Green buildings: a healthy revolution in the construction industry
By TOM KANE
HARRIS, NY Exactly whats a green building?
It has nothing to do with color, or the grass or trees that may surround a building or the garden that may be grown on the roof.
A green building, also called a high-performance building, has many of the following characteristics: it uses minimal energy, thereby reducing energy costs; it contains re-cycled and non-toxic building materials; it produces high indoor air quality; it uses natural lighting (referred to as daylight) to advantage; it uses low volatile organic compound paints; it uses energy-efficient lighting, appliances and construction components; and it uses native species plants in landscaping. Often it is heated and cooled by geothermal power. And all of these qualities offer no sacrifice to comfort.
This is in contrast to traditional buildings that consume more of natures resources than necessary, generate large amounts of waste and use high amounts of energy.
The Center for Discovery
The Patrick Dollard Discovery Health Center is a newly constructed 28,000 square-foot diagnostic and treatment facility in Sullivan County. Built in 2003, it is the second health care building in the country to receive the U.S. Green Building Councils LEED (Leader in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. It was built by the Center for Discovery, a 350-acre residential school campus and non-profit agency, and the largest employer in Sullivan County.
The Center for Discovery is an oasis, nurturing both the livelihoods and lifelong needs of children and adults with profound neurological and developmental impairments.
This green building is a healthy building; healthy for its inhabitants, healthy for its community and healthy for the planet, said architect Robin Guenther, owner of Guenther 5 Architects of New York City, who designed the structure. Theres a clear connection between environmental health and human health. This building demonstrates that, she said.
The building, which cost $5.6 million won grants and awards amounting to $700,000. It received them because the LEED certification enabled the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to award funding to the project. As a LEED building, the facility won $143,000 from NYSERDA and another $350,000 matching grant from the Kresge Foundation, a group which supports superior examples of the Green Building Initiative Program.
To achieve these grants and awards, Guenther 5 Architects planned and designed a ground-source heat pump system also called a geothermal system. This became the basis for an alternative energy design that eliminates on-site combustion and rooftop evaporative cooling systems. Because of this system, the center is saving 30 percent on utility cost, Guenther said.
There is no pollution or combustion whatever in this building, said Richard Humleker, vice president for development at the center. There is no vinyl in the building and the floors are made of a simulated wood called Stratica, which is non-toxic. The main emphasis in all these materials is to maintain the highest air quality possible.
What I like about this building are the windows, the pleasant space, the state-of-the-art equipment we have and the high air quality, said occupational therapist Jacalyn Duczeminski. You can eat the floor and not get sick.
Services to the community
The new health center offers outpatient primary/specialty medical and dental services to Center for Discovery residents, saving them the extreme discomfort of traveling elsewhere for routine medical care. Moreover, as a deeply humanitarian agency, it welcomes the surrounding community to utilize its medical services, attracting local residents to drop by on a neighborly basis, whether for the farmers market that stands next to the medical center to purchase fresh produce or the on-campus bed and breakfast for harvest-baked bread and planned social events.
The center demanded that the architecture be simple, humanly scaled and consciously non-traditional, with the aim of transforming often negative perception of healthcare facilities, Hemleker said. The center has a core belief that the quality of ones environment has a direct impact on the quality of life a person experiences. The removal of toxins and reduction of energy usage have a profound impact on the quality of life experienced by people with severe and multiple disabilities it serves and ultimately, the community it serves.
[Editors note: With dwindling oil and gas resources, energy conservation will be one of the principal issues of the 21st century. A recent forum at Sullivan County Community College called Energy Solutions for Small Business and Agriculture explored methods to conserve energy. This is the first in a four-part series that will touch on many of the issues and solutions discussed at that forum.]