Feature Article - September 2009
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Green Up

Trends in Eco-Friendly Facility Design

By Jessica Royer Ocken

Inspiring Example:
The Dudley H. Davis Center, University of Vermont, Burlington

This state-of-the-art student center is certified LEED Gold, and each point was meticulously earned at each phase of the project. More than 92 percent of the construction waste was reused or recycled, and even more amazingly, more than 95 percent of the two buildings deconstructed to make way for this project was recycled or reused, including concrete rubble reused as underlay for paths and roads surrounding the building.

But this project is also an excellent example of the social benefits of sustainability. One of the University's goals was to use local materials whenever possible, explained WTW Architects' Joseph W. Nagy. They wanted to use brick from a local manufacturer, even though an initial cost estimate showed it could be obtained more cheaply from a national manufacturer and shipped in. They approached the Vermont Brick Company and explained their project—and their need for 300,000 exterior bricks. They were able to come to an agreement and placed an advance order that kept the factory running, and their staff employed, through the usually slower winter months. It was a boost to the local economy, in addition to avoiding the carbon footprint of shipping in bricks from somewhere else, and the University felt good about the way they were attaining their green goals for the project.

Taking Action

With a bevy of ideas now in hand to inspire you, all that's left is action. But this is another way in which embarking on a sustainable project, be it new construction or the greening of your current situation, is a bit different. Sustainable practices are inherently collaborative—whether a design team and construction crew are working together to recycle materials from the building site or whether the janitorial staff and building managers are brainstorming strategies to conserve energy and reduce waste during day-to-day operations—so talking together about your goals with everyone from the maintenance and housekeeping staff to managers to architects and design professionals is key to effective action.

Because doing things in a sustainable way is an ongoing process, it's also important to have everyone who will be involved on board from the beginning. Don't be surprised if some education is required to get to your goal, as "green," for some, may still carry the stigma of being mainly the purview of hippies and also rather expensive. But don't despair. "Sustainable design is rapidly taking on the approach of the triple bottom line," Payne said. "For the longest time it was thought of as just a way to help the environment. Then people realized it can save them some money, too. And now, especially at the university and government levels, we're finding out that, in general, people want this to happen, so there are positive social benefits that can be realized." With three ways to win, what are you waiting for?