|Green Building Practices Driving Design, Savings|
|By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff|
01:26PM / Wednesday, June 27, 2012
|The MountainOne crew poses at the Berkshire Hills Country Club.|
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The soaring windows of the new MountainOne Financial Center had their start in a more prosaic past: Long lines at pumps back in the 1970s when the oil crisis pushed gas to the exorbitant price of more than
||Left, architect David Westall discusses green building practices at the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce breakfast. Above, the MountainOne Financial Center he designed at its opening on July 11.
|50 cents a dollar a gallon.
The oil crisis sparked a movement for greater efficiency and sustainability not just in automobiles, but in the way we live and what we live in.
The MountainOne building, in its prominent position off East Street in the William Stanley Business Park, is an example of the latest trends in that movement, with the use of recycled structural materials, non-toxic interior elements, extensive and natural site preparation and high-quality heating and cooling systems.
David Westall, architect for the building, underplayed the practices behind going green a little on Wednesday morning to the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce's monthly breakfast, held at the Berkshire Hills Country Club.
"It's not a sexy topic, it's dry as a bone," he said, ticking off a history filled with more than a few acronyms. But, he noted, "It's the forefront of design technology that's gaining momentum and acceptance and public awareness, and it's becoming more commonplace among all designers."
First came research into renewable energy after the oil crisis caused by OPEC (Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries); in the 1990s, the AIA (American Institute of Architects) formed a committee on the environment; then the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and the U.S. Department of Energy created Energy STAR ratings; the U.S. Green Building Council was formed; and finally, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) was created to support and certify green building design, construction and operation.
"Green" is a handy term for describing a broad range of practices, said Westall, but every time someone uses less water, takes a bicycle rather than car, recycles anything or turns down a thermostat, "you are being green whether you know it or not."
Green in terms of architecture means everything from siting and design, to construction and materials sourcing, to maintenance and deconstruction. The goal, said Westall, is "to reduce energy and contribute to the health and productivity of the occupants."
The new financial center incorporates a number of those elements in a minimist style of form and function - concrete surfaces, radiant heating, natural plantings, high-quality thermal envelope and those walls of glass bringing in light.
"It's not all about looking at the numbers," said MountainOne CEO Stephen J. Crowe in a short clip about the building and MountainOne shown at the breakfast, which the financial group sponsored.
"This building is exciting to us because it is forward looking ... Long term, we think there are cost savings to using green concepts," says Crowe in the clip. "These obviously have immediate cost savings and we think long-term cost savings and that makes good business sense."
Afterward, Westall said his firm, Westall Architects of Williamstown, began working with green building practices about a decade ago. The movement has become more commonplace as the public has become more aware, he said, and more clients are focusing on those issues — or want it to the be focus of their building.
"It's becoming much more routine," said Westall. And while the design is always client-driven, "we always begin with at least considering what the most feasible green components would be."
The cost versus the savings depends on the type of building, the site, and the geographic location.
"We see numbers all over the place," said Westall. "Maybe a 2 percent premium up to a 17 percent premium but there's no two projects exactly alike ever, never. ... It may cost you more upfront but obviously part of the entire green building movement is to save money in the long run; if you save energy, you're saving money."
Diana Brooks led a cheerful salute to local businesses.
Westall, who also was assistant director for architectural service at Williams College, said his firm doesn't specialize in green buildings but if the impact of the MountainOne building led in that direction — "That's fine with me."
It's certainly something he's been thinking about. His "dry as a bone" lecture took a turn to the fantastic as he spoke of urban skyscraper farms, a floating eco-city with 50,000 people, magnetic levitated wind turbines to generate electrictiy for 75,000 homes.
"This are being worked as we speak," said Westall. "I think from a technological perspective, only our imagination stands in our way."
The morning's emcee, Diana Brooks of Diana Brooks Associates, led the Good News Business Salutes to:
• The Brien Center for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, marking more than 90 years of existence and 10 as the namesake of its late President Ray Brien. The agency serves 10,000 clients a year and recently purchased the Mount Carmel complex in Pittsfield for renovation to consolidate services. The center has a $21 million budget and employs 450 in 29 locations. In fiscal 2011, it generated some $4.5 million spent locally for goods and services.
• The award-winning Cranwell Resort and Spa is celebrating the opening in 2002 of what was the largest resort spa in the Northeast with a number of discounts themed on the decade. It also will open the 18-room Carriage House to replace the historic barn burned in 2010. The new structure has modern amenities but is built using the original architectural drawings found stored at the Boston Public Library.
• Lee Premium Outlets is marking its 15th year. The only outlet in Western Massachusetts, it has grown exponentially and now draws some 2 million visitors a year.
• Pittsfield Veterinary Hospital opened in 1962 in a converted two-story home. Dr. John Reynolds purchased the practice in 1996 and has since expanded with a new hospital, emergency service, pet salon and resort and, most recently, the North County Veterinary Hospital in North Adams. It has six veterinarians and employees more than 30 in its operations.
• Community recognition was given to the First Friday ArtWalk that began May 26 and has fast grown into 28 participating businesses that open their doors and walls to local artists and artlovers.