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 construction team also used recycled materials wherever possible—from the recycled rubber for the flooring to recycling the parking lot upon which the center was built. About 20 percent of the building's materials are recycled content. And much of those materials come from within 500 miles of the site, which reduces both shipping costs and greenhouse gases from long-haul transportation.

Nearly all of the waste material from the construction process was recycled, thereby avoiding adding to the landfills and, in some cases, actually producing revenue from the sale of the recycled materials. The result of these sustainability goals being achieved is a significant cost savings over the lifecycle of the building. They'll end up paying for themselves many times over, Dourlein said.

The floors in the cardio equipment area are made of a recycled content rubber product, which is both highly functional and aesthetically appropriate. In other areas, simple exposed concrete floors were utilized, though the floor was ground down to expose the aggregate and create a highly polished surface. These concrete floors are very low-maintenance and rival the looks of a high-dollar terrazzo product without the need to add more materials and chemicals to the building. Similarly, exposed ceiling structures provide low-maintenance surfaces and create visual interest.

"Highly creative use of everyday, average local products helps to meet both sustainability and aesthetic goals while being fiscally responsible and durable," Dourlein said. "These spaces achieve our goal of not just facilitating function, but inspiring it."

The team also employed leading-edge technologies to lower energy costs. Members utilize dual-pane, argon-filled glazing systems with thermally broken frames and selected lighting control systems that automatically and variably modify the amounts of electrical lighting depending upon the exact amounts of natural daylight available. The mechanical systems, connected to an efficient central plant, are carefully metered and controlled to utilize as much outside fresh air for preconditioning as is prudent given the temperature and humidity. These controls and systems save nearly 51 percent of the energy as compared to the baseline, Dourlein said.

In an important and creative twist, students also were involved in the project as a way of educating future construction and design leaders. Students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' soil, water and environmental science program, for example, helped in the project's sustainability by making physical improvements and adaptations in the ways that the site and landscape capture and use rainwater, making the most of every rainfall.

The finished product—along with its groundbreaking platinum certification—has created quite a stir on campus, where students have given an enthusiastic endorsement of their new recreation space.

"The students feel that their fee dollars have been appropriately and judiciously utilized to create high-quality, sustainable and very much needed spaces," Dourlein said. "We also know we achieved success because the students and campus community will be the first to tell you this facility belongs to them."