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Asheville rec center gets 10,000 plants on its roof

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5/31/2011 - Asheville rec center gets 10,000 plants on its roof
by Mat Payne

ASHEVILLE -- Emilio Ancaya and four crew members of his Living Roofs company endured the torrid midday heat on their hands and knees last week, as they often do. In just a few days, they would turn the flat space, high off the ground, into a giant planter.

The team installed about 10,000 sedum plants that will make up the center's "green roof."

Green roofing, a trend that originated in Germany during the 1960s, involves covering all or a portion of a roof with vegetative mats or lightweight soil and small plants.

"It's going to look like the building just came out of the ground," said Ancaya, founder of the Asheville-based company.

Among the benefits of a green roof, according to Living Roofs' website, are stormwater management, summer cooling, reduced energy costs, improved aesthetics and an increase in roof life.

Yet Living Roofs' contribution to the rec center is just one element in a plan to ensure that the building meets the stringent set of standards that would grant it a LEED Certification.

To gain Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design status, a building must meet certain qualifications relating to energy savings, water efficiency, reduction of carbon dioxide emissions and other ecologically friendly practices.

"It's a great certification in every aspect, (from) recycling materials to energy savings to using locally produced materials for construction," said Al Kopf, superintendent of park planning and development for the city's Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs department.

Since the passage of a 2007 resolution, all new city buildings larger than 5,000 square feet must be LEED certified, said Jane Matthews, the rec center's architect. This just happens to be the first such city building to be constructed.

Matthews set out to create a design that would meet the certification requirement in style.

"We wanted something fresh," she said. "But more importantly, we wanted something that was functional as well."

In addition to a lower ecological impact, LEED-certified buildings typically offer economic benefits.

With this particular design, Matthews expects a lower cost for energy and maintenance than with a non-LEED certified building of the same size.

Completion of the building is just the beginning of the implementation of the master plan for the community center.

The finished project will consist of three wings connected by a curving corridor to be lit naturally, Matthews said.

"It's really going to cover mind, body and spirit," she said. "This (part under construction) is the cultural part of the facility: an auditorium, three classrooms, as well as functional elements."

According to Kopf, funding for the next stage in the rec center's development is earmarked for the next fiscal year.

It will eventually include a pool, gymnasium, weight room and kitchen as well as an open outdoor area for a local farmers market

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