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March 14, 2005

Design Of New Athletic Facilities
Seeks To Meet 'Green' Standards

UConn officials have registered the Burton Family Football Complex and Mark R. Shenkman Training Center with a non-profit organization, hoping it will become the University’s first building certified as meeting the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards for “green” buildings.

Once construction is completed, and if certification is granted by the U.S. Green Building Council, the complex would become the first college or university athletic complex in the nation to earn the designation, says Richard Miller, UConn’s director of environmental policy. The U.S. Green Building Council is a Washington, D.C.-based coalition of building industry leaders.

Construction of the $40 million, 165,000-square-foot facility began earlier this year, and is expected to be completed by summer 2006. The complex will include an indoor, 120-yard, multipurpose synthetic turf field, strength and conditioning facilities, athletic training and sports medicine facilities, academic resource areas for the Counseling Program for Intercollegiate Athletics (CPIA), offices, and more.

“There are unique challenges in constructing an athletic facility to meet LEED standards,” says Miller. “The indoor practice field is a large structure, with considerable open space, and there can be problems making such facilities energy-efficient, with their heating and cooling needs. On the other hand, these challenges have inspired some creative ideas from our design professionals. For example, infrared heating units will be directed to keep players on the field comfortable, and are more energy-efficient than heating the entire structure to a uniform temperature.”

“We’re extremely proud that these will be the first new construction projects on the UConn campus that will feature environmentally sustainable buildings,” says Jeffrey Hathaway, director of athletics. “The Burton Family Football Complex and the Mark R. Shenkman Training Center will be among the nation’s finest athletic facilities, and we are equally proud that they will be built with the ability to meet LEED certification.”

To become LEED-certified – a process certifying that a building project meets a wide range of environmentally friendly criteria – UConn officials first had to decide whether it was economically feasible to incorporate the special designs and equipment required to attain environmental sustainability. Once officials decided it was – the effort would cost less than 1 percent of the overall budget – they registered with the Green Building Council, indicating what measures would be taken. Another report will be filed after construction, and the council will review documentation verifying that the “green” design concepts have been included in the facility and are functioning as planned.

Miller says there are more than three dozen components in the construction of the Burton/Shenkman complex that promote environmental sustainability, from site selection to building design and selection of materials, energy and water conservation, and indoor environmental quality. Miller also says the University will earn creativity points by using 7,000-cubic-feet of peat excavated from the site to help restore and create wetlands that will be affected by the cleanup and construction activity at the former UConn landfill, which is scheduled to begin on the north side of campus later this spring.

Recycled steel will be used in construction of the facility, and the synthetic turf for the indoor field will be comprised of various recycled materials, including rubber from shredded tires and sneakers. Ninety percent of regularly occupied spaces in the complex will allow for natural daylight and external views, reducing energy costs by enabling passive solar heating in the winter, and providing a more conducive environment for those who use the building. Permeable pavement, as an alternative to concrete or asphalt, and “bio-retention” swales around the facility will help cleanse or renovate storm water and reduce runoff that can cause sedimentation, erosion, and localized flooding downstream of the site.

Although the Burton/Shenkman complex is the first building at UConn to be registered for LEED certification – the Green Building Council’s standards were only adopted in 2000 – architects and designers involved in every building project at Storrs, whether new construction or renovations – are required to follow UConn’s environmentally responsible, sustainable design guidelines, a set of principles and strategies for building projects. Energy efficiency, water conservation, conserving materials and resources, improving indoor environmental quality, and land management are among the areas that must be considered when planning a project.

The University also will consider every future project for its technical and economic feasibility of becoming a LEED certified project, Miller says.

Besides enhancing the environment, Miller says following the Green Building Council guidelines eventually will save money, through ongoing operational, maintenance, repair and replacement costs, even though there would be a design and construction premium at the front end. The environmental measures being taken at the Burton/Shenkman Complex, which will cost about $220,000, will pay for themselves in savings within five to 10 years, mostly through the built-in energy efficiencies and utility cost savings.

Also, as the LEED program begins expanding nationally, Miller says the cost of materials and equipment used in the projects will decrease as they become common, rather than specialty, materials.

“Through UConn 2000, the University has had a remarkable transformation over the past 10 years,” Miller says. “Now, with the beginning of 21st Century UConn, we have a tremendous opportunity to be a sustainable development leader among colleges and universities. By adopting our sustainable design guidelines and now, with the first LEED registered athletic complex in the NCAA, UConn has demonstrated its commitment to sustainable development.”