Feature Article - November 2008
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Versatile Venues

Collaborate to Bring More to Your Community

By Jessica Royer Ocken

Growing Green Facilities

If you're planning to construct a new multipurpose facility, Atlanta Metro YMCA COO Ed Munster has one other suggestion for you: think green. "We're building only green buildings now," he said. "We use graywater systems to recapture pool backwash and shower water, then it's pumped through a recycling system and used for [toilet] flushing and irrigation. In one branch we're saving [thousands of] gallons of water a year."

"These are high-performance buildings with a bit higher initial cost, but they're designed to conserve energy and resources and lower the lifetime cost of operations," he added. "We're very excited about that. We were the second Y in country to have a LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design]-certified building, and now even in retrofits we look for ways to make things green and high performance. For municipalities and nonprofits, this is critical because generating resources over the life of the building remains a challenge. You're not just leasing the space and leaving in 10 years."

Ready to Collaborate?

By now, this idea of working with another organization for space or programming or whatever it is you need may sound pretty good. When you're ready to truly collaborate, meaning you'll take every step of the project in tandem—planning, design, programming, operations—there are some careful considerations that will help you toward success, and there are certainly an assortment of benefits to be had.

First and foremost, collaborating with another organization allows for savings on capital costs. "We have seen a lot of different groups come together that are trying to find a way, from a practical standpoint, to save some money," said Doni Vasani, principal with Ohlson Lavoie Collaborative (OLC), a Denver, Colo., architecture firm specializing in recreation facilities. "Facilities are starting to cost quite a bit, and funding is tough." Modesto's Niskanen, who is in the midst of a collaborative project with the city's police and fire departments that will yield a neighborhood park with an on-site fire and police station, as well as community meeting space and public services center, would agree. "It's going to be far more efficient financially than if all three of us went off and built where we could find space. There's land acquisition, development costs..."

And Niskanen has noted other benefits of this arrangement as well. "With the involvement of the police and fire departments, we gain a higher level of interest from the community and, to be blunt, from elected officials," he said. "They bring support and credibility, so some atypical funding sources for parks and recreation have become possible."

This one-stop-shopping situation also adds convenience for the users, which is a core reason for having a multipurpose facility in the first place. "It makes sense to the community," Niskanen said. "They can go to one place for nearly anything they need to take care of."