The Staten Island Mental Health Society’s “green” Dr. Kenneth Popler Children’s Center in St. George has received LEED® Platinum Certification from the US Green Building Council (USGBC) – the highest level of environmental performance accorded by the Council. The Center, at 444 St Mark’s Place, is the borough’s first LEED-certified office building and the Platinum designation has been verified by the Green Building Certification Institute. The building opened its doors in October 2011.
LEED, an acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the nation’s pre-eminent program for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings. To achieve certification, LEED measures five key areas: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality.
The USGBC awards points for each instance of full compliance with these standards, with designated levels including silver, gold and platinum. By using less energy and water, LEED-certified buildings save money for families, businesses and taxpayers, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and contribute to a healthier environment for residents, workers and the larger community, according to the Council.
“We are absolutely thrilled, but not surprised, that our building received the top LEED certification,” SIMHS President/CEO Fern A. Zagor, declared. She praised project contractor CLJ Construction, architect Michael J. Tormey, and LEED consultant Chris Vander Weyden, director of Code Green Solutions, as “the engines who drove our building to the environmental summit.” Ms. Zagor also credited Assemblyman Michael Cusick with helping the Society obtain a $2 million New York State Capital Assistance Grant, which he ushered though the State Legislature. “With $8.5 million in specially raised funding, unswerving support from individuals, businesses and government agencies, and the guidance and input of extraordinary environmental experts, we were able to reach our goal in just six years,” she said.
In 2005, the SIMHS purchased a vacant, 13,000 sq. ft., three-story, century-old factory building in the heart of St. George, “with the goal of transforming it from drab and rundown into modern, energy-efficient and environmentally friendly,” Ms. Zagor said.
To facilitate the building’s metamorphosis with minimum impact on the environment, the contractor and subcontractors selected by the Society’s “green leadership team” were trained in green technology and construction techniques by environmental experts, including consultants and engineers from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), Con Edison and other local, state and federal environmental agencies.
The LEED Platinum Certification is based on a number of green design and construction features that positively impact the building itself, as well as the broader community, Ms. Zagor pointed out. Among the green elements and systems retrofitted into the structure are geothermal heating and cooling powered by two 1,550-foot deep geothermal wells; 96 rooftop voltaic panels to generate 50 percent of the building’s electricity; solar roof panels to heat water; exterior solar wall to pre-heat outdoor winter air before it circulates indoors; certified “cool roof” to repel summer heat; rainwater collection system that recycles rainwater for flushing toilets and other non-potable uses; water-efficient plumbing including waterless urinals; porous paving material to absorb stormwater runoff; interior carpeting, wall coverings, mats, and countertops fabricated from crushed glass, coconut fibers, reused plastic and other recycled materials; and non-toxic, no-VOC paints and finishes.
The Dr. Kenneth Popler Children’s Center is named for the SIMHS’s former president, who led the agency for 31 years before his retirement in 2013, Ms. Zagor noted, “It was Dr. Popler’s bold vision and legacy to create a model of responsible building and design for businesses and not-for-profits that complements the Society’s mission to safeguard the future of Staten Island through its work with children. This innovative, environmentally sound project is one of the SIMHS’s most important and far-reaching achievements.”
The center houses several frequently linked mental health and related services for children, adolescents, young adults and families. The Family Support program provides state-licensed, bilingual outpatient mental health services for children and their families; ASAP, the Adolescent and Adult Substance Abuse Program (formerly Teen Center) offers state-certified substance abuse prevention and treatment services for adolescents and young adults; and the DUI Program furnishes assessment and referral services to young drivers referred by the courts for DUI/DWI infractions. These programs serve 1,000 individuals through 20,000 visits annually, Ms. Zagor said.
According to Ms. Zagor, the SIMHS is already saving up to 50 percent in annual energy costs, money that is being reinvested into the services offered at the Center. She added that to keep the LEED certification, all green elements in the building have to be permanently maintained.
The facility has also received Green Building awards from the SI Chamber of Commerce and the SI Economic Development Corp., the Ecology Day 2012 Charles Langere Award from the Rotary Club of Staten Island, and was one of five finalists for a Small Business Best Practices Green Business Award from NY Enterprises Report.