The new Health & Fitness Center at Longwood University, now in its second year of operation, provides a green recreational experience for the University’s faculty, staff, and students. Intended to consolidate recreational spaces that were once dispersed across the campus and to expand the University’s health and wellness programs, the Center not only provides recreational opportunities for the University community, but it also serves to lessen the environmental impacts of development and construction.
Presenting a contemporary take on the campus’ traditional architecture, the 74,650 square foot building features a combination of brick and stone with a glass curtain wall and ample windows that suffuse the building’s fitness areas with daylight. Efforts to improve indoor air quality in the building create healthier surroundings where students can breathe easy as they use the facility’s multi-purpose and two-court gymnasiums, fitness center with climbing wall, exercise rooms, racquetball courts, and indoor track.
During planning, the project team referred to the LEED Green Building Rating System to guide design decisions. Energy efficiency, water use reduction, indoor environmental quality, and waste minimization were given top priority. Once expected to earn basic LEED certification, the new facility surpassed the University’s and the project team’s expectations to earn LEED Gold. Features that contributed to the facility’s LEED Gold certification include: mechanical system and building envelope improvements to maximize energy efficiency; renewable energy; CO2 monitoring; efficient plumbing fixtures to reduce water use; recycled and regionally manufactured materials to conserve natural resources; and low-emitting materials and IAQ testing for optimum indoor air quality.
In a building with large, open interior spaces, energy efficiency can be a challenge, but the design team recognized and met the challenge through clever design strategies. The energy model completed for the project showed that the facility is expected to use 43 percent less energy (by cost) than a standard facility of the same type and size. One of the features that contribute to this savings is energy recovery through the use of enthalpy wheels, which recover sensible and latent energy from building exhaust air. The building envelope has been enhanced to include a larger amount of roof insulation, more efficient wall insulation, and high-efficiency glazing. Carbon dioxide sensors allow for demand-controlled ventilation, signaling the HVAC system to provide a greater amount of ventilation in occupied areas and helping occupants to received adequate air, while ensuring that unoccupied spaces don’t receive more ventilation than is necessary. Carbon dioxide sensors have been installed in spaces with highly variable occupancy, such as gyms and exercise rooms for the most efficient operation of building systems.
In addition to the Health & Fitness Center’s many energy-saving features, a portion of the Center’s energy is provided by the University’s central steam plan, and approximately 11 percent of this energy (by cost) comes from the burning of sawdust, a renewable resource that would otherwise go to waste.
In order to conserve water within the facility and reduce water use by at least 40 percent, water-efficient plumbing fixtures were installed. These fixtures include waterless urinals, low-flow showers, and ultra low-flow lavatories. By reducing water use, these fixtures also contribute to energy conservation; with efficient plumbing fixtures, less water leaves the building and requires treatment at a treatment facility.
During construction of the facility, the project team was determined to use resources efficiently by recycling construction waste and incorporating recycled and regionally manufactured materials. By developing and implementing a Construction Waste Management Plan, the contractor was able to recycle over 98 percent of the waste generated during construction. Products made from recycled materials contributed to over 28 percent of the total materials used on the project, and over 54 percent of the materials used were manufactured within 500 miles of the project site. Recycling waste, using recycled materials, and obtaining materials that were manufactured regionally further contributes to energy conservation by reducing or eliminating the need to harvest virgin materials for manufacturing and to transport materials long distances.
Another way in which the project helps to conserve and utilize energy efficiently is through improvements to the project site. The facility’s location provided important advantages for making it green. The site chosen for the project was an existing parking lot on the University’s campus. The lot was demolished, the asphalt and concrete were recycled, and the new facility was constructed. Furthermore, the parking was not and will not be replaced, resulting in a net reduction in parking on the site. The location of the building also provides opportunities for utilizing alternative means of transportation, as it is located within a convenient walking distance of two bus stops on the Farmville Area Bus blue and red routes. By encouraging the use of alternative forms of transportation, the facility helps to reduce the energy use and pollution associated with driving. Another important aspect of the site is the use of highly reflective concrete to reduce the localized, artificial rise in temperatures known as the Heat Island Effect. The Heat Island Effect can lead to increased dependence on HVAC systems, so steps to reduce the effect can contribute to decreased cooling loads.
A topic of great importance in a recreational facility is indoor environmental quality, which encompasses air quality and occupant comfort. Efforts to protect indoor air quality inside the building began during construction with the development and implementation of a Construction Indoor Air Quality Management Plan. In accordance with this plan, materials such as drywall, insulation, and ceiling tile were protected from dirt and moisture while being stored on site, and the open ends of installed ductwork were covered to prevent contamination. All adhesives, sealants, paints, carpet and composite wood materials were selected to decrease the amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted and circulated through the building’s air supply. Prior to occupancy, testing was conducted to ensure levels of VOCs and other particulates in the air were suitable for a building with better-than-average indoor air quality. As the University’s first LEED project, the Longwood Health & Fitness Center has only increased the enthusiasm for sustainability among the Longwood University community. The facility serves as the keystone for the University’s efforts to integrate principles of sustainability throughout the campus, and the University is using the facility as a model for other projects.