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Connellsville's first green building back on track

| Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013, 4:42 p.m.
Geno Gallo of Connellsville sits on fabricated walls during construction of a trail-side cottage located across from Yough River Park in Connellsville on Friday, February 15, 2013. The building is a trail-side cottage prototype green building and is going to be used for a meeting place for Sustainable Connellsville, a nonprofit aiming towards hospitality in Connellsville along the Great Allegheny Passage, as well as being used as a bed and breakfast. Evan R. Sanders | Daily Courier

Connellsville's first green building is approaching the fast track stage, city officials said recently.

A setback occurred when a key local supplier filed for bankruptcy after accepting a deposit on panels, said Geno Gallo, Connellsville's volunteer sustainability coordinator.

However, the majority of building materials are on on site.

“Once the weather breaks we can resume construction,” he said.

The green building is being constructed on the Yough River Trail opposite Col. Crawford's Cabin.

Current costs are about $65,000, Gallo said, with grants comprising about half of the funding.

“We have two grant sources — the Fayette County Tourism and the West Penn Power Sustainability Fund,” city Councilman Brad Geyer said.

Private sources also are contributing to the building's costs, Geyer said.

Because the structure is a prototype, some building components were designed and made from scratch.

“Subsequent buildings will be less expensive,” Gallo said.

“Primarily the structure is a green building prototype that will serve as both an educational and experimental tool for designing future buildings. It will be utilized as a meeting place for Sustainable Connellsville and opened to the public during certain outreach events. At some point, perhaps by late summer, early fall, it (could) be offered for overnight rental for trail users and transient tourists.”

It could accommodate as many as six overnight guests, he said.

Some tours will be geared toward children, Gallo said.

“Currently, curriculum is being designed around the green building for different ages,” he said.

“As it sits right on the bike trail, we will have information for the trail riders about the town, as sort of a second welcome center,” Geyer said. “Also, we are going to showcase some local products made here in Connellsville. I think that is always a perk of any project.”

Gallo hopes the project will inspire additional green projects in the city.

“In fact, this project has spurred construction on a new, six-room bed and breakfast just across the street. It is being built utilizing some of the very same techniques and materials,” he said.

The attraction of the green building is hoped to encourage tourists and cyclists to linger and, ultimately, spend some time and money in Connellsville.

In the future, Gallo said, kit forms of the prototype building may be sold to investors.

“Our building has been designed specifically to appeal to eco-conscience travelers, a rapidly growing segment of the tourism market,” he said.

Gallo characterized the building's impact on the environment as “extremely low.”

“By sourcing things produced locally, we have reduced the energy needed to get the materials to our building site. ... By building a super-efficient structure, long-term operating costs are reduced by 90 percent over conventional construction. Eventually, we hope to add a small solar (electrical) system and turn it into a Netzero building,” he said.

Gallo defined Netzero as producing as much energy as is consumed.

A “cradle-to-cradle” design means the majority of the building's individual components could be recycled or reused in future projects, he said.

“Our key component is our wall and ceiling panels, comprised of structural insulated panels,” Gallo said.

The wood used is certified as having been grown with sustainable forestry practices. The glues binding fiber and laminating it to the foam core are certified environmentally responsible products, Gallo said.

Another key feature is the building's “living roof,” he said.

“We have forsaken asphalt shingles for a different approach. Our roof consists of a waterproof membrane upon which we will place lightweight growing medium and grow grasses and wildflowers,” Gallo said.

The roof will slow rain water runoff into the nearby Youghiogheny River and help rid the water of pollutants and toxins, Gallo said.

The building is expected to near completion in May.

“However, since it will be serving as a laboratory we doubt it will ever be ‘finished,' at least in the conventional sense of the word,” he said.

Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or mpickels@tribweb.com.

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