by Eileen Weber
There is another use for the term “intelligent design” and this one has no spiritual connotations. For the Connecticut Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council (CTGBC), it refers to the design and construction of a building or home that uses its resources wisely in an environmentally friendly way.
According to a recent press release from the CTGBC, five separate structures were recently awarded for the sustainable building practices utilized in high performance, design and construction, and energy efficiency.
The Most Intriguing Residential Award was given to Easter Fields House in New Milford. Mark and Jim Picton of Picton Brothers LLC, were the developers. According to the Picton’s web site, it is one of the most energy efficient homes in Connecticut.
“The most amazing thing about it is that the house is so liveable in such a compact form,” said Mark Picton, Co-Founder of the Washington Depot-based company of the 900 square foot home. “It’s good for a family of four or a retired couple. It’s a lot of function in a small space.”
Picton Brothers chose a sustainable building site in the Merryall section of the town. The home was officially awarded a LEED Platinum certification this past winter for not only making the most of the living space efficiently, but for using local materials like reclaimed wood, photovoltaic installation and foam insulation. As a result, the house has a significantly reduced carbon footprint.
In the Most Intriguing Commercial category, the Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) of New Haven, Inc. submitted the Home Improvement and Energy Conservation Laboratory. The building immediately caught the Green Building Council jury’s attention. According to the NHS, the building holds hands-on classes in home repairs and energy conservation. Adding to that, the Lab functions as “a green demonstration model” for the community and incorporates many sustainable features that readily demonstrate building projects the neighbors can examine firsthand and understand well enough to undertake on their own.
“The most immediately recognizable features is the daylighting system” according to Henry Dynia, Director of Design and Construction for the NHS project, as quoted in the press release. “We have a contest going to see how long we can keep the lights off in the winter months,” he reportedly said with a smile.
The solar tubes capture natural light at the roof level and bring it down into the workspaces refracting the natural light through the use of prisms to create an even higher level of light. The light can also be controlled for low light needs such as video presentations.
Originally a neighborhood grocery store in the late 1890’s, the building, much like the Easter Fields House, illustrates how much can be created out of a very small space and budget. Many of the products used in the building are recycled including light fixtures, built-in cabinetry and office furnishings. The extensive green roof planted with sedum accommodates any future expansion the photovoltaic array already providing energy to the building. The first residential scale cogeneration system in the state is used to heat and cool the building. (Cogeneration is an efficient use of the heat emitted as a by-product of electricity generation.)
The award for Intriguing Commercial project went to the architect firm Perkins Eastman for the GE Energy Financial Services Division newly completed headquarters in Stamford. The 280,000 square foot renovation of an already existing building is, if nothing else, an exercise in city Smart Growth. The building will be awarded a LEED Gold certification for the design and construction. One hundred percent of the building’s power is derived from green sources. As noted in the CTGBC press release, it is “very fitting that GE’s energy investment arm, GE Energy Financial Services Division, was presented the award for the most intriguing commercial interior by the Connecticut Chapter of the United States Green Building Council.”
“The decision to go green dovetailed beautifully with GE Energy Financial Services’ strategy to create an open and collaborative work environment which affords natural light to all employees,” says design Principal Elisabeth Post-Marner. “Also, choosing not to build new and to house its offices in an existing building that was renovated but that maintained much of the core and shell, added to the environmentally responsive design. “
According to Scott Dorn, Manager of GE’s Corporate Properties and Services Operation, “What makes the 800 Long Ridge Road project intriguing is that it challenges the myth that execution of a LEED-certified project negatively impacts the completion of an aggressive schedule. 800 Long Ridge Road was built with recycled materials and energy efficiency in mind. The project was completed from initial design through construction in nine months.”
Other unique features in the building that received points for innovative green design are a series of branding walls which tell the history of GE’s commitment to alternative energy and also serve as a source of education for visitors and staff.
A little further up the road from Stamford in Fairfield County, the Darien Library was awarded the Most Intriguing Institution and is now the first LEED Gold certified library in New England. It achieved this certification based on the selection of its site, water efficiency, energy use and atmosphere, use of materials, and indoor environmental quality. It was also awarded points for the building’s innovation.
“The Darien Library is remarkable because it is intrinsically sustainable. The sustainable features are embedded within the architecture of the building and the landscape architecture of the site,” according to Peter Gisolfi, Principal, Peter Gisolfi Associates of Hastings-on-Hudson, NY, who lead the design team.
Nearly 90 percent of the library’s stormwater infiltrates the site as well as using a little over 40 percent less of its potable water. The building also saves nearly 50 percent in energy costs in comparison to other buildings the same size. Of the building materials used, ten percent are from recycled sources and 20 percent are local sources while almost 85 percent of the construction waste was recycled.
“The new Darien Library was envisioned, designed, and constructed with the idea that life cycle costs are more important than initial savings,” as stated on the library’s web site. “It is a beacon of sustainable design, serving as both an educational tool for the community and an inspiration for all.”
The Intriguing Award Institutional building, in the largest category of submissions, the Whiting-Turner Contracting Company provided a fine example of an existing building originally created for a different use. The 120,000 square foot Amistad Building was transformed from an office building to a research facility that achieved LEED Gold certification for Interiors. Considering its current function as a research facility, the energy savings achieved are incredible enough to warrant an award. This handsome building has achieved unparalleled success in its operation and efforts set forth by the client.
As a non-profit organization, the CTGBC seeks to improve the quality of life in Connecticut through the promotion of intelligently designed and constructed high performance energy efficient buildings. The organization regularly holds workshops on green building topics, networking opportunities, membership meetings, educational forums, seminars on green buildings and periodic state based LEED training in connection with the US Green Building Council. The CTGBC also monitors activities in Connecticut related to high performance green buildings and maintains a speaker’s bureau.
Photos courtesy of Picton Brothers, LLC, Perkins Eastman, and CTGBC.