FARMINGTON — For more than a decade, Navajo Preparatory School in Farmington has led the way for American Indian students to achieve academic greatness.

Now the school has become a leader in a different way altogether.

The school will celebrate Wednesday its achievement of a prestigious certification for green building. The Betty Ojaye Student Center, dedicated in December 2009, has earned a gold certification under Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design standards.

"I think it's a great opportunity for everyone to see how they can save energy in this economy," said Betty Ojaye, director of the school and the new building's namesake. "Our building can be a model."

The building is the first in San Juan County to achieve this certification, said David Biggs, facility manager at the school. Facilities can receive certification for green building on four different levels. The highest level is platinum. No local buildings have reached that level, Biggs said.

A building at San Juan College, however, is expected to receive gold certification soon. Gold is the second-highest level, followed by silver and basic.

"It's a model for the whole area," Biggs said of the building. "It's not just the building, but the materials, the designer, the owner, the construction teams."

Navajo Preparatory School received its certification in September, nearly a year after the building was complete.

"It took a year to do it," Biggs said. "It's a long process because they scrutinize everything, they look at everything you've done."

The 29,000-square-foot building was designed with the environment in mind, Biggs said.

Features that contributed to the certification include bicycle parking to encourage alternative transportation, recycled construction waste, green-certified carpet and irrigation systems that use no potable water.

The building houses the library, cafeteria, kitchen, science classrooms, office space, a recreation center and the school-based health center.

The building process also relied on the students, Ojaye said.

"They played a role in the process," she said. "They participated by researching what LEED means and by producing a video to show the community."

Biggs said he hopes the gold-level green building helps jump-start other local efforts to conserve resources.

"By using less energy and water, LEED certified building reduces our impact on our natural resources," he said. It "saves money for families, businesses and taxpayers. The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions help to contribute to a healthier environment for residents, workers and the larger community."

The student center received 41 points from the Green Building Certification Institute, which awards LEED certification to facilities.

"It's a very intense process," Biggs said. "I've learned a lot. I agree with being good stewards of our resources, and that's what this is all about."

Alysa Landry: alandry@daily-times.com