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LEED: It's just good design

May 1, 2010
by Lindsay Barba, Associate Editor
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The Herrington Recovery Center utilizes green and sustainable elements to promote overall healing

When John Curran, ALA, architect and senior vice president of TWP Architecture, and Bill Pennoyer, senior project manager at VJS Construction Services, set out to develop the Herrington Recovery Center at Rogers Memorial Hospital on the shores of Upper Nashotah Lake in Wisconsin, the thought of building a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified facility was secondary in their minds.

But as certain challenges began to stand in their way of building a serene, lakeside environment for professionals recovering from chemical dependency, LEED certification became the ideal solution.

“Very early on, one of the things that we had was a very difficult site to develop,” says Curran. “We were in a primary environmental corridor being on a lake, and there's also an additional wetland area in the back of the site.” Curran and Pennoyer faced concerns from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the local township and county governments, and the lake association.

“At our first meeting certain individuals said, ‘Look, you guys have 75 acres of land, put the building somewhere other than right on the lake,’” Curran says. “But that was our philosophy. We wanted to put it on the lake because Rogers had that land for over 100 years and we felt that it was a serene environment and a great location for a recovery center and wanted to take advantage of the site.”

As soon as Curran and Pennoyer presented the idea of seeking LEED certification for the facility, their adversaries backed down. “That just opened up the doors for us. The minute we mentioned that, they kind of perked up and felt they could now work with us,” Curran says. “They knew we would be held accountable to standards that were probably just as restrictive, if not more so, than what they have.”

There are seven categories, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, Inc. (USGBC), that any new facility must consider when seeking LEED certification. These categories are:

  1. Sustainable sites;

  2. Water efficiency;

  3. Energy and atmosphere;

  4. Materials and resources;

  5. Indoor environmental quality;

  6. Innovation in design; and

  7. Regional priority.1

The prospective design already incorporated multiple green and sustainable elements-it was just up to Curran and Pennoyer to see them through, as well as to enhance their construction and interior design processes going forward to reflect LEED standards.

Sustainable sites

DNR's foremost concern was the impact that demolition and rebuilding could have on the lake, wooded area, and green space surrounding the proposed 25,000 square foot center. Pennoyer's solution to this issue was simple. “We minimized the footprint, cut down as few trees as possible, and even replaced invasive species with indigenous plants,” he says. This not only “brought back” the natural environment, but eliminated the need to water non-native plants.

Creating a linear layout for the facility helped the construction team to minimize its size and environmental impact. This layout fit well into “the thin splotch of land,” according to Pennoyer, and helped win approval of the facility's construction site and “a lot of LEED credits for site development.”

Aside from minimizing the construction process' environmental impact, the facility's linear design also presented another opportunity for enhancing the environmental efficiency of the building through the construction of a green roof (figure 1). “With the linear design, it was easier to segment the green roof, since only part of the roof would be the green roof,” Pennoyer says.

Figure 1. The Herrington Recovery Center's linear layout and green roof help to reduce its environmental impact. Photos by Curtis Waltz/Aerialscapes, Inc.

The green roof consists of a four- to six-inch thick mat made of organic matter, covered with drought resistant plants that are in bloom throughout three seasons. This area adds to the site rain gardens for a storm water retention system and “acts like a sponge in sucking up storm water,” according to Curran. He points out that the green roof also:

  • Extends the life of the roof membrane from 25 to 75 years;

  • Creates a wildlife habitat;

  • Greatly reduces the heat island effect;

  • Can be factored into the green space calculation; and

  • Acts as an additional level of insulation for both the heating and air conditioning systems.

The pavement surrounding the green roof is made up of composite recycled material. Plaques with the 12 Steps of Recovery are placed into the pavement, creating the facility's 12-Step walk and meditation deck. “[Rogers] looked at [the green roof] more from an operational and functional standpoint and how great that space would be to have a meditation area with the fantastic lake and woods view from the elevation,” Curran says. “The grade is already elevated about 25 feet above the lake, so by the time you're up on the meditation deck, you're a good 40 feet over the lake and it's just a really serene feeling.”

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