Good Green Hunting

David D. Hunting YMCA
Grand Rapids, Mich.

S U B M I T T E D    B Y:

Integrated Architecture in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Size: 159,000 square feet

Project cost: $30 million

Quick tour:

  • Warm-water, family recreation pool with water slide
  • Lap pool
  • Three whirlpools
  • Two sauna/steam rooms
  • TeenZone with computer lab
  • KidZone
  • NAEYC-accredited child-care center with outdoor playground
  • Community meeting room seating 250 theatre-style
  • Youth, adult and family locker rooms
  • Chapel
  • Fitness testing facility
  • Beginning exercise center
  • Four multipurpose fitness rooms for aerobics/cycling/group-exercise classes
  • 1/7-mile indoor running track
  • One squash court and three racquetball courts
  • Two regulation basketball courts
  • Cardio and strength-training equipment
  • FitZone youth fitness center
  • Two 30-meter climbing walls, one expert, one novice
  • Café
  • Physical therapy
  • Free, on-site parking

The David D. Hunting YMCA in Grand Rapids, Mich., was built with a clear mission: to build strong kids, strong families and strong communities.

And in accomplishing that goal, the facility made history. It will be the first Y in the nation to earn LEED certification, the prestigious status given to buildings that meet high eco-friendly standards.

The certification efforts came at the urging of the Hunting family, whose $5 million gift provided the foundation for the fund-raising effort. The result was a multi-faceted building awash in natural light and filled with fresh air. Sustainable components range from low/no-VOC off-gassing finishes, floors and carpets to photovoltaic solar roof panels.

In addition to being an example of environmental stewardship to the Grand Rapids community, the Hunting YMCA serves as an inspiration to facilities nationwide.

"Since we will be the first YMCA in the country to receive LEED certification, we have received calls from other YMCAs throughout the nation, wanting to do the same thing," says Ron Nelson, CEO of the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids. "I don't think we'll be the only one for long."

The facility, however, is more than just a green building. It's a place where the community can gather regardless of age, race, income or religious persuasion.

One of the largest urban YMCAs in the nation, the 159,000-square-foot building replaced a 90-year-old central city facility and smaller urban recreation center. Designed to be a destination Y, the structure radiates energy and excitement by visually connecting people and spaces both within the facility and to passers-by.

As a result, it has become a place where youth, teens, adults, seniors and families come together to create a social community. Since its opening in July 2005, the facility's membership growth has exceeded expectations by more than 38 percent.

"Our goal was to visually connect people with activities within the building," says architect Mike Corby of Integrated Architecture in Grand Rapids, Mich. "The basic building itself is simple. The spaces inside are pretty open and connected internally."

This building's uncomplicated form responds to both function and setting, filling its location on a fringe urban site with its east, west and south edges abutting adjacent streets. The footprint, with its arched north and south facades, is derived from the third-floor indoor running circuit.

Glass curtain walls support passive solar strategies and combine with zinc panels and renaissance stone to express an image of a solid, long-term community resident. The contrast created by mixing solidity and transparency establishes a kinetic and highly animated experience, while respecting the YMCA's traditional urban construction.

The two full-court basketball floors can be sectioned off for other activities, while the 1/7-mile running track around the perimeter of the building offers unobstructed views of the city as well as activities taking place within the building. Numerous conversation areas present opportunities for patrons to catch their breath or catch up with a friend.

The lobby entrance immerses visitors in activity, offering views through the first floor aquatic center to the Grand Valley State University Campus across the street and beyond. The nondenominational chapel, central to the YMCA mission, floats above the circulation desk, offering an inward focus and oasis of quiet in the midst of activity.

While the pools anchor the main floor, an open staircase urges members and visitors upward to second- and third-floor fitness areas. The adjacencies of its programs offer a physical manifestation of the Y's emphasis on community. Meeting rooms and the chapel are located directly off the main entry. The indoor running track encircles the cardio/strength-training area, climbing wall and court sports. Window walls overlook the aquatics center from both inside and outside the building.

Between the elegant finishes and the environmentally conscious design, the Grand Rapids community has a facility to unite residents and inspire others.

"Grand Rapids has always been a very diverse and family-driven community," Nelson says. "The facility reflects this."


W H A T   T H E   J U D G E S   S A I D

Nice blend of activity spaces to serve a diverse community. I especially like the chapel encased in wood floating above the reception desk. Simple integration of sustainable design strategies is good. Clever stacking of volumes without sacrificing the connectivity of program areas. The facility really enhances a sense of community with multiple opportunities for social interaction and very thoughtful planning.

Colleen McKenna

Great use of natural light and LEED.

Jason Tramonte

Fulfilled a huge community need. Simple palette of materials put together in a pleasing manner. Nice job of stacking program elements in a compact floor plate. Entry desk/chapel feature is a very nice focal element. Crisp, clean detailing. Being the first-of-its-kind LEED project is to be commended. Good job of fitting large program (by stacking logically) on a tight site. To be able to fit the nation's largest urban YMCA on such a tight sight is a testament to the skill of the architect.

Greg Garlock

Very economical use of space—nice twist on the "big box" concept. Excellent transparency and treatment of single form structure—very exciting image in an urban context. Excellent organization with up front youth wing, central core lockers. Not easy to pack this much program into a simple place—well done.

Chris Kastelic

A S S O C I A T E D    F I R M S

Structural engineer:

JDH Engineering

Civil engineer/landscape:

Moore & Bruggink

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