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Building at Glacier National Park Garners LEED Gold Certification


The Apgar Transit Center at Glacier National Park. NPS Photo.

Glacier National Park's Apgar Transit Center (ATC) has received the U.S. Green Building Council's gold certificate for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for its "pioneering example of sustainable design."

The LEED Green Building Rating System is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings.

Park Superintendent Chas Cartwright says,
“We are very pleased and proud of this certification,” said Cartwright. “The design and construction team was diligent to incorporate sustainable design and construction practices and technologies throughout the project.”

The 5,400 square foot transit center was opened in July 2007 to serve visitors utilizing the Going-to-the-Sun Road shuttle system. The shuttle operates between July and Labor Day between the ATC on Glacier’s west side and the St. Mary Visitor Center on the east side. Shuttle service for 2009 will be available from July 1 through, and including, September 7.

To achieve LEED certification, documentation demonstrating that the project has successfully met the sustainable design and performance criteria set forth within the LEED Green Building Rating System was submitted, reviewed, and approved by USGBC.

An energy analysis early in the design process confirmed that space heating and lighting were the two largest potential consumers of energy for the new structure.

Based on that analysis, architects integrated day lighting and shading strategies into the passive design of the building. The location and size of windows and shading devices were tuned to the Northern Montana climate to optimize daylight and allow heat gain when it is most needed in winter, while keeping the building shaded and cool during the summer. Envelope insulation, high-performance glazing, and daylight sensitive lighting controls further reduce the energy building’s energy load. Much less heat is required and is provided through an efficient radiant baseboard system. In summer months, the dry climate lends itself to the effectiveness of efficient evaporative cooling.

The site design includes on-site storm water treatment, and native landscaping which eliminates the need for irrigation. Seeds of native plants in the construction site area were harvested and cultivated in an outstanding effort to replicate the exact microclimate of native vegetation creating a landscape that supports local ecology. Live plants were also salvaged, stored, and replanted after construction, including grasses, bushes, and trees up to 10 feet tall.

Cartright notes,

Beyond this LEED certified building, the park staff has continued to demonstrate its commitment to pursuing green solutions through a park-wide transportation plan, recycling, various initiatives fostered by the park’s Green Team and investigation of potential energy efficiencies and retrofits for existing park buildings. The Apgar Transit Center includes pedestrian paths connecting visitors to trails and the Apgar Campground, and the free shuttles have drastically reduced the operation of vehicles within the park.

According to the park,

The shuttle system allows park visitors to access many destinations along the Going-to-the-Sun Road while enjoying the spectacular scenery by riding on one of the park’s optional and environmentally-friendly shuttle buses. The shuttle system was established to offer a travel option for visitors to avoid traffic and parking problems associated with rehabilitation of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, and to offer an alternative to driving for park users.

I'd think almost anyone who has battled the traffic on the park's popular Going-to-the-Sun Road during the peak summer season would agree that the shuttle's contribution toward reducing congestion on the scenic road is a good thing. Incorporating efficient use of energy into the design of the transit system building is also a positive step for the park—and a good example for all of us.

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