June 6, 2017—(Washington, D.C.)—This week is the High Performance Building Coalition’s High Performance Building Week. USGBC is one of 200 HPBC members that support policies and legislation that advance the next generation of buildings. This national week of education and advocacy brings together manufacturers, trade associations, skilled labor and contractors around the message that buildings are an integral part of America’s infrastructure.
The state-of-the-art Stephen Sondheim Theatre was the first Broadway house to earn LEED Gold. Designed to create the highest-quality environment for audiences, cast and crew, the 50,000-square-foot building reflects New York’s vision of a more sustainable future, and makes a strong statement on behalf of green performing arts centers around the world.
We sat down with Jessica Keenan Wynn, who plays Cynthia Weil in "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical," on what it takes to be a successful actor performing eight times a week, and how the theatre—from the stage to the back-of-house operations—directly contributes to her health and well-being. Watch our video:
We also sat down with the Pam Campbell, partner at COOKFOX Architects, who led the renovation and oversaw the theatre’s LEED certification. In the Q&A below, she shares some of the unique challenges and opportunities with rebuilding a state-of-the-art venue as part of the adjacent One Bryant Park (the two are connected at the base) and reflects on the rewarding aspects of creating healthy workplaces and vibrant public spaces for everyone to enjoy.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your career, and the role you played specifically in the Stephen Sondheim Theatre’s renovation?
A: The project, which was then called the Henry Miller Theatre, had really just started when I joined COOKFOX, so it was a great opportunity to grow together with it. With all multi-year, complicated projects, the team really expands and changes over time from the design and the construction side, but I was really fortunate to be able to see it from the inception of the design, coming together as an idea, through opening night, which was wonderful.
Q: You transformed the 1918 Henry Miller Theatre into what is now a modern venue for all manner of productions. The fact that it also falls within the purview of One Bryant Park is also of note. What makes this theatre a unique space?
A: All Broadway theatres go through multiple renovations, and some of them extremely extensive. With the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, we really built a new theatre, which is fairly unusual in itself, but it was unique, I think, in a way that we had the responsibility to reinstate that site as a space for performing arts, which historically it had been.
It had a very colorful past, and we really wanted to pay respect to the design intention of the original creator, Henry Miller, who had his own philosophy about the new American theatre back in the time that it was built, and the proportions and the sort of space that it needed.
Meshing that goal with the responsibility to create new resources for the city and the sustainability aspects that we have to think about in new buildings, in many ways the theatre is an interesting intersection of looking after the cultural and historical resources that have been passed down to us from previous generations, and looking to create new resources for the future of the city.
The Stephen Sondheim Theatre.
Q: Tell us a little bit more about this space type. It has to accommodate a fluctuating number of occupants, and it’s typically very energy-intensive. Were there any particular strategies or LEED credits that you pursued that addressed those concerns?
A: Most of us experience performing arts under the mantle of public buildings and spaces as an audience member very briefly, and generally on an occasion of some sort. What we realized is that this isn’t just an occasion outside our daily routine, this is a workspace, a daily workspace for lots of people. So, that really refocused us towards the idea of a healthy workplace for people working long hours every day, and specifically focused on the indoor environmental credits.
We applied the commercial interiors-based system to the theatre, which wasn't that straightforward. There were credits for daylight and views, for instance, that weren’t appropriate for a theatre space, or walk-off mats that you can’t incorporate into the restored historic marble floor of the oval box office lobby, which is where you enter the theatre.
So there were definitely a lot of challenges in applying that system, but for the credits that we could achieve, we really focused on material choice and air filtration to create a healthy indoor air environment.
Q: I understand that something like 95 percent of the particulates are pretty much scrubbed from the air in the space. Is that accurate?
A: There are MERV15 filters in the air handling units that take about 95 percent of the particulate matter out of the air, which encompasses all air that is being delivered to the theatre space itself, as well as to the back-of-house spaces, the changing rooms and the offices where everyone spends their time.
