Two Gyms Going For The Green

August 17, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — Grand Rapids Catholic Secondary Schools has taken the local lead in green gymnasiums. GRCSS is building two LEED-registered gyms — one each for its two high schools — and when construction is finished next spring, the gyms will be the only LEED-certified high school facilities in West Michigan

GRCSS is putting-up a 36,000-square-foot practice gymnasium for CatholicCentralHigh School at

2770 Knapp St.
NE. The $3.5 million project features multiple courts, a three-ring indoor track, and plenty of room to store equipment.

The other is a 35,000-square-foot competitive gym being built for WestCatholicHigh School,

1801 Bristol Ave. NW
, at a cost of $4.5 million. A standard-sized court is the project's highlight. It will allow the school to host tournaments and will free up the existing 40-year-old gym for practices. A new weight room, a multipurpose athletic room and locker rooms are other features.

According to GRCSS, more than 80 percent of its high school students participate in extracurricular activities, and each high school offers more than two dozen individual and team sport opportunities to those students.

Both gyms are expected to be completed in April.

BETA Design Group drew up the West Catholic gym, and Integrated Architecture did the same for the Catholic Central gymnasium. Pioneer Construction is managing the Catholic Central project. Rockford Construction is directing the work on the facility at West Catholic.

Rockford Construction's Tim Marcus is the project manager for the West Catholic gym, and he didn't think that building gymnasiums to green standards is a unique concept anymore.

"I think we're seeing more and more projects of all types being LEED certified. We're also doing the DavenportUniversity field house, which will be LEED certified. So I think there is interest across the board," he said.

By building green, GRCSS said the gyms will cost less to maintain and operate, will be energy and water efficient, have higher lease-up rates, and demonstrate the values the two high schools embrace.

Both gyms will contain the latest electrical and mechanical systems that will improve the indoor air quality, reduce energy waste and create cleaner and more efficient facilities. But Rockford Companies CEO John Wheeler doesn't think the gyms will produce benefits only for the high schools.

"We know these new gymnasiums will inspire students and faculty and promote a sustainable future for the Grand Rapids community," said Wheeler.

At West Catholic, the new gym is being built just south of the existing one. Both will be connected through a new lobby that will serve as a main entrance to both.

The key green element of this project is the installation of more than $60,000 worth of electrical photovoltaic lenses that will collect and convert the sun's rays into electricity and lower the school's utility bills.

"That's pretty unusual, particularly in Michigan, to see that. But that is kind of a neat function," said Marcus.

"Beyond that, (there will be) a lot of the typical things that we see as good green-building practices — the use of local resources, a high-energy efficiency rating to reduce energy usage, reusing materials to lower waste recycling. A large percentage of the waste that we will generate during construction will be sorted and will then go back into the building stream for use in other projects, rather than filling landfills," he added.

Marcus said about 90 percent of the waste and debris from the West Catholic project will be recycled, meaning a landfill will only see 10 percent of those waste materials.

"That just makes a lot of sense," he said.

An $8 million capital campaign driven by the high schools is paying for the new gyms, which will use up to 50 percent less energy than conventional gyms, reduce carbon monoxide emissions by 40 percent and consume 30 percent less water. The gyms cost more to build, but the schools will recoup that extra expense later on from operational savings.

LEED certification for both gyms will come shortly after the buildings are finished next spring and a review of both facilities is conducted.

Although Marcus said gaining a LEED endorsement is a good thing, he didn't believe it should be the primary motive for any project.

Marcus, who is LEED accredited and has been managing green projects at Rockford Construction for two years, said the most important reasons to build green are to create long-term sustainability and to make the correct environmental choices.

"To me the issue is building green, and the LEED certification of a project is just documenting that. If you're going to do it, call it the right thing and build a green building.

"When we say green, we're talking about sustainability, resources, energy efficiency and things of that nature. Then go ahead and say I'm going to document this process and have the (U.S.) Green Building Council give its stamp of approval," he said.

"That's the way I think of it, rather than people who say, 'Oh, it's a LEED building.' The savings do not come from having a certificate on the side of a building. Savings come from the good design and construction practices that put the building together. This is really just a verification by a third party."     

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