LEED Enhances Learning

March 27, 2006
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GRAND RAPIDS — Project Manager Shayne Malone said when considering the new environmentally responsible building design for his family’s Sylvan Learning Center, the question was, “How can we enhance the learning environment?”

And that went hand in hand with another question: “Can the LEED environment actually enhance learning?”

Malone and his sister, Hillary Malone, director of the learning center, believe that it does. The center, which was built as an expansion of the former site, opened in November and is expected to be the first SylvanLearningCenter in North America to receive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification, which they hope to hear about this month.

Thanks to the high quality of the indoor air and the natural light, the Malones said they see a difference in the way students act when they participate in the tutoring programs at the center, which is located at

3910 Burton St. SE
.

“A lot of the kids seem to have a lot better focus and attention when they’re here,” Hillary Malone said, adding that they also seem to have a higher energy level and be more productive than they were in the older part of the building, which is now being used by someone else.

“They just feel better when they’re here,” she said.

There are many factors contributing to the healthier environment, including two energy recovery ventilators with a constant exchange of air, which means the center is filled with new air every two hours. The paints and adhesives are low-volatile organic compound and the insulation is made from soybeans. The floors are made with cork, which is sustainably harvested bark from cork trees; the cabinets are made from wheat grains free of urea-formaldehyde; the carpets are recyclable; and the bathrooms are furnished with dual flush toilets that use less water.

Shayne Malone said that 97 percent of the construction waste was diverted from landfills. The house that was on the lot where the new expansion now stands was gutted and the materials were sent to Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, a building materials outlet store that sells its merchandise at discounted prices or uses the donated goods in Habitat houses.

The learning center has two rain gardens made with compost, sand, soil and pea stones, which help to divert storm water. In the spring, flowers will be planted to aid the process.

“That was a kind of nice learning experience for us,” he said.

After spending time in California and learning about green building, Malone was surprised to come home to Michigan and see how the movement had caught on.

“It was a pleasant surprise,” he said.

When the family business needed to expand, the Malones felt it was time to experiment with LEED building.

“We basically thought it was a perfect fit for Sylvan,” he said.

Though there are no plans for renovating the other Sylvan locations, Shayne Malone said if another location is built, it will be built to LEED standards.

“The more we can do in that regard, the better for everyone it is.”    

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