Sparks Athletic Center LEEDs the way to sustainability

by Jennifer Johnson,

Fitness center renovation earns “gold” status from U.S. Green Building Council.

  • LEED team with award
    From left: Gary Grimm, Mark Mazurier, Jan Gardner and Steve Thorsett pose with the LEED award in Sparks.

A section of the Sparks Athletic Center recently earned one of the highest honors possible for its environmentally friendly renovation.

The two-year renovation of the Lestle J. Sparks Fitness Center — generously funded in part by gifts from Willamette alumni, parents and friends — received LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) gold certification.

The U.S. Green Building Council offers four LEED rating levels — certified, silver, gold and platinum — to recognize projects that are environmentally responsible and use resources efficiently.

Willamette’s efforts with the Sparks Fitness Center included salvaging existing materials and installing energy-efficient lighting, improved HVAC systems and water-saving fixtures. The project also used building materials with low or no VOCs (potentially harmful volatile organic compounds) and Forest Stewardship Council-certified forest products, and recycled more than 90 percent of construction waste. The building now uses less energy and water, while providing extra, improved space for fitness facilities, classrooms and locker rooms.

In 2008, Willamette achieved gold LEED rating for the construction of Kaneko Commons, making it one of the few such certified buildings in the Pacific Northwest at the time. In 2009, the university received gold certification for Ford Hall, which features solar power, rainwater collection and filtration, furniture built from trees that were past their life cycle on the site, and mechanical and electrical systems 40 percent more efficient than industry standards.

Joe Abraham, director of Willamette’s Sustainability Institute, says the university has consistently held itself to a very high green building standard for more than a decade.

He says, “Few of our peer institutions have been able to achieve as much LEED gold-rated square footage in that same timeframe.”

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