Green and Sustainable Design for Camp Facilities: Why Should You Implement It at Your Camp and How . . .

by Mark E. Benton, C.S.E., LEED™ ; John D. Guzik; and Nancy K. Nozik. A.I.A.

Giving Kids a Natural World of Good — Second in a Series of Six Articles

 

Green design and sustainability are quickly moving to the forefront of architectural, engineering, and construction fields as strategies for creating high-performance buildings. The camp community is also beginning to learn more about how these principles can be applied at their camp properties. Green ideas are starting to affect decisions about everything from refuse management and wastewater treatment, to the construction of new facilities and even the design of entirely new camps.

What Does "Green" Mean?

"Green" is the idea that how we design, build, and operate structures has a dramatic impact on our lives and those of future generations. Green design strives to make our development sustainable. The goal is not to create a building with "green" bells and whistles, but to design and construct a structure that fits seamlessly into its surroundings, providing a durable and healthy environment.

What Makes a Building Sustainable?

The U.S. Green Building Council defines sustainability as building practices that limit or eliminate the negative aspects of buildings on the environment. The Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED™) program highlights five main areas:

  1. Sustainable site planning
  2. Safeguarding water and water efficiency
  3. Encouraging energy efficiency and use of recycled materials
  4. Conservation of materials and resources
  5. Improving indoor air quality

See the "LEED™ — Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design" sidebar

Applying Green/Sustainable Design at Camp

 
Web Resources
Green/Sustainable Links
US Green Building Council
Greener Buildings
American Institute of Architects Committee
on the Environment (COTE)
Funding Links
The Kresge Foundation
Project Links
YMCA Camp Arroyo
www.ymcaeastbay.org
www.ttff.org
www.ebparks.org
Frost Valley YMCA
Asbury Woods Nature Center

Once the decision to build has been made, many camp directors and property managers are now finding that there is a desire within their organizations to build "green." The problem is that they are often left wondering — How do we take these principles and incorporate them into our camp's development? Where should we start and why?

Design decisions really should be analyzed for both their initial costs and their long-term costs associated with maintenance and replacement. This "First Cost vs. Life-Cycle Cost" analysis often reveals that the sustainable approach may cost more initially, but will reap long-term savings for your camp. Green proponents argue that traditional construction practices disregard both the long-term true cost of construction on the environment and the more immediate health of the occupants of the structures they build. In addition to these considerations, traditional building practices don't adequately factor annual operating costs into the cost of a facility over time. The design and construction costs may be covered by a capital campaign, but you will be responsible for the new facility's operation costs for many years to come.

The Process
The following steps will outline the process that your organization should take to successfully develop your site and new facilities following green/sustainable design principles:

Pre-Planning
Long before the first shovel breaks ground, your organization will need to make a commitment to the importance of adopting a green approach to the future development of the facility. Depending on the complexity of the project, size of your site, and number of facilities needed, this process may begin up to two years before any new facility design, with an overall look at your property and effective planning for future development. As part of this process, it is important to look at all potential future development, not just a single building.

This is also the time to develop a planning and facilities committee that will represent your organization and users throughout the facility development process. This committee should consist of key board members, program staff, and volunteers in your community. You will want to select people who have an interest and/or experience in planning and development, and who can help you with fund raising. It is important to find a team member that is truly passionate about sustainability that will help keep green goals present in the mind of the team.

Master Planning
Prior to the start of any new construction, your organization will need to initiate a master planning process to identify the need for new facilities. At this stage a planning and design consultant that specializes in these areas can assist you in the development of a comprehensive, ten- to fifteen-year development plan for your property. This consultant, in collaboration with the planning and facilities committee, will review your program, the existing land, and the existing buildings at camp.

A green/sustainable master plan will identify ideal building sites within your property, as well as identify areas to remain undisturbed. Careful consideration should be given to solar, wind, and drainage patterns; water and sanitary systems; and even endangered or threatened species. Emphasis on sustainable site planning will reduce soil erosion, light pollution, and site disturbance, as well as help responsibly manage stormwater. Once a building site is selected, the actual building design should work hand in hand with the site design. The proper building orientation will take into account passive solar, daylighting, natural ventilation, and building access. Landscaping practices should include native and low maintenance species, tree locations for shading and wind control, control of stormwater runoff, limited pavement or hard surfaces, and the ability to preserve or even create a natural habitat.

