Saint Mary's Goes Green

September 30, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — It’s too bad there’s already a city in West Michigan called “Greenville.” Otherwise Grand Rapids might consider a name change.

The business of “green building” has been booming throughout the area, especially when it comes to big-ticket institutional structures like health-care facilities and schools. West Michigan is quickly becoming a leader in LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).

The most recent issue of Environmental Design & Construction magazine showcases the winners of the third annual Excellence in Design awards, an international competition that ranks LEED-certified building projects. The Richard J. Lacks Sr. Cancer Center at Saint Mary’s Health Care in Grand Rapids claimed first prize in its category. It beat out a list of formidable opponents, including the William J. Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Ark.

Three big names in green building judged the “institutional, nonprofit organization, educational or health care” category. Rick Fedrizzi is president and founding chair of the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). Jerry Yudelson is an engineer who helps define and maintain LEED standards and who has helped organize the environmentally conscious Greenbuild International Conference and Expo. Michael Arny is the chair of the USGBC’s committee for retrofitting existing buildings to meet LEED targets.

The judges chose the cancer center as the overall winner because of its all-around focus on resource conservation, energy efficiency and avoidance of the use of harmful chemicals. For example, 98 percent of the demolition and construction waste was recycled. There is no formaldehyde in either the insulation batting or the composite materials used as trim throughout the facility. Some of the carpeting is made from 100 percent recycled materials. The linoleum flooring is made of renewable, organic materials. The exterior features both a rooftop garden and photovoltaic cells (solar panels). Almost every square inch of the 172,000-square-foot facility contains some unique energy-saving or resource-conserving detail.

Farmington Hill-based architecture firm Trinity Design said that its plans for the cancer center have “been designed to be a steward for the health of the patients, for the community and for the environment.”

Among the other winners were two more with West Michigan connections. The Haworth Chicago Showroom designed by Haworth and architects Perkins + Will, as well as the Herman Miller National Design Center by Krueck & Sexton Architects took honorable mention in the commercial, office, industrial, multi-use or corporate category.    

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