Energizing The Environment

By Heather Cook

As the doors opened to the Williams Farm Community Recreation Center in Virginia Beach, Va., last October, residents were not disappointed by the amenities they found. And as time goes by, the environment will not be disappointed in the components used to construct the building.

The 70,993-square-foot facility is located across from a middle school and between two elementary schools. Designed to be a destination for youth as well as a resource for adults seeking fitness opportunities, amenities include:

  • An indoor water park
  • An outdoor sprayground
  • An indoor track
  • A fitness room
  • A multimedia room for teens
  • An outdoor play court
  • Classroom space for early childhood programs
  • Meeting rooms.

Just as important, the project comprehensively addressed larger community amenities, including improvements to the neighboring community park with shelters, restrooms, and vending, as well as a skate park. And still to come, a Safe Routes To Schools Program grant will provide sidewalk connections to neighborhoods more than a mile to/from the nearby middle school, which will in turn connect patrons to the center across the street.

Although most people are excited to take advantage of the opportunities within the walls of the community’s seventh recreation center, some will be unaware of the environmental care it took to build those walls.

The recreation center is seeking Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Sustainable Sites credits. To achieve this status, bicycle racks provide for alternative transportation opportunities. Preferred parking for low-emitting and fuel-efficient vehicles, as well as a limited parking capacity, reduces the carbon footprint of the facility. Since the recreation center is located in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, designers focused on both the quantity and quality of the stormwater runoff; as a result, the parking lots drain through perforated curbs into bio-retention beds where they are filtered before draining into the stormwater system. On the roof, a high solar-reflective coating reduces heat-island effects.

Water Efficiency
While the LEED rating system requires the center to meet a 20-percent minimum reduction in water use, the new facility seeks a water savings of 35 percent, primarily attributable to low-flow restroom accessories. Water-efficient landscaping also was selected for the new center, eliminating the need for irrigation.

Energy And Atmosphere
The energy demands of a new center greatly depend on design. For this reason, the center’s solar-thermal panels aim to provide 50 percent of the domestic hot water. Solar-tube skylights incorporated in the gymnasium roof, combined with lighting controls, reduce energy costs as well. Refrigerant management prevents ozone depletion, which minimizes contributions to climate change. The natural light brought into the building further promotes the comfort and well-being of all occupants.

Materials And Resources
Since building construction and operation can generate a large amount of waste, the contractor tracked and recycled construction debris to limit impacts to local landfills. Materials used in the new facility also contain recycled materials to minimize the impact of processing raw materials. Where possible, the contractor used materials from the region to limit transportation environmental impacts. Certified wood was specified to encourage environmentally responsible forest management. The recreation center also provides for the collection and storage of recyclables.

Indoor Environmental Quality
Air quality in the new recreation center is important for both patrons and employees; therefore, smoking is prohibited inside the building and within 25 feet of the entrance. Outdoor air-delivery monitors are in place. The contractor enacted an indoor air-quality management plan during construction to enhance the well-being of the workers and future building occupants. Low-emitting materials were specified for adhesives, sealants, paints, coatings, flooring systems, composite wood, and agrifiber products. Indoor chemical and pollutant source controls were provided to capture dirt and particulates at entryways. The specifications required lighting controls for 90 percent of the occupied spaces. Thermal comfort was provided in the design to promote productivity and comfort in occupied spaces. Daylighting also was used throughout the center so patrons feel connected to the outdoors.

Innovation In Design
Additional credits are being sought in the Innovation in Design category for green education, green cleaning, and the participation of LEED Accredited Professionals on the project. 

The contractor finalized the submission and submitted the project for certification to the U.S. Green Building Council prior to the end of 2012.

Submitted by the Virginia Beach Parks & Recreation Department. For more information on the Williams Farm Community Recreation Center, visit vbgov.com/parks.