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Feature Article - April 2018

Still Going Green

Sustainability Plans & Equipment Help Create Eco-Friendly Facilities

By Deborah L. Vence


We are more aware than ever before about the importance of the environment, and that the things we do on a daily basis can make a difference—good or bad. Recycling, using less plastic, composting and even using energy-efficient light bulbs are just some of the ways to make the environment a greener place.

To be more eco-friendly, parks, recreation, sports and fitness facilities have attempted to make a difference, too, and have continued to adapt and create facilities that have a smaller impact on the environment.

A Smaller Impact

Metro Parks Tacoma in Washington, for example, has adopted LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) construction standards for all new facilities.

"Our STAR Center community center has received a LEED Gold Award. STAR Center features natural storm drainage, ground source heat pumps, natural ventilation and natural daylighting. It was constructed from recycled, rapidly renewable and low-emitting materials," said Michael Thompson, public information manager, business and innovation department, Metro Parks Tacoma.

"Our outdoor pools, Kandle and Stewart Heights, have solar hot water systems. Web-based MetaSys building control systems are used to regulate heating and ventilation at facilities, including Metro Parks' headquarters, the Center at Norpoint, Titlow Lodge, Point Defiance Park Visitors Center and Northwest Trek Wildlife Park," he said.

In addition, Metro Parks uses irrigation systems in conjunction with strategically placed weather stations to remotely control and monitor water dispersed in parks and athletic fields.

"Best management practices are employed to conserve turf and limit pesticide use. Metro Parks has 10 pesticide-free parks. Electric-vehicle charging stations are located at sites throughout our system. Pooled vehicles include both hybrid and all-electric cars. Newly developed park lands feature native and drought-resistant plants," Thompson said.

Amanda Aparicio, sustainability coordinator, facilities management division, Montgomery Parks, Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), Gaithersburg, Md., said the M-NCPPC participates in the Montgomery County Clean Energy Buyers Group to ensure 100 percent of its electricity is supplied through renewable sources via purchase of renewable energy certificates (RECs).

"In Montgomery County Maryland, all new construction or major renovation of facilities equal to or greater than 5,000 square feet adheres to the International Green Construction Code (IgCC)," she said.

"The IgCC sets baseline energy efficiency and resource conservation requirements for non-residential construction county-wide that aims to reduce energy consumption by 50 percent over the average building consumption baseline in 2000. In addition to adherence with the IgCC, the M-NCPPC facilities in Montgomery County fitting these criteria are constructed to achieve LEED Silver or equivalent standard status," she added.

To be more eco-friendly, parks, recreation, sports and fitness facilities have attempted to make a difference and have continued to adapt and create facilities that have a smaller impact on the environment.

At Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) in Oregon, its "track record in this area has been remarkable, including grassroots efforts from community, and PP&R leadership and staff commitment as well. Our bureau's programming, places and people embrace these concepts," said Mark Ross, public information officer for Portland Parks & Recreation, also noting that Portland Parks & Recreation is the only parks system in the nation certified as Salmon Safe, and was first recognized as such in 2004.

An example Ross shared of a "green" building in Portland involves the East Portland Community Center (EPCC), which was certified as LEED Platinum in 2009.

According to the EPCC Business Plan, the EPCC has incorporated a number of sustainability practices, including the fact that it is one of the four big centers participating in the bureau's Energy Challenge, where staff periodically review facility use patterns and work with building maintenance staff to increase efficiency of utility usage.

PP&R also is "assessing whether the occupancy sensors will help contain energy costs and consumption. These were added to a couple of the storerooms. In other areas, staff manually turn off/leave lights off when space is not being used." And, the "natatorium has light sensors that turn off the lights when there is adequate light coming through the windows."

What's more, the following sustainable building elements have contributed toward attaining LEED status:

  • Rooftop solar photovoltaic panels generate 15 percent of the community center's energy needs and include a solar hot water heater that preheats water for showers.
  • 100 percent of stormwater is retained and treated on-site.
  • 30 percent potable water savings is achieved from low-flow faucets and low-flow showers that have metered controls.
  • Innovative pool filters significantly reduce the chlorine needed to treat the water and reduce the amount of water used by as much as 1 million gallons annually.
  • Structural materials were used as finish materials throughout, reducing the overall material usage by 25 percent compared to a typical building.
  • Heat recovered from the pool's air exhaust is re-used to heat the pool water.
  • Light monitors facing north and south maximize natural illumination and reduce energy used for electric lighting by 60 percent.
  • Extensive recycling efforts diverted more than 95 percent of construction waste from the landfill.
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