Recreation Center Achieves Platinum Status

Through design and practice, the UA Student Recreation Center expansion has achieved the highest level in sustainable design and construction – a LEED platinum certification.
Aug. 30, 2010
Deep roof overhangs shield the courtyard and windows from direct sunlight. (Photo credit: Bill Timmerman)
Deep roof overhangs shield the courtyard and windows from direct sunlight. (Photo credit: Bill Timmerman)
A fracture in the roof allows natural light into this large space. (Photo credit: Bill Timmerman)
A fracture in the roof allows natural light into this large space. (Photo credit: Bill Timmerman)
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The University of Arizona Student Recreation Center expansion project team set out to achieve a LEED silver certification and more than surpassed that goal by attaining a LEED platinum certification.

LEED certification and categories are issued by the U.S. Green Building Council, which provides independent, nationally accepted verification that a project meets the highest green building and performance measures. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

UA President Robert N. Shelton's construction policy called for a minimum of LEED silver certification. Midway during construction, the team was happy to find that LEED platinum – the highest level for sustainable construction – was within reach without additional project cost, said Peter Dourlein interim associate vice president of UA Planning, Design and Construction.

"To achieve this platinum level without having it as a mandate early on in the project is a phenomenal accomplishment and confirms that the University's practices are among the most sustainable in the nation," Dourlein added.

The LEED rating system offers four certification levels for new construction – certified, silver, gold and platinum – that correspond with the number of credits accrued in five green design categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources and indoor environmental quality.

The Student Recreation Center expansion project exceeded the platinum threshold by four points.

The University has long been a leader in designing and constructing energy-efficient, sustainable buildings by promoting design and construction practices that increase longevity while reducing the negative environmental impacts of buildings and improving occupant health and well-being.

The design team, led by Sasaki and M3 Engineering & Technology, the contractor Sundt Construction and the UA, especially the department of campus recreation, which operates the facility, aimed to keep student health and wellness and sustainability an integral part of the design.

The design team also accessed the expertise of campus sustainability leaders – those who teach sustainable design and construction or work daily to integrate green initiatives in their services, such as the UA Parking and Transportation Services, said Dourlein.

"The most sustainable building is the one you never have to build so it holds true that making the most of outdoor space and therefore reducing the indoor conditioned space we build is one of the greenest things we can do," Dourlein added.

A series of courtyards provides a variety of outdoor recreational activities such as yoga. There also are volleyball courts, shaded covered walkways and a larger space devoted for the center's Outdoor Adventures.

Natural light is used to the maximum capacity indoors with major building spaces in the expansion oriented so that natural light is prevalent throughout the building, yet direct sunlight is controlled by the building's signature roof overhangs.

Water harvesting, high-efficiency lighting and plumbing and the use of recycled building materials contributed to the platinum LEED rating.

The LEED certification process evaluates environmentally sound design, as well as efficient construction practices such as the use of local materials and recycling construction waste. The operation of the completed building is also a factor in the rating level. The construction team also used recycled materials where possible – from the recycled rubber for the flooring to recycling the parking lot upon which the center was built.  

The UA Student Recreation Center expansion project is the first LEED platinum university recreation facility in the country.

Students were also involved in the project to educate future construction and design leaders.

Students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' soil, water and environmental science program helped in the project's sustainability by making physical improvements and adaptations in the ways that the site and landscape capture and use rainwater, making the most of every rainfall.

The design includes a water retention basin under the outside volleyball courts where water from the center's roof is channeled to percolate into the ground.

"Various UA programs, students, faculty and staff came together to make the certification happen, and we couldn't be more proud," Dourlein added.  

The 53,000-square-foot facility, which was completed in November 2009, was funded by a special student fee.