Feature Article - July 2007
Find a printable version here

Special Supplement: Complete Guide to Sports & Recreation Surfaces

By Dana Carman

It's Not Easy Being Green

Green is all the rage these days, and we're not just talking about choosing natural grass versus synthetic. Mixing the words "building industry" and "environmentally friendly" may seem like mixing motor oil and natural spring water, but green building has become the wave of the future as environmental concerns increase.

To that end, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) works to promote buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable and healthy places to live and work. Its mission is to transform the building industry to sustainability. It's a pretty tall order, but one that is making progress through standards.

The green standard as defined by the USGBC and recognized by the industry is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, standards, which establish what constitutes a green building.

There are five key areas addressed by LEED: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. If a building is LEED certified, it is recognized as an environmentally responsible building. According to the USGBC, LEED-certified buildings have lower operating costs and increased asset value, reduce waste sent to landfills, conserve energy and water, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and qualify for tax rebates, zoning allowances and other incentives. Maybe it is easy being green.

In order for a project to be LEED-certified, the project must be registered. The earlier in the process the project is registered, the better the chances are of achieving certification. Earning certification requires the building to meet certain prerequisites and performance benchmarks, or credits, in each category. Depending on how many credits the building scores, projects can be given Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum certification.

One such project is the Burton-Shenkman Complex at the University of Connecticut. The Burton-Shenkman Complex actually refers to two buildings: The Burton Family Football Complex and the Mark R. Shenkman Training Center. According to the University of Connecticut, the Burton-Shenkman Complex is the first LEED-registered complex in the NCAA. Some of the green building's features are: infrared radiant heating, heat recovery units, low-emissive windows, dual-flush toilets and low-flow showers, native and adaptive landscaping, locally manufactured products, use of recycled products, "green" label carpet, low-VOC paint, rain gardens and bio-retention swales, full cut-off exterior lighting, and reduced heat island effect.

According to the USGBC, there are at least seven other recreational facilities with LEED certification, one of which is the Lamond Recreation Center in Washington, D.C., a 14,650-square-foot facility that earned the silver LEED certification in March of this year. On college campuses around the country, new buildings are constantly being planned, designed and constructed, with emphasis on fitness facilities. The LEED application guidelines recognize that different market sectors will require different treatment and have specific guides for multiple buildings and on-campus building projects.

There are several ways to learn more about building green, starting on the USGBC's Web site at www.usgbc.org. The LEED program includes training workshops and a professional accreditation program for those interested in becoming experts in greening the profession. The 2007 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, which will be held Nov. 7 to 9 at the McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago, is also a good place to start paving the path to green.