Peninsula Architects design is awarded the nation’s highest honor for green buildings

F.A. Seiberling Nature Realm, Akron, Ohio

For the second time in fewer than 20 months, a design project by Peninsula Architects has earned Platinum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). “Platinum” certification is the highest honor for creating one of the world’s most energy efficient buildings. The “Platinum” project was a re-design of the F.A. Seiberling Nature Realm’s 10,000-square-foot visitors center off Smith Road in Akron.

According to the USGBC, “LEED is an internationally recognized green building certification system, providing third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter most: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.”*

The USGBC website currently lists 35,631 LEED projects completed worldwide. 836 (about 1%) of these projects have been awarded Platinum status. At this writing, there are seven LEED Platinum buildings in the state of Ohio. Peninsula Architects is responsible for the design of two of them.

The F.A. Seiberling Nature Realm visitor center, originally built in 1991, was in need of more office space and better layout, according to Joseph Matava, president of Peninsula Architects in Peninsula, Ohio, “The park system wanted to make better use of their site and, since we had such great success with earning a Platinum certificate for the park’s Ranger and Natural Resource Management building, they gave us a call and we got to work.”

Peninsula Architects, worked with Metro Parks, Serving Summit County to renovate the center. The project required a complete gut of the interior, along with a small addition. Among a multitude of high and low-tech features, the project included LED lighting and dimmable fluorescent lights combined with motion sensors to illuminate rooms only when necessary. Solar panels mounted on the roof produce up to 18 percent of the power for the visitor center. Small heating and cooling units were installed throughout 16 different zones. These inside units were placed overhead to use less space. Each zone can be controlled individually, thus offering a reduction in energy consumption and costs.

Keeping true to the visitor center’s tie to ecology, the building touts sinks made of recycled milk jugs – which are affordable, durable and eco-friendly. Also, high-velocity hand dryers save energy and reduce paper waste. Recycled flooring used throughout the structure literally kept tons of wood out of landfills.

Peninsula Architects extended their eco-friendly approach to the visitor center’s outdoor canopies, structures and railings. For these, they used lumber certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council to have been harvested sustainably from a managed forest. Walkways were made of recycled wood and plastic.

Many of the other project’s ecological advancements are hidden, but, visible or not, they add up to a significant ecological impact. According to Matava, the project’s biggest positive impact was that the space was reused, rather than torn down. “Consider the ecological impact of reusing a newspaper versus an entire building,” he said.

Akron’s Cavanaugh Building acted as the project’s general contractor, which included the building, the grounds and the parking lot.

Peninsula Architects is already working on some residential projects using sustainable resources. “Our goal is to complete projects that make economic and ecological sense.” Matava said. “We’re glad to see people understand that ‘going green’ doesn’t mean going broke. In some instances, LEED projects don’t cost any more than traditional construction…and, in all cases, it’s a whole lot cooler!”

F.A. Seiberling was the founder of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. As an early conservationist, he donated 400 acres to expand the Sand Run Metro Park in Akron in the 1920s.

In 1964, the Metro Parks purchased a parcel of land that Seiberling once owned to create the F.A. Seiberling Nature Realm. The 104-acre, special-use site boasts gardens, observation decks, ponds, hiking trails and a tall-grass prairie.

About Peninsula Architects

Founded in 2001, Peninsula Architects offers a wide spectrum of residential and institutional projects. Central to the firms’ philosophy is sensitivity to the influences of context, and the effect these multi-layered influences have on the formation of a timeless and sustainable architecture. Peninsula Architects serves clients throughout the United States.

About Metro Parks, Serving Summit County

Metro Parks, Serving Summit County manages more than 9,000 acres, including 13 developed parks, six conservation areas and more than 120 miles of trails, with 18 miles of the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail. Annual attendance averages 4 million visitors.

About USGBC

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is a non-profit organization committed to expanding sustainable building practices. USGBC is composed of more than 15,000 organizations from across the building industry that are working to advance structures that are environmentally responsible, profitable, and healthy places to live and work. USGBC’s Mission is to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy, and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life.