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Green and Sustainable Design for Camp Facilities: Why Should You Implement It at Your Camp and How . . .
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:
Applying Green/Sustainable Design at Camp
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.
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.
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.
Assemble the Team
Define the Program
Make the Final Decisions
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
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.
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.
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 email@example.com.
John D. Guzik is an architect and project manager with primary responsibilities in project management and design. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
Originally published in the 2005 March/April issue of Camping Magazine.