Those were the words of Brian Dunbar, the introductory speaker at the USGBC Wyoming Chapter Annual Meeting and Conference held at Hotel Terra in Teton Village on October 7-9, 2010. He and the other speakers at the conference echoed the theme of teamwork that is a prerequisite of the USGBC LEED certification process because, “When we work together, we get better buildings”.
Brian, who is Director of the Institute for the Built Environment and professor of Construction Management at Colorado State University, is very passionate about green building practices as a means of addressing past, present and future global issues relating to the economy, environment and well being of its human population. Many of his comments were noteworthy. He believes that green building processes, materials and products can be the next “big thing” to spur economic growth for the U.S. Brian also believes that these products and processes can have a very positive environmental and social impact on the rest of the world, particularly the underdeveloped countries. These latter countries, he says, “are aspiring to have the American life style, so let’s set a standard!”
At the same time, Brian thinks that we in the States can learn a lot from other countries. For example, Costa Rica is rated #1 in the world for it’s population having satisfying lives because relationships rank much higher than material things. In a word, “where there is less consumption, there is more satisfaction”, said Brian.
Brian made a few concluding remarks about the LEED process that I think also are worth noting. He said that engaging in the LEED process is rewarding and beneficial enough in itself without going for certification. However, the certificate is a way to celebrate the effort done to be green, and should be done as a way to acknowledge all of those involved. Secondly, don’t get hung up on “points”. Don’t be satisfied with the minimum effort in any category. The ulitmate goal for any green project should be to use it as a springboard to think beyond presently available processes, materials and energy sources before they are exhausted or unavailable. For example, while we still have fairly abundant “dirty” energy sources, let’s replace them with “clean” energy sources as wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, and use the “dirty” ones as backup sources only.
Continuing with the theme of inclusiveness and teamwork at the conference, two teams of presenters gave excellent presentations of two LEED certified projects that have been completed in Jackson Hole in the past two years. The first project discussed was the Davey Jackson Elementary School. the first LEED Gold Certified school in Wyoming. The second one was the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve, the first LEED Platinum certified building project in the National Park Service. In both presentations, the teamwork approach was symbolized by a team of presenters that were appropriate to the projects. For the elementary school, the presenters were the architect (Arne Jorgensen of Hawtin, Jorgensen Architects), the Director of Facilities for Teton County School District #1 (Kevin Thibeault) and the systems controls project manager (Dan Butcher of Long Building Technologies). For the preserve, the presenters were the Chief of Facilities Manager for Grand Teton National Park (Chris Finlay),the buildings architect (Kevin Burke of Carney, Logan, Burke Architects) and the landcape architect (Mark Herberger of Herberger Designs).
Daylighting, energy efficiency, site selection and building orientation were common areas of focus for both projects. The elementary school building design emphasized wide hallways to allow for the creation of meeting spaces to encourage group learning and socialization. The preserve visitor center design focused on incorporating some features from the buildings in the Rockefeller family compound that were previously located on the preserve. The Rockefeller theme of “nature can restore the human spirit” is also evident throughout the visitor center and preserve. The sights, sounds and solitude of nature are emphasized in displays in the center. The land has been carefully and methodically restored to very much its original state prior to the establishment of the 30 some buildings on the 1,100 acre site.
In conclusion, one of the most important reasons for utilizing the LEED building process is the teamwork that is required. The process involves all the players up front in the early stages of a project to review drawings and discuss the order in which everything should be done. As such, so many ideas are shared and costly mistakes are avoided that more than offset the extra time or materials involved. This is justification enough for committing to the LEED certifcation process on your next commercial or residential building project.