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Idaho community embraces green building

Dani Grigg
Dolan Media Newswires

Boise, ID — When the city of Driggs put out a bid package for construction of a new Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified community center and city hall in early 2006, none of the bidding contractors had done a LEED project.

None of them had taken significant training in the green building methods, either.

And the project’s architect was just finishing LEED certification classes as the project broke ground.

“It was a training process for the contractor that got the job, and then it was, of course, a training process for us,” said Driggs Mayor Louis Christensen.

The center was awarded its certification last month, achieving 28 points for everything from site selection to recycling to buying local materials.

It missed its goal of qualifying for silver-level recognition by two points. Christensen said the team could have contested the points shortage, but that would have cost the city another $500 per point.

Project architect Garett Chadwick of Plan One/Architects in Driggs said two examples of where the project fell short of its goals were in optimized energy performance and parking capacity (too many parking spaces translates to less encouragement of alternative transportation).

But Chadwick said he’s not going to mourn the lost silver too much.

“There’s no question that you can do better — you can always do better,” he said. “But a lot of it is related to cost. I think you have to commend a municipality for putting the money where their mouth is. They want to encourage builders and designers in the region to do something like this, and what better way than to lead by example? You can always do better, but at some point for the city, particularly in a rural region of the state like we’re in, cost is always an issue.”

The mayor and Chadwick both said the added cost of obtaining LEED certification — which is offered by the U.S. Green Building Council — was worth it, especially because it showed local builders and designers that certification is possible.

“LEED is a great measuring stick,” Chadwick said. “People can talk about doing green building, but the USGBC’s LEED program is still the benchmark that other green programs are measured by.”

The community center was a substantial rebuild of an old supermarket. Crews reused more than 75 percent of the existing structure and shell in the rebuild, which was classified as new construction when it was registered.

Chadwick said if the project were to go forward now, the USGBC would classify it as a LEED for core and shell project.

Driggs, with its population of about 1,300 people, is home to one of Idaho’s 19 projects listed on the USGBC’s Web page for achieving any level of LEED certification.

Two other projects in Driggs are registered for future certification: 100 North Eco-Park, a mixed-use project seeking neighborhood development certification, and Aspen Lodge, a resort seeking new commercial certification.

The city is working on zoning and building codes to encourage green development. It has also participated in Yellowstone Business Partnership’s efforts to create green building guidelines tailored to its region. The program will include a track for governments to become certified based on the regulations and incentives they have to promote green building and sustainable development.

Christensen and Doug Self, Driggs planning and zoning administrator, said they want future development to continue in the path established with the community center’s foray into green building.

“I think we generally like to set ourselves apart from other communities, and we see this as one way we can do that. We like to think of ourselves as being innovative and using resources wisely,” Self said. “I think the people that have lived in the valley a long time are very practically minded, and I think green building goes hand in hand with that philosophy. It’s asking, ‘How can we do things efficiently?’”

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