Taking Pride in LEED Certification: Assisted Living Industry Seeks Sustainable Infrastructure
ACHR News: Contractors Provide Assistance to Assisted Living
Peconic Landing is a continuing care retirement community in Greenport, New York. Its 144-acre campus is made up of 109 cottages and 187 apartments for residential independent living as well as assisted-living apartments and accommodations for skilled nursing, short-term rehabilitation, and memory support.
The community’s expansion independent living apartment building earned Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum-certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in December 2016, and its Health Center building, which houses the community’s short-term rehab and memory support areas, received LEED Silver-certification in July 2017.
“We want to ensure we are being good neighbors by embracing environmental stewardship opportunities,” said Robert J. Syron, president and CEO of Peconic Landing. “While LEED certification is a good example of that commitment, our sustainability efforts are ongoing. We have an active and engaged group of members who continue to advocate for ‘living green.’”
Steve Carroll, Peconic Landing’s CFO, said one of the challenges of creating a comfortable yet highly efficient environment at a seniors housing campus is that seniors often have a different tolerance for ambient temperatures than younger people do. Therefore, they tend to value comfort over conservation.
“Because of their lower tolerance to being too hot or too cold, seniors can be very demanding when it comes to heating and cooling,” Carroll said. “Investing in a high-efficiency system helped us meet our residents’ comfort needs in a cost-effective manner.”
Darryl Volinski, director of environmental services at Peconic Landing, said one benefit of being LEED certified is the pride the residents take in living in a green community. From his point of view, an added benefit of going through the LEED process was having another set of eyes on the project. The USGBC’s LEED for Homes program requires project teams to work with third-party raters from the design phases throughout construction and final commissioning.
“On a big project, like our expansion apartment building, a lot of things can be missed, so to have the LEED Green Raters here making sure everything was up to par was a big positive,” he said. “The testing they did to ensure we were insulated properly and the equipment met LEED criteria made me comfortable that our residents were going to be comfortable.”
The heating and cooling at Peconic Landing’s apartment building is supplied by high-efficiency (96.5 AFUE) furnaces and 16-SEER condensing units for each apartment. Rooftop units (RTUs) with variable-speed compressors serve the common areas. The apartments meet whole-house ventilation requirements with continuously operating Energy Star bathroom exhaust fans. The Health Center’s resident rooms are served by variable-refrigerant-flow (VRF) fan coil units, and the center also features high-efficiency condensing boilers for domestic hot water and a high-efficiency closed-loop cooling tower.
“Due to the nature of its layout and connection to the existing building, the Health Center was more difficult to air seal and perform well during the blower door tests,” said Karla Butterfield, sustainability director with Steven Winter Associates, the LEED for Homes provider. “The process is rigorous and requires collaboration from the entire design and construction team. Plans and specifications were reviewed to ensure strategies were implemented to reduce energy, water, and material consumption, as well as to increase the indoor air quality and experience of the occupants. Inspections were made during construction, energy modeling was used to evaluate systems, and the building was final tested and verified to ensure performance.”
The team at Peconic Landing had the foresight to realize LEED certification was just the beginning, and the community would need to properly maintain the systems to ensure they remained efficient in the future.
To that end, the community hired mechanical consultant Michael Katzmark, owner of Control Solutions Inc., North Haven, Connecticut.
Katzmark said remote monitoring is a key to not only optimizing system operation but also keeping the system operating trouble-free for the residents.
“If the system has a fault, it sends an email to me, Darryl, and the building maintenance department,” he said, “Our goal is to address any problem before the residents even notice it.”
Katzmark added that, in addition to keeping the equipment properly maintained and monitored, mechanical contractors can provide another valuable service to operators of senior living facilities: good communication.
“Many of the problems that can be encountered on a project of this size — some of which don’t show up until the commissioning process — can be avoided simply by keeping good lines of communication open from the HVAC contractors, to the general contractor, to the end user,” he said.