Retsil vets home celebrates its "green" touches

With the help of Washington’s first husband, Mike Gregoire, the Washington State Veterans Home at Retsil will celebrate its “greener” future.

“Our new building received a LEED gold rating,” said Heidi Audette, a spokeswoman with the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA). “We will have a ceremony Thursday (tomorrow) morning to install a plaque and introduce the different features that got the building to that level.”

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), and is a national rating system created by the U.S. Green Building Council. According to the council’s Web site, LEED promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality.

Audette said Retsil’s renovations received a “39” LEED score, which, according to the DVA Web site, is the amount of points the building earned from various touches, such as the designers installing energy-efficient lighting, ventilation, and heating and cooling systems when the state-of-the-art nursing facility began taking shape in 2003.

The Retsil project moved to the top of the federal government’s funding priority list following the Nisqually earthquake in February, 2001, since many of the home’s buildings sustained minor structural damage.

The centerpoint of the renovations is the new, $40 million nursing facility, which added 90 beds to the current facility and improved the living conditions with carpeting, increased privacy and more room.

Materials for those improvements, such as the adhesives, sealants, and composite wood products were designated as “low-emitting,” and the carpeting fitting the Green Label Program.

When the project began four years ago, seven of Retsil’s 1950s-era facilities were torn down, and to ease the transition between the familiar older structures and the new, modern-style buildings, many of the classic architecture elements were salvaged and potentially re-installed elsewhere in Retsil.

That re-use also helped improved the project’s LEED rating, since another factor was “88 percent of project construction waste was diverted from the landfill,” and it had a “recycled content value of 12 percent of the total materials by cost.”

Points were also given to touches that encouraged alternative forms of transportation, such as the fact that the site is within a quarter-mile of two bus lines, and that it includes 20 stalls for those commuting by bicycle to store their vehicles, and four showers for them to use prior to beginning work.

Audette said Retsil is just one of many stops that Gregoire and Retsil’s director, John Lee, will be making in Kitsap and Pierce counties Thursday to mark the building’s LEED rating, and to discuss future plans.

“They’re also going to talk about what we’re going to be doing over the next year, such as possibly working with Karcher Creek Sewer District to use methane as a power source at the veterans home,” she said.

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