Fund Raising
You cannot move forward without the financial resources needed for development. Fund raising begins when you start thinking about the future of your camp, and should be a key consideration when selecting your board members. It is important to communicate your mission and your goals even before the final plan is in place. Make your community aware of the benefits your project will bring to each and every one of them. Once the mission is communicated, specific images of future projects (via renderings, models, etc.) should be prepared to help to show the vision and solicit the funding.

Project Initiation/Design
When funds are in place, it is time to initiate the design process.

Assemble the Team
The design team includes the people who will make the decisions about the new building. The team consists of an owner's representative and other stakeholders, the architect, the engineers (mechanical, electrical, plumbing, civil), and possibly a commissioning agent. Commissioning is a process through which a third party familiar with all the building's systems is brought in to verify that the building developed by the design team actually meets the green goals that were set at the start. Select individuals with an understanding of green design so that you are not just "shoehorning" green elements into the project, or you will end up fighting every step of the way to complete your project properly.

Define the Program
Work with your architect to outline the functional needs of the new building(s). This is a good time to list all the desired outcomes of the "green" design process. For example, if you are in the desert southwest, you may want to demonstrate water-saving elements that are both beneficial to the environment and an educational opportunity.

Green Charette
There are so many exciting ways to incorporate green design into construction projects that it is critical to determine which elements are appropriate for your particular project. It is not about how much you can do, but rather how you can best achieve those desired goals that were identified in the programming stage. A charette is a one-day brainstorming session that includes the design team and key stakeholders in the project. It is an opportunity to discuss the process as well as the "payback" of the chosen green design strategies (pros/cons). This also creates an educational opportunity for your camp community and staff and helps in building consensus and buy-in.

Make the Final Decisions
Below is just one example of a sustainable construction practice that might be discussed at the "green charette," and the decision-making process that well-informed design professionals can help you through.

Rainwater Harvesting — the collection of rainwater from roofs for irrigation or for other non-potable uses — is one way to reduce the amount of utility-provided water a building or site uses. This feature can contribute to LEED™ Water Efficiency credits, but can also affect many other elements of a project. The obvious benefits of collecting rainwater include reducing utility bills or the strain on a camp's already limited well water system, while at the same time helping the environment by reducing dependence on the groundwater aquifer. This may, additionally, impact the design of the building's roof to facilitate collection, and even the selection of roofing materials. A standing seam metal roof may provide the cleanest rainwater (as opposed to asphalt shingles) and can present an opportunity for use of high-recycled content metal. Roofing selection may also improve energy performance by minimizing heat gain through the use of a high reflectance material. The reduced heat gain might actually influence the selection of attic insulation or reduce the size and costs of the air-conditioning.

On the other hand, metal roofing does tend to have a relatively high up-front cost. But because of its long life span, its life-cycle costs may outweigh the first-costs. These decisions may also impact the design of the building's plumbing system to use rainwater stored in a cistern to flush toilets or irrigate landscaping. There will, however, be additional costs associated with the cistern and extra piping. The whole strategy may also be influenced by the selection of the right low-flow plumbing fixtures and collaboration with other green strategies for water-efficient landscaping such as the use of native plant materials that don't need much irrigation. The site stormwater management plan may even be affected because water being captured off the roof isn't being diverted to storm drains or retention basins (which may help preserve undisturbed areas of the site).

All of these decisions would have stemmed from the fact that someone thought enough to suggest capturing rainwater. This is a prime example of how a single green decision may have far-reaching impacts and design implications, highlighting the nature of an integrated design process — a Green Design.

