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Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009 05:53 pm

Southwind Park building seeks highest environmental rating

Now under construction, Erin’s Pavilion will be a showcase of energy savings

Erin's Pavilion is expected to open in July.

Once just sketches on a blueprint, Erin’s Pavilion has evolved.

Since last June workers have structured the exterior walls and poured the concrete floor of the $4 million, 15,000-square-foot multipurpose welcome center situated at Edwin Watts Southwind Park — an 80-acre “all people” recreation area near the intersection of Interstate 55 and Toronto Road.

When it’s completed in July, Erin’s Pavilion will serve many purposes. Dedicated to park fundraiser Butch Elzea’s daughter, who died at age 17 in 2000 after being confined to a wheelchair, the building will go above-and-beyond what the law requires for accessibility.

The building will also target Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) platinum certification for its renewable-energy efforts. David McDow, one of the project’s architects and a LEED accredited professional from The Walton Group in Springfield, says that only 77 other new construction projects have been recognized for this achievement across the globe.

It’s like a checklist, McDow explains. New construction must adhere to specific guidelines provided by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).

“You can rate how effective your building is as far as environmentally friendly and energy efficient,” McDow says. “It gives something to relate to, so when you’re comparing two buildings, you can see it — as opposed to someone just going out and claiming, ‘My building is environmentally friendly.’”

According to the USGBC, LEED awards points in five separate categories: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality. The number of points awarded to a building determines if it receives a certified, silver, gold, or platinum rating. Erin’s Pavilion must receive at least 52 of the 69 available points to reach platinum.

The Walton Group called on Vertegy, a sustainability consultant headquartered in St. Louis, to help tackle the design of Erin’s Pavilion. Vertegy has worked on more than a dozen LEED projects, including one that achieved platinum certification.

“When any of our clients come to us, the first thing we have to look at is what does the owner want and need in their building?” Vertegy founder Thomas Taylor says. “And then what has to be altered, changed, improved in order to elevate it to a LEED platinum building?”

Erin’s Pavilion will cater to children with extreme physical and mental disabilities, Taylor says, so it already called for a design that implements low lighting, superior air quality and ventilation, and solid sound and weather insulation. By first focusing on these elements of energy efficiency and indoor environmental quality, he continues, the points needed for a platinum rating began to add up.

“Sometimes you have to look really hard,” Taylor says, “and sometimes what the owners want is already lending itself to a sustainable building.”

The pavilion design calls for the installation of occupancy sensors, which regulate lighting, as well as heating and cooling, based on the number of people in each room. Materials, such as paints and adhesives, that emit low volatile organic compounds — sometimes harmful to people with lung disorders or chemical sensitivities — into the air were chosen for inside the pavilion.

Two other unique design elements have also been implemented, McDow says. The exterior walls of Erin’s Pavilion are made of insulating concrete forms, which provide two layers of insulation reinforced by steel and eight inches of concrete. This not only saves energy, he explains, but also provides strong support and thermal protection.

Erin’s Pavilion will be heated and cooled by a geothermal heat pump system. Instead of drilling wells, they’ll drop the loops into the pond behind the building. The pond becomes the heat exchange, McDow says — when the air conditioning runs in the summer, it will put the heat into the water; when the heat runs in the winter, it will take the heat from the water.

When it’s finished, Taylor says, Erin’s Pavilion will be so integrated with “green” components that it will be difficult to highlight one without mentioning them all.

“It’s something that will be a real standout, a real solid example of what can be done,” he says.

Contact Amanda Robert at arobert@illinoistimes.com.

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