Feature Article - September 2012
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Maintenance & Operations: Fitness Facilities

Green in the Gym

By Tammy York


With the volatile price of fuel, one of the most important things that you can do for your facility is to increase the amount of insulation well above the standard. An air barrier will reduce the amount of airflow between the inside and outside of the building. Both of these tactics will lead to less fuel needed for heating and cooling the building.

"It is smarter to do energy conservation because you are building something that is going to be there for 50 to 100 years. It doesn't cost a lot more to add insulation now, whereas trying to come back in after the building is constructed to add insulation is very expensive," Maclay said. "Adding an air barrier in the design phase will reduce energy loss to air movement through the windows and the roof which is typical in most buildings."

At The Putney School Field House, the air control was the highest recorded, and the return on investment was achieved within one year. "One of the great benefits, when you insulate really well, is that you do not need a big expensive complicated mechanical system," Maclay said. "With the heat turned off the building might lose four to six degrees over the entire day."

Healthy Building Healthy Peeps

Healthier building materials such as carpet and paint with no violate organic compounds will lead to a better indoor air quality. Several manufacturers create carpet from recycled carpet and plastic. At the end of its lifecycle, it can be removed and recycled into new carpet.

"Fresh air, especially with recreation centers where you have a lot of people coming in, is important for good air quality," Frontera said. "You don't want stagnant air in the building. In a new building or renovation, it is also important to flush out the air before people move into the space."

Lighting is also a key element to a healthy building and healthy people. Windows with views of nature increase the ambiance of the building. Plus, how natural light is introduced to the room is important. At The Putney School Field House, the windows on the south side of the building are high on the walls and have a blind that bounces the light up to the curved ceiling. This simple lighting technique allows for the changing patterns of natural light inside of the building. Automatic lighting controls adjust the strength of the artificial light to adequately illuminate the space.

Lighting in the yellow end of the spectrum is preferred because most people find the warmth of the yellow light more comforting.

Power Usage

By incorporating energy consumption reduction strategies, you can save on energy costs. "General strategies are simple and low cost, such as turning the lights and computers off," Thomas said. "Just little things done on a daily basis can quickly add up."

Park, community and college buildings are by default education centers, making these buildings the perfect venue for showcasing sustainable design. "Only 5 percent of the costs of the building are needed to get major energy conservation savings," Maclay said.

Energy can be produced by the building by adding a photovoltaic system. When the costs of the photovoltaic system are paid off, the building might actually produce more electricity than it can use. The excess energy can then be stored in batteries for a later use or sold to the power company.

A heat pump can transfer heat rather than producing it from burning fuel. A ground source heat pump requires complicated equipment, drilling wells, maintaining pumps and more. This means if something goes wrong, it will take a while to figure out what is broken and fix it. Plus, a ground source heat pump system consumes square footage in the mechanical room. An alternative is the air source heat pump.

"With the air source heat pump system we saved $100,000 from the ground source system," Maclay said. "The air source isn't as efficient and we had to put in $35,000 more in photovoltaic system but the net result was the building owner saved $65,000."

Measuring is extremely important in reducing energy consumption. Incorporate metering systems for lighting, computer usage, mechanical systems and water during the design phase. For large buildings, break metering into zones so it is easy to track the usage in each area. By being able to track the usage, you can readily adjust the amount of energy used and immediately identify and eliminate energy vampires.