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Thu, June 04

‘Green’ building certification first for NPS<br>

From left, Park Super-intendent Joe Alston, Jay Green of Shaw Beneco and Facilties Chief John Beshears unveil the LEED certfication plaque outside the park maintenance complex.

Park Superintendent Joe Alston, Facility Management Division Chief John Beshears, and Environmental Protection Specialist Rachel Stanton were among those accepting the certificate of LEED certification last Wednesday. Presenting the certificate on behalf of the U.S. Green Building Council were representatives from the complex’s design and construction contractor, Shaw Beneco. They also unveiled a bronze plaque outside the main door of the maintenance complex.

LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, was developed in 1998 by the USGBC to develop voluntary, uniform worldwide standards for high-performance and sustainable design, also known as “green” building. The USGBC is a coalition of building professionals devoted to environmentally friendly development.

“This is a pretty exciting day,” said Beshears. “It’s the culmination of a lot of effort and work.”

The building is not only the Park Service’s first LEED-certified building, it was the first major NPS project to be developed under the design-build concept. In this case, said Beshears, when the project went out to bid, the award was based on the contractor’s expertise and experience, not just cost.

“We were looking for the best value and not just the lowest price,” he said.

The contract went to what was then Beneco Enterprises in April of 2001 and the contractor broke ground the following September. Construction took about a year and half and cost $13.8 million, funded through the Recreation Fee Demo program. According to Alston, it wrapped up both on time and within budget. Its design also reflects a standard being promoted throughout the park service, he said

“Having spent time in large parks, the maintenance facility is usually a big ugly building in the back of the house – by necessity,” Alston said. “I think NPS has gotten to the point where we’re seeing facilities designed for function and aesthetics.”

Alston serves on the NPS’ Development Advisory Board, which reviews major projects throughout the park service. Sustainability and efficient design are both key considerations, he said.

The complex features a 26,000-square-foot maintenance shop with offices; an 18,600-square-foot warehouse, 14,000 square feet of that unheated storage space; a 10,000-square-foot auto shop with the capacity to service alternative fuel vehicles; a 10,000-square-foot enclosed vehicle storage and barbecue area and 7,000 square feet of covered storage.

To qualify for LEED certification, a structure must score at least 26 points out of 69. The certification application asked for consideration in areas totaling 35 points; 26 were accepted. According to James Fillerup, senior architect with Shaw Environmental and Infrastructure, standards are tight.

“It has to meet USGBC requirements,” he said. “You can’t just put up car pool parking signs. There has to be a ratio of so much car pool parking per number of cars.”

About 2,000 buildings are currently awaiting certification. For those that don’t pass, there is no second chance.

“If anything is not quite right, it is denied and you can’t go back,” said Andrea G. Silven of the Benham Companies. “You can appeal but it’s rare that it’s overridden. The requirements are strict.”

Inspectors look at site selection, water usage, HVAC and other building systems, building materials, indoor environmental quality and innovation and design.

The maintenance complex earned points for water-efficient landscaping and use of innovative wastewater technologies, including use of reclaimed water. It also provides for alternative transportation in a number of ways – with reserved parking for those who car pool, showers for those who bicycle to work, alternative fuel refueling stations and public transportation access.

The complex also earned points for the amount of recycled content it used, including recycled carpet and insulation made from recycled cotton, as well as for how it used materials available on-site. The buildings’ porticoes are crafted from ponderosa pine felled on the site and cleared vegetation provided mulch for the mile-long utility corridor leading to the complex.

According to Beshears, building to these standards is no more costly than conventional construction. In fact, some materials, such as recycled carpet, are cheaper.

According to project planners, the building was not developed around LEED standards, as most certified buildings are; rather it was built around what were considered good, sustainable practices with some extra effort.

“You can do a lot of it with good architectural planning, without making a conscious effort,” said Fillerup. “But for the last 30 to 40 percent, it takes a lot of work.”

He said that the process is also difficult because of the cost – around $200,000 – and the level of documentation required, which includes mapping and efficiency calculations for all building systems.

“It takes a tremendous amount of time to document,” he said.

Buildings must be recertified each year to make sure that systems retain required efficiencies.

According to Jay Green of Shaw Beneco, this is also the first LEED-certified building for the company, although it has long experience with environmentally-sound development.

“This is a new thing. To get LEED certification is quite an achievement,” he said. “It takes a lot of work. And for it to be done after the fact is more difficult. Thanks to Mr. Alston for getting us on this very important track.”

“The LEED process is new to a lot of people,” said Fillerup. “But it’s going to become a household word.”

He noted that five U.S. cities already require their public buildings to meet LEED standards – Portland, Ore.; Seattle, Wash.; San Francisco, Calif.; Dallas, Texas; and Boston, Mass.

While this is the first LEED building, park officials say it won’t be the last.

“This shows our leadership in environmental sustainability,” said Stanton.

“People who work here feel good about working in this facility,” Alston said. “If you provide people a good work space, they love their jobs more.”

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