Q: I would imagine that there would be some fairly unique heating and cooling techniques throughout the building, some things that are shared with One Bryant Park, that save a good amount of energy?
A: Correct. The theatre had the great advantage of being built at the same time that they were building the attached office tower, so sustainability strategies that made sense for a large office project could also be intertwined into the theatre as well.
I think that’s really a good argument for mixed-use planning, mixed-use zoning and how you can integrate the design of these various different uses, not just in terms of program. The two buildings were built as part of each other. We retained the historic façade of the theatre, and portions of the lobby, but beyond that, everything behind the façade was a new building with new systems.
One of the interesting things that is very common with theatre design is underfloor air. We debated it for the office tower, since it is still rare in this country, although it has a lot of benefits. It’s quieter and it brings the cool air closer to where you are sitting. We ended up doing underfloor air in the office tower as well as the theatre, as it made sense in both for many of the same reasons.
Q: How did the team work together to solve the design challenges you mentioned?
A: There was a very large team of consultants on this project, some of which were unique to the theatre, some of which were shared with One Bryant Park. We had specialist consultants, acoustic designers and theatre consultants, but a large team—and really the commitment from the client organization that wanted to achieve the sustainability goals that we were aiming for—was critical.
With any project, it takes four or five years to go through, and it’s a real challenge to keep up that momentum and commitment to sustainability. Having a dedicated team from the client side overseeing that was very important; when you get to the last minute scramble when everyone is trying to pull everything together for opening night, it’s important that somebody is still keeping an eye on those things. So having the support of the client and a dedicated person in charge of those elements was really important.
Q: What is the impact of green public assembly buildings on employees, visitors and the neighbors around the space that you've created?
A: I think public buildings, such as performing arts spaces, really have a unique opportunity because they are spaces that can be experienced by so many different people, and even if it’s brief [exposure], they are a great option for outreach and education, which a lot of other building types aren’t.
You might pick up magazines and read about how an office space has been designed, or a house somewhere that has been designed to meet high sustainability standards, but most people, in their day-to-day lives, don't have the opportunity to interact with spaces like that. So I think that's where public spaces really have a huge responsibility to push things and to make sure that people around them are aware.
Q: How do you think visitors and audiences experience the theatre, knowing everything that went into the project?
A: I think it is an unusual space in that it is a combination of new materials and old materials, and I think that creates a unique experience that people pick up on. There were some salvaged materials from the old theatre that were there in the form of decorative plaster work, and those are really juxtaposed beside newer materials like paper stone, the compressed paper product that we used in various locations of the interior. Those new and old materials together are something that is quite unique and that hopefully draws the eye and makes people ask questions like “What are they, were did they come from?”
Are you looking for a way to further your green building connections and engage with other LEED professionals online? LinkedIn groups are a great way to share ideas, challenges and updates related to all things LEED.
Some of these groups are officially run by USGBC, and some are started by architects, engineers or other sustainability professionals. Unlike other types of social media, LinkedIn is a platform focused specifically on workplace expertise, networking and discussion, so you'll find the conversation more centered on professional interaction.
Connect with other LinkedIn users to share your green building knowledge and, in turn, to learn from them about achieving your LEED goals.
This spring, the USGBC West Virginia Market Leadership Advisory Board held a strategic planning session focused on 2017–2018. Following the community’s 2016 alignment with the national USGBC organization, the timing was right to revisit community goals and set strategic priorities for upcoming years.
Ultimately, we want to position USGBC as an effective and influential organization in West Virginia, supporting the mission of green buildings and communities for all. To reach this vision, we’ve established the following objectives for 2017–2018:
Provide increased value to our community members and grow our network throughout the state.
We’ve set up a short survey to learn more about what education and resources our community needs. Please help us improve your experience with USGBC West Virginia. Through our outreach, we hope to enhance our regular GBCI-approved education options, including webinars, LEED-certified building tours and in-person education/networking events.
