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Upper St. Clair recreation center design shows a lot of green

| Thursday, April 5, 2007

The proposed Upper St. Clair Community Recreation Center and upgrades to Boyce Mayview Park are reaching the final stages of design and development, and there's one theme that's becoming prevalent in the entire project: Go green.

"We're trying to create a building that makes sense," said Paul Besterman, the township's director of recreation and leisure services. "It's a long process to try and get to a quality building."

The entire project -- planned to use "sustainable design" -- is divided into several phases and has been in the works for several years. It is set to include an 87,000-square-foot recreation center with two swimming pools, a fitness area and an elevated track, as well as two outdoor soccer fields, a baseball field, a softball field and an Environmental Education Center to be completed within the next several years.

While the final costs are yet to be determined, the overall project is budgeted at $22.5 million, commissioners President Ched Mertz said.

"Our goal was to design a project to take advantage of most of the natural aspects of the site," project manager Mark Edelmann of Bradford Woods-based EPM Architecture said. "This project is not just a building. We had to look at the whole setting and the environment that it is in. There's a lot of natural habitat here, and we need to take advantage of that."

The construction materials would be produced locally and include recycled rubbers and plastics. The building will have requirements for the percentage of recycled materials contained in the carpet and wood structures.

Other indoor green features would include the use of natural lighting and cost-efficient, low-energy products for heating and cooling.

"All of this will allow the project to be much less expensive to operate long-term," Edelmann said.

Mertz said township officials have been interested in green design principles since planning for the project began. "We felt that it made sense in operating costs," Mertz said. "We did it because it's cost-efficient."

The outdoor area's stormwater management system will include rain gardens, which use plants that absorb large amounts of water and send as much of the water back into the ground as possible, resulting in less stormwater runoff.

"Stormwater management is particularly important in our area," said Rebecca Flora, executive director the Green Building Alliance, South Side. "All of these things have a huge future impact on the environment, and it's extremely important that public sectors show this kind of leadership."

All of the plants used at the site will come from local growers and will be native to the region, which will reduce the need for irrigation systems, said Jason Jesso of Gateway Engineers, Green Tree, the site civil project manager.

While the project emphasizes environmental benefits and cost-effectiveness, Mertz said, the ultimate goal is meeting township residents' needs.

"This is an Upper St. Clair building," Mertz said. "It's being built for the residents. We want to make it inviting to all of our residents, of all ages."

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