Develop the Plans
As each of these decisions is made, they are incorporated into the design of your new facility. A conventional construction project begins with the initial idea (schematic design) and is refined (through design development) into a set of drawings and specifications (construction documents) that a contractor can build from. Green design affects this process in three key ways:

  1. There will be more interchange between the designers and engineers than with a typical building project. The focus on a green building is that the systems are all integrated — and the good news is that recognizing this relationship up front may cause you to spend a little extra money, but it might save you money ultimately. A green approach will evaluate the pros and cons of different designs and recommend the one that best suits your aesthetic, budget, program and environmental goals.
  2. A green building should have commissioning, and if the building is going to be LEED™ certified, it's a requirement. This entails extensive research and documentation of all green design components. Commissioning helps to ensure that your facility is as "High Performance" as possible.
  3. There is a continual evaluation of the green design options throughout the design process. In the design process, work with your design team to minimize waste. A little extra thought in the beginning can add up to a better design and big savings at the end of your project.

Construction
Whether going for LEED™ Certification or not, the actual construction process itself can be very environmentally damaging. A significant part of a green design involves the attempt to minimize the impacts of heavy equipment tearing up the site, demolition material and waste going to landfills, and chemicals used during construction.

Many building materials, including adhesives, new carpet, wall coverings, and heating fuel used during construction contain VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) that can end up being inhaled by a building's occupants. Your architect should start by specifying low VOC materials and testing indoor air quality during construction and before occupancy. A good way to do this throughout the project is to keep ductwork sealed during construction and to "flush" the building by opening windows, and ventilating with the HVAC system upon completion of the project for a specified period of time prior to occupying the building.

Even with the best planning, you can't assume that your plans will be followed exactly once construction begins. It is important to monitor the process to ensure that the old oak tree that you painstakingly designed around is not accidentally removed for the service road, or that nasty chemicals aren't used on site! If this is a LEED™ project, the commissioning agent, contractors, designers, and other team members are required to document all green components in order to submit for LEED™ status.

During the construction of a sustainably designed facility, your project team will need to manage and document how much material is being salvaged, recycled, or thrown away. As the saying goes, "one man's trash is another man's treasure." You will need to work to ensure that your contractor and building team are recycling packaging (cardboard, metal, etc.) and that as many building materials as possible are recycled including, glass, metals, carpet, gypsum, and masonry. It takes extra effort, but it is worth it.

Move-In Day
Although the building will be designed to operate simply and at an optimal level, it will have the best outcome if the maintenance staff, program staff, and users are well educated on the building's features. This not only increases the benefits of the building and the natural environment, but also provides an ongoing educational opportunity for your guests and users.

In some cases, developing a project that embraces green principles may add some initial costs to the construction budget of a project. There are some projects where those costs may even be lower or offset by lower long-term operating costs. Whatever the financial implications are, green proponents agree that the costs of ignoring the impact our buildings have on us and the environment will have to be paid someday and the sooner we find our "moral checkbooks" the better.

LEED™ — Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design
Founded by the U.S. Green Building Council over ten years ago, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED™) Green Building Rating System® is a voluntary, consensus-based national standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings. Members of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) representing all segments of the building industry developed the LEED™ program and continue to contribute to its evolution. The LEED™ Green Building Rating System for New Construction and Major Renovations (LEED-NC™) was launched in March 2000, following review by the entire USGBC membership and a national pilot testing program.
For more information about LEED™ Certification or to find a LEED™ accredited professional near you, please visit the US Green Building Council's Web site at www.usbgc.org.

Schmidtcopelandparkerstevens (www.scpsohio.com) is an architecture, landscape architecture, planning, and interior architecture firm that has been involved with clients in the camp and conference community for over thirty years and has been an ACA Business Affiliate for over twenty-five years.

Mark E. Benton, C.S.I., LEED™, an associate and construction manager, is a LEED™ accredited professional. He can be reached at mbenton@scpsohio.com.

John D. Guzik is an architect and project manager with primary responsibilities in project management and design. He can be reached at jguzik@scpsohio.com.

Nancy K. Nozik, A.I.A., is an architect and associate and was recently appointed as an American Camp Association, Ohio board member. Her responsibilities include camp development and master planning. She can be reached at nnozik@scpsohio.com.

Originally published in the 2005 March/April issue of Camping Magazine.

 

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