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Environment is in first place at Arc of Steuben

BATH—The new office building of The Arc of Steuben isn’t just attractive, it’s the first certified Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design (LEED) building in Steuben County. A new office building was a definite need for the organization that had services scattered at five sites in the huge county. In about 20 years, Arc of Steuben grew from 400 consumers and a staff of 125 to 2,200 consumers and 400 employees all reflected in an $18 million annual budget.
After screening a brief video, Development director Ethel Strickarz began the tour of the new building that is just off Route 54 north of Bath where the sheltered workshop is located. One of the first features a visitor notices is that there are lots of windows throughout the two-story building. Strickarz said, “The amount of lighting needed is far less.” Office doors have very large windows, letting additional light into the building’s interior. Another benefit the windows offer is the view of the distant hills, visible from virtually any window.
Conservation of resources is a hallmark of a LEED building. During the tour Strickarz said lights in office areas are timed to turn off automatically. Several water conservation techniques were also built into the new structure. Heat pumps provide additional energy savings. Heat pumps do the work of both furnaces and air conditioners. A U.S. Department of Energy document calls heat pumps an alternative to both furnaces and air conditioners. Basically heat pumps use electricity to move heat from a cool space to a warm one, making the cool space cooler and the warm space warmest. Because they move heat rather than generate heat, heat pumps can provide up to four times the amount of energy they consume. One of the features that was considered was geothermal energy. However, that proved to be more expensive to install than the heat pump system that was chosen. Executive director Bernie Burns said that was one of the features they considered but rejected due to the startup cost. The building cost $4 million. One quarter of that amount was raised from the public and the balance was bonded for 30 years.
The organization was always in need of conference rooms and that need was filled in the new building that features four in various sizes. These are also available to the community as well. She said the organization “Has tried to find ways to bring the community in.”
The second floor, which offers room for expansion, houses support staff. Strickarz said, “In the past we built what we needed and soon outgrew it.”
The need for services expands constantly, for example for individuals with autism, making the need for more services necessary.
Notable during the tour was the quiet throughout the building, despite the presence of a large number of staff members. A closer look revealed sound absorbing materials in the ceiling, flooring and in the dividers between the work areas. The dividers reached about six or seven feet in height and while allowing more natural light into the area also were amply covered in a material that helped absorb sound. The furniture is another good environmental feature; although it looks like furniture anywhere, it is recyclable.
The design of the building is very attractive and from the outside there would be no way to determine that it is as energy efficient as it is. The $4 million cost is balanced by energy savings estimated at $100,000 annually.
Its designation as a LEED building was received by the Washington D.C.-based US Green Building Council, an internationally recognized green building certification system which provides third party verification that a building was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performing the metrics that matter the most: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts. Their website notes the standards were developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.
There are several benefits of certification. The buildings cost less to operate and maintain, they are energy and water efficient, they are healthier and safer for occupants and are a physical demonstration of the values of the organizations that own and maintain them. Although it does not apply to the Arc of Steuben building, buildings that are certified have higher lease up rates than conventional ones in their markets.
The design is beautiful and the building, being the first LEED Certified in the county, is a special feature that will enhance the work of The Arc of Steuben in future years.

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