their cultures and traditions. It is an important resource for the Flagstaff community and all students on campus.  Workspaces, computers, academic support resources, and meeting spaces are available to all students who visit the cultural center.

Some of the sustainable elements incorporated into the Native American Cultural Center are highlighted below.

Passive Solar Design

  • Exterior blinds and interior roller shades help to mitigate solar heat gain in the summer months.

Energy Efficiency

  • Daylighting throughout the building reduces the need for artificial lighting during the day.
  • High-efficiency light fixtures and occupancy-sensing technology optimizes lighting power density and energy use throughout the facility.


  • More than 75% of construction material waste was diverted from landfills.
  • Use of building materials with recycled content and that have been extracted, harvested, or recovered, as well as manufactured within 500 miles.

Indoor Environmental Air Quality

  • Fresh outdoor air is delivered to all regularly occupied spaces at levels 30% greater than building code requirements to maximize occupant comfort and reduce indoor pollutants.
  • Low VOC materials are used throughout the facility to maximize the indoor air quality.

Reduced Building Impact

  • In-house recycling programs divert building-occupant waste from landfills.
  • The site’s use of native vegetation complements a network of landscaping elements that capture rainwater to recharge the aquifer with naturally treated stormwater.