LEEDing the way

The first rule of sustainability is to align with natural forces, or at least not try to defy them. Paul Hawken

Theres no air conditioning.

The soil on the grounds includes construction waste.

Teachers hardly ever need turn on a light.

The roof and parking lots are non-reflective materials that minimize heat buildup.

Solar panels provide hot water.

More than 860 tons of construction waste were diverted from the local landfill.

Wood used in the project was largely FSC certified as sustainably produced.

These innovations, and many more, recently brought LEED Gold Certification to a Neenan Company project, the two new schools we built in Alamosa, Colorado. The two 72,500-square-foot buildings, which will serve kindergarten through 5th grade students in the high-mountain San Luis Valley in southern Colorado, were designed and built in just 19 months. Thats fastbut as the results show, speedy construction need not mean inattention to details such as sustainability.

Neenan managers on the $39.4 million project even found the time to conceive some imaginative new sustainability measures. For instance, gypsum drywall waste was ground up on the site and the result, largely gypsum, was added to the landscape soil, thus diverting waste from the landfill and ameliorating the high salinity of the valleys soil.

Imaginative as that isIts pretty unique, took a bit of finagling to manage that, says assistant project manager Sergio Ortizits worth noting that LEED certification also depends on some very simple, common sense items. For example, cooling is provided by relying on natural ventilation, aided by a recent innovation called energy recovery ventilatorsbasically simple devices that capture and flush heat.

Even simpler: The buildings are open to public use beyond classroom education. Whats more sustainable than creating buildings with multiple uses?

Two other Neenan Company projects also recently received LEED certificationthe Mitchell Block, anoffice in Old Town Fort Collins; and a new education facility, the Miami Yoder School, in Rush, Colorado. The Mitchell Block, among other innovations, includes a solar array, reduces landscaping water use 50 percent, and project managers diverted 94 percent of construction waste. At Miami Yoder, a ground source heat pump that helps achieve 52 percent energy cost savings, solar skylights for daylighting, and high performance windows. Both projects received LEED Gold certification.

Earlier this year, another Neenan school project, Sargent Junior/Senior High in Monte Vista, Colorado, won LEED Gold certification as well. Among other things, at Sargent, 91 percent of construction waste was diverted from landfills.

It may sound like we are getting used to LEED Gold certificates here at The Neenan Company, but we plan not to become complacent about these successes. Our goal on every project is to provide the best built environment for our clients, and sustainable buildings are certainly best in many waysthey save money, they safeguard natural resources, and they offer something to be proud of for everyone. Especially the communities in which we operate: After all, sustainability is about preserving and improving local communities.

Eric Lucas is the coauthor of David Neenans book No Excuses: Take responsibility for your own success, the 2nd, expanded edition of which will be released this summer.

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