Feature Article - November 2011
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Green For Green's Sake

Eco-Friendly Facilities & Operations Yield Economic, Environmental Savings

By Wynn St. Clair

The certification was a major accomplishment for the university, which has long prided itself as a leader in designing and constructing energy-efficient, sustainable buildings. In fact, the entire campus has been deemed a "living and learning laboratory for sustainability." This has manifested itself in many ways. The UA has a hyper-efficient central plant that utilizes systems like creating ice on summer nights, off peak, for use in cooling during the day. It also boasts solar electric and solar thermal, co-gen turbine generators, highly efficient boilers and a network of underground chilled water and steam serving the campus.

Throughout the entire project, the team aimed to keep student wellness and sustainability an inteogral part of the design. The design team also accessed the expertise of campus sustainability leaders—those who teach sustainable design and construction or work daily to integrate green initiatives in their services.

The impressive project features a series of courtyards that provide for outdoor recreational activities such as yoga. There also are volleyball courts, shaded covered walkways and a larger space devoted to the center's Outdoor Adventures, a terrific resource for students to rent equipment and participate in organized outdoor trips, classes and events.

Easy Peasy

At the risk of contradicting Kermit the Frog, it truly is easy being green—especially when it comes to playgrounds. With myriad eco-friendly materials and initiatives these days, creating an environmentally responsible recreation space has never been so simple. Here are some tips for painting your playground green:

  • Equipment: There's a plethora of tough, durable and environmentally friendly alternatives to PVC on the market, including both recycled plastic and steel. For example, you can find steel posts made from up to 95 percent recycled steel. Work with your equipment manufacturer to find the best materials for you. Many offer state-of-the-art equipment and site furnishings that qualify for LEED points.
  • Surface: If you can't find an eco-friendly playground surface, then you're not looking at all. From recycled rubber surfaces to artificial turf, green options are everywhere. A tire crumb, for example, comes in a multitude of colors to enliven your park. With the improvements to artificial turf in recent years, it also has become an acceptable option for recreation managers. This is welcomed news for some green advocates, who may prefer the artificial playing fields because they don't require watering, fertilizing or gas-powered mowing.
  • Go Natural: An increasing numbers of parks feature natural playgrounds, which allow children to tap into their imaginations while enjoying the outdoors. Natural play areas typically include berms, sand pits, water elements, mud areas and grass amphitheaters that encourage children to experience the smells, textures and sounds of the natural world.
  • Engage children: If you're making the effort to run an environmentally friendly playground, your young patrons should be doing the same. Teach children the importance of caring for the environment by having recycling and compost bins on site. Many communities have encouraged children to collect recyclable materials to help raise money for playgrounds before their built, as a way of showing the importance of recycling.

Inside, the expansion provides a significant new fitness center, a large cardio mezzanine and a multi-use athletic court gymnasium. "The SRCE is a visible symbol of the university's commitment to student health and wellness," Dourlein said.

Natural light is used to the maximum capacity with major building spaces oriented so that light is prevalent throughout the facility, yet direct sunlight is controlled by the building's signature roof overhangs. Water harvesting, high-efficiency lighting and plumbing contributed to the platinum LEED rating.