Based on the results of the 2015 Green Building Economic Impact Study, we know that by 2018, green construction stands to account for 52,000 jobs, almost $3 billion in labor earnings and $4.46 billion in contribution to the GDP in West Virginia. Over the course of the next two years, USGBC West Virginia’s volunteers are working to foster growth in two market sectors where we believe we can make the strongest impact:
Sustainability programs and USGBC student groups are forming at universities across the state. Our volunteer leadership team is poised to provide education and support for the faculty and students leading these programs to prepare students for success in the green building market after graduation. This support includes resources and best practices for faculty and access for students to LEED Green Associate exam prep, local networking and hands-on volunteering through programs like Green Apple Day of Service.
Industry and manufacturing
Industry and manufacturing are big business in West Virginia, and we have a great opportunity to demonstrate that green building can have a positive effect on jobs, economic development and the cost of doing business. In addition to the energy efficiency and economic development conference in June, we are connecting with industry leaders to organize a roundtable discussion about the issues of energy efficiency and sustainable building design.
We hope you engage with the USGBC West Virginia community over the course of the year. Please visit our website and Facebook page for more information and to view upcoming events. We want West Virginia to thrive, and we know that green building will play a key role in the state’s growth.
LEED for Cities, USGBC's pilot certification system, is a dynamic assessment tool for increasing sustainability and quality of life at both the city and community levels. Delivered through Arc, the metrics you measure in LEED for Cities gives you the flexibility to set goals, leverage standards and implement strategies that are appropriate for the specific challenges you face in your local area.
Armed with this innovative framework, city leaders can share performance data to track progress in achieving their goals. By measuring this progress, cities can evaluate the effectiveness of current strategies with a feedback loop for improving urban planning and policymaking with an agile, evidence-based strategy. Your city or community can also benchmark itself against other world cities and achieve LEED certification.
Building a new generation of high-performance cities
In the short time since our LEED for Cities launch, 55 cities and communities around the globe have already begun testing the pilot.
One of the first to apply for precertification is the "smart" city of Songdo, South Korea, which currently boasts more than 22 million square feet of LEED-certified space. The city also has a district co-generation energy grid, below-grade pneumatic waste removal with central waste handling and recycling, numerous mass transit options and over 100 km of bike paths. In addition, a full 40 percent of Songdo's land use is green space.
Other international projects under way include the community of Hunan Road City, part of Jiangsu province in China; the LEED Performance Challenge-winning city of Surat in India; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; and Medini Iskandar in Malaysia, a planned smart city near Singapore. The cites of Belgrade, Serbia; Munich, Germany; and Savona, Italy are also taking steps toward LEED for Cities.
A major landmark community in New York City, the Shanghai HongQiao District and the BeiDaiHe New District in Hebei in China have registered for LEED for Communities. Two special economic zones, KHED city and Sri city in India, are also considering registering under the program.
In the United States, communities are equally eager. Among those in progress are the cities of Newark, New Jersey; Denver, Colorado; and Schenectady, New York.
The market leader in holistic sustainability
The LEED green building rating system is the most widely used in the world. Every day, more than 2.2 million square feet of space certifies to LEED standards, and the international demand continues to grow—LEED is currently in use in more than 165 countries and territories. It's part of a global movement in sustainability, economic development, data transparency and human wellness.
As the best-in-class solution to the unique needs of thousands of cities and communities all over the world, LEED for Cities also gives you the tools to track progress on your local clean air and climate commitments.
For the program’s first major recognition of participants, ECO is teaming up with USGBC Wisconsin as a part of the 2017 Transformation Awards Reception on June 8. A new award category, the BBC People’s Choice Award, has been established for the event and is exclusive to Better Buildings participants to highlight participant and program successes.
Featured Better Buildings Challenge participants will be promoted online and will be part of a program display at the Transformation Awards Reception.
Voting for the BBC People’s Choice Award recipient is open to Transformation Awards Reception attendees, and will take place in person at the event. Voters will be entered into an incentive prize drawing.
