Green Buildings Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design
Sustainability is an integrated, synergistic approach that considers all phases of a facility’s life-cycle to avoid depletion of energy, water, and raw materials. A building also is sustainable if its facilities and infrastructure do not cause any environmental degradation In addition, its living and working environments are comfortable, safe, and productive. Sustainable buildings incorporate the largest number of “green” building components and construction practices into construction projects and implement as many “green” building operation and maintenance requirements as possible after construction.
The Service assesses and certifies construction projects using the U.S. Green Buildings Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. There are four LEED levels increasing in order of sustainability: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. The Service is designing all buildings costing more than two million dollars to be at least LEED Certified, or higher.
Wolf Creek Fish Hatchery’s Visitor/Environmental Education Center, awarded the Environmental Leadership Award as Hatchery of the Year in 2008, is an example of a new building including several sustainable design features. Perhaps one of the more visual and educational features of the Center is the use of low-flow plumbing fixtures and waterless urinals and the storage and reuse of rain and gray water for irrigation. Sited just below the Wolf Creek Dam that retains over six million acre-feet of water, this conservation feature reminds visitors how valuable water is.
Even when rebuilding after Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma the Southeast Region incorporated Green elements into the construction projects at Southwest Louisiana NWR and Mississippi Sandhill Crane NWR, both of which were nominated for Environmental Leadership awards. The new Mississippi Sandhill Crane NWR Office and Visitor Center is LEED Certifiable achieving a total of 26 points on the LEED Project Checklist. Specific features of this design included the following:
- Site Orientation and Stormwater Management designs to minimize land impacts;
- Building Materials were selected that were low VOC-emitting components such as paints, carpets, sealants, and composite wood. (Note: Volatile organic compounds or VOCs are organic chemical compounds that have high enough vapor pressures under normal conditions to significantly vaporize and enter the atmosphere.); and,
- Plumbing and mechanical systems designs were incorporated for building demands 20 percent lower than other conventional buildings and were CFC-free. (Note: Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC): a class of chemical compounds that deplete ozone.).
In the Southeast Region, the Service currently has four office and visitor center facilities in various stages of planning and design that will be LEED Certified: Mammoth Spring NFH, Alligator River NWR, Tennessee NWR, and Vieques NWR. In addition we have several smaller administrative office facilities in the planning stage that will be built to LEED standards including offices at Wapanocca NWR, Bald Knob NWR, Big Lake NWR, Yazoo NWR, Panther Swamp NWR, and Private John Allen NFH. The most visible sustainable elements planned for these buildings include renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and geothermal; and rainwater collection and re-use. These “Green” features will certainly add to the environmental education experience for our visitors.
Submitted by Teresa McKitrick, Engineering, Atlanta, Georgia