Feature Article - September 2012
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Maintenance & Operations: Fitness Facilities

Green in the Gym

By Tammy York


Water Consumption

At the Putney School, one of the goals was to be highly environmentally conscious. This went so far as to include a composting toilet system. The Field House's composting toilets obviously reduce the amount of water used and the amount of water leading into the sewage system.

Conventional toilets use water to move the waste and in the process pollute 1.6 to 5 gallons of water per toilet per flush. By switching to a composting system, you can save money on water and sewage treatment. Smells can be eliminated by using solar-powered vents including a simple passive solar design. The air inside of the restroom is ventilated down into the toilet, the collection area and then out of an exterior exhaust pipe.

If composting toilets seem a bit extreme, simple changes such as motion-activated light switches, sink faucets and toilets as well as towel dispensers will reduce the quantity energy, water and product used, decreasing your operating expenses.

Where a composting toilet will save you 100 percent of the water used for flushing, low-flow restrictors on the sinks and showers will reduce the amount of water used per minute without the user noticing. Plus, a clever way to save on heating the water is to introduce a heat exchange on the drain pipe.

Make Recycling Easier

Even in today's age of recycling getting people to actually recycle means making as easy as possible for them to do so. By having one central recycling area that is a highly visible collection area for aluminum, steel, plastics, paper and cardboard will help people to recycle more. To encourage future recycling, post information in the form of graphics about how much recycling has been collected. If the recycling is sold, post information about the profits made from the recycling collected and how those profits benefited the people using the gymnasium.

Renovation Innovation

Renovation to improve an existing gymnasium's sustainability is more of a challenge because you have to deal with what is already there.

At George Washington University's Smith Center, the renovation resulted in a 30 percent reduction in energy consumption by improving the building shell, air barrier, lighting loads and HVAC equipment. "Look at what properties you have and how you can improve them. The process of becoming sustainable is also an educational tool," Thomas said. "Be responsible about materials and the use of materials in the design."

"Working from the outside in on the Smith Center, we decided to re-skin the building. We didn't add insulation because it didn't need it," Frontera said. "We just needed to change the look of the building and left the structural elements alone."

During the reconstruction, 92 percent of the waste, which was concrete, sheet gypsum board, metal studs and aluminum from studs and wood substrate, was diverted to a recycling facility.

"The key to the renovation was being creative with the existing space and, with a couple of modifications, make a whole new facility," Frontera said. "At the Smith Center we added an entire club area by adding a level to the squash courts. The club area is now generating revenue for the university."