Criteria for voting on the BBC People’s Choice Award winner will be based on the building’s participation in six key areas of the program, as well the organization’s motivation for taking the pledge to work to improve energy efficiency within its building facilities.
The program is made possible in part by funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advancing Solutions to Improve the Energy Efficiency of U.S. Commercial Buildings (DE-FOA-0001168).
USGBC communities in the Mountain West have added “Resiliency in the Ski Industry” to the 2017 "Best in the West" webinar series. We welcome the region’s ski resorts and industry professionals to join the discussion on how to survive, adapt and grow in the face of unforeseen changes, catastrophic incidents and reaction to climate change.
Hosted by USGBC Utah, the webinar, set for 12 to 1 p.m. (MTN) on Thurs., June 29, will highlight projects around the region and offer insight into programs and initiatives to help mitigate climate change and bring the benefits of green buildings to cherished tourists destinations in our states.
The webinar is pending 1 GBCI hour and 1 AIA learning unit, for those seeking continuing education credits.
All Best in the West webinars are free to individual USGBC community members and cost $20 for nonmembers. To become a member or renew your membership, sign up on usgbc.org and select your community name under “Community details."
Join USGBC North Carolina for a celebration of the best of green building, a silent auction and an awards ceremony highlighting our successes and commitment to sustainability by those who are transforming the built environment every day. Tickets are on sale now for the fifth annual Green Gala and Sustainable Business Awards.
When: Thurs., September 21, 2017, 5:30–9 p.m. Where: Ritz-Carlton, 201 E. Trade Street, Charlotte, North Carolina
The Green Gala is the green event of the year in our area, with an expected attendance of over 300 industry professionals, executives, dedicated volunteers, students and others who represent the multiple facets of sustainable building, design and construction. We will all join in celebrating the people and projects that represent excellence in sustainability in the Carolinas.
Live polling for scholarship recipients and interactive bidding for silent auction items are back by popular demand. We are now accepting awards nominations, scholarship applications and silent auction items.
In addition, were seeking event sponsors interested in publicly sharing their commitment to sustainability and green building through high-level exposure at the year’s biggest green building event in the area. Your sponsorship and silent auction item donations will help USGBC North Carolina continue to drive the marketplace to provide green spaces in which we can all live, learn, work and play.
The last few months have brought a keen focus on the new U.S. administration's policy priorities. USGBC was pleased that the Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools announcement went forward as planned last month, and there have been a number of additional green schools policy developments at the federal level.
Green schools are bipartisan
The Congressional Green Schools Caucus is nearing its 10th anniversary of serving as an education platform for members of Congress, showing representatives how they can affect our nation’s approach to new and existing school buildings. Rep. Ryan Costello (R-Pa.) joined this year as a co-chair of the caucus, along with Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), for this session. Continuing bipartisan collaboration on educating members of the benefits of green schools supports similar bipartisan progress at the local level.
School buildings are part of the infrastructure discussion
Although the administration has yet to release its infrastructure plan, Congress has been active in advancing school facility construction and modernization as means of promoting job creation and efficiency. The Public Buildings Renewal Act would create $5 billion in private activity bonds for building or modernizing public structures such as public schools, state colleges, libraries, post offices and judicial facilities.
While not a panacea for school facility needs in the United States, the bill provides another funding vehicle to assist states and localities in updating public schools and other government facilities. The legislation has bipartisan support in both the House and Senate and could be an attractive solution as Congress considers changes to the tax code or an infrastructure proposal this session.
The House Education and Workforce Ranking Member Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) has introduced a far more ambitious plan to modernize school facilities. The Rebuild America’s Schools Act of 2017 would create a $70 billion grant program and $30 billion tax credit bond program targeted at high-poverty schools with facilities that pose health and safety risks to students and staff. The new construction and major renovations would be have to be consistent with green building standards, including LEED certification. The bill has significant support from House Democrats and will likely be on the shortlist of priorities for the House minority if Congress considers an infrastructure bill.
Learn more about the Public Buildings Renewal Act.
Learn more about the Rebuild America’s Schools Act of 2017.