|The architectural firm hired did extensive research and came back with 31 products or techniques that could be used in the buildings.|
When an Ohio National Estuarine Research Reserve needed to expand its buildings to meet current and future growth, managers there chose to incorporate as many new environmentally friendly construction practices and products as possible. The end result is a showcase for sustainable development that's generating excitement about going "green."
"We're showing the public alternative ways to live on the coast," says Gene Wright, manager of the Old Woman Creek Reserve near the City of Huron. "People are loving it and want to know more about it." So much so that the newly remodeled facilities are being used as an "exhibit" to interpret sustainable design to visitors and local decision makers.
Increased efficiency, the reduction of toxic chemicals and pollutants, and healthier natural systems are added benefits that help outweigh the extended construction period and a slightly higher price tag.
Wright also points out that building sustainable coastal communities is a goal of both the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, both of which helped fund the $1 million project. "The final payoff is that this is a terrific chance for them to show folks they put their money where their mouth is."
In 1999/2000, the reserve conducted a future facilities needs assessment, which showed that the visitor center should be expanded by about 2,000 feet, long-term dormitory space and parking should be added, and the boathouse needed replacing.
Reserve staff made the decision from the outset to incorporate environmentally sound construction practices and products. The problem was that nobody was quite sure what those were.
The architectural firm hired did extensive research and came back with 31 products or techniques that could be used in the buildings. These included using products made up mostly of recycled materials, such as wallboard, shingles, wallpaper, nails, siding, insulation, carpet, and ceramic tiles. Even the landscaping mulch was created by shredding used wooden pallets.
Sustainable products such as cork and linoleum flooring were used. Fly ash, a by-product of coal-fired electric plants, was added to concrete mixtures, improving workability and strength, and reducing costs. Gutters and downspouts were made with natural copper. Offices were painted with low-odor latex paint. The lumber used was grown using sustainable harvesting practices, and parking lots are permeable.
A geothermal system was installed, which uses the ground temperature to heat and cool the buildings. These systems are safe, environmentally friendly, and are very efficient, reputed to save 30 to 60 percent on monthly energy bills. Compact fluorescent bulbs, and hand dryers, faucets, and lighting fixtures that operate with motion sensors also are adding to the facilities' energy efficiency.
The construction company that won the state contract had no experience with sustainable practices or products, and initially demonstrated some resistance. Reserve staff hosted a number of special education meetings for the construction workers and monitored the project's progress daily.
After 19 months of work, the construction was completed in May 2003.
"Right now, this is the only thing I'm interested in talking about, I'm so proud of it," says Wright, who will be retiring in January 2004 after 25 years. "This is an achievement for all of us. I think it's a great thing."
For information on the materials and techniques used at Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Reserve, you can download a brochure at www.dnr.state.oh.us/dnap/publications/brochures/greenbldgbro.pdf (requires a plug-in such as Adobe® Reader® to view). You also may contact Gene Wright at (419) 433-4601.