Taking the LEED: Recreation Centers Strive to Become Certified "Green"

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Everyone, it seems, is becoming environmentally conscious nowadays. Hybrid cars have taken off in popularity. Fluorescent lighting has buzzed its way into our living rooms. And virtually every community has a tree-planting initiative to offset its carbon emissions. These are exciting moves toward a healthier planet, but not many people can make the claim that their efforts are certified. A few can.

The proud operators of facilities that have achieved certification through the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System[TM] have made a marked push to improve environmental sustainability by meeting a host of building and functionality requirements.

Certification is based on a points system with five categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, and environmental quality. Based on the points system, a facility can reach basic certification or be awarded a Silver, Gold, or Platinum certification. The LEED standard has become a world standard, certifying projects in 41 countries and every U.S. state.

Recreation centers have been a leader in this green movement. The North Boulder Recreation Center in Boulder, Colo., was one of the first buildings certified after the LEED system was launched in 2000. And many more are being added to the list of certified buildings as public interest in sustainability increases and local governments see the long-term benefits to building thoughtfully planned, energy-efficient facilities.

LEED certification is a community effort, which is why projects seeking certification often emerge in cities and towns where citizens heavily influence their civic projects. In the following profiles of LEED-certified recreation facilities, you'll see that sustainability is evident in everything from building materials and maintenance to their placement on the land and role in their neighborhoods.

Firstenburg Community Center Vancouver, Wash.

Architect: Opsis Architecture, Portland, Ore.

Cost: $21.1 million

Amenities: Exercise pavilion, natatorium, gymnasium, community rooms

Date of opening: February 2006

Vancouver's Firstenburg Community Center is a model of sustainable design, community involvement, and extensive forethought. Jim Kalvelage, principal architect at Opsis Architecture, was the lead designer on the project. He said the process began years prior to construction by working with the community to gather input for the facility.

But ideas from the locals didn't hit the drafting board too quickly. "As the project moved into design and there was a conceptual understanding of the program and the site, we did an eco-charrette and invited a number of stakeholders," Kalvelage says. "There were a number of breakout sessions and roundtables to talk about some of the opportunities and evaluating which strategies were appropriate."

The group of engineers, county and city operations specialists, and park and recreation professionals kept their minds open to ideas that would make more conservative designers balk.

For example, you won't see big ducts hanging from the ceiling in Firstenburg's gym. Rather than using traditional heating and cooling systems, hot or cold water is pumped through the concrete floor slab to control the indoor temperature. As a supplement, windows open automatically once they sense an increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, indicating a heat gain.

Another system of water circulates inside the building, as well. Every flush of the toilets in Firstenburg's locker rooms uses filtered water from the pool.

The design of the building is surprisingly welcoming for a facility designed to cut energy costs by 30 percent over its lifespan. Not only are the expansive windows inviting, but materials throughout were chosen carefully. …