Green Latrine

Michigan’s Grand Haven State Park–48 acres of sumptuous white-sand beach along the shores of Lake Michigan–serves over 92,000 campers each year, and generates over $1 million in revenue. Since campers flock to the park to enjoy the million-dollar views, it was an unavoidable necessity to use the 50-year-old park bathrooms and shower house. The dark, damp and antiquated facilities inadvertently promoted water saving as campers hated to go there.

All of that changed this spring with the unveiling of Michigan’s new sustainable restroom and shower facility, the first of a green prototype, modular design. “This is a new day for the park system,” Ron Olson, chief of Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Parks and Recreation Division stated at the facility’s ribbon-cutting ceremony. “Our State Park Stewardship Program is dedicated to preserving, protecting, and restoring the natural and cultural resources within Michigan State Parks for current and future generations. This project takes it one step forward, by conserving and limiting the use of our natural resources.”

The collaboration included the DNR, the Michigan Department of Management and Budget and the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based, architecture and engineering firm, Integrated Architecture. The Grand Haven Park Toilet Shower Building is the first edition of a prototype facility that can be adapted to fit a large lakefront park or a small, sheltered forest preserve. A second project–currently in design for Otsego Lake State Park–is nestled in between oak, maple and pine trees. Each is designed to significantly save water and energy.

Planning Green Goals

“With $2.5 million of DNR funds paying for water and utilities in state-park facilities, conserving energy translates into saving money. A non-sustainable park and shower unit requires the energy equivalent to that used by 10 RV camp sites. A rustic toilet facility offering hot and cold running water and electric light uses the electricity equivalent to one-third RV camp site,” Dan Lord, DNR architect, explains. “The new green facility will save energy and money, and teach campers about conservation. Our goal is for them to take that knowledge back to their camp sites and ultimately back to their communities and homes,” Lord says.

“Our design mission was to aggressively address environmental and sustainable attributes while creating practical facilities that would complement each park’s unique natural beauty,” says Mike Corby, AIA, LEED AP, who led Integrated Architecture’s design of the project. The state’s initial proposal request mandated that the new facilities would:

1. Be environmentally responsible, meeting Michigan’s green-initiative standards, utilizing sustainable, renewable energy as much as possible

2. Create a positive experience that park clients would remember and share with friends and family

3. Blend with the surroundings

4. Respect the earth

5. Utilize sustainable design to educate users about green facilities and the environmental savings they offer.

Studying The Systems

With a long history of sustainable projects, Integrated Architecture’s architects, interior designers and engineers provided knowledge-based options for building systems, materials and finishes. Mechanical engineers studied options for heating, ventilation, plumbing and electrical systems that ranged from wood-fired boilers to natural ventilation, waterless urinals and wind-turbine-generated power. Each alternative included supportive information and was “recommended,” “not recommended” or listed “possible.” Architects and interior designers followed suit with building materials and finishes.

The Phase 100 study included, but wasn’t limited to, wind turbines, geothermal heating, composting toilets, grey-water reclamation, solar photovoltaic (PV) panels and solar hot-water heating. “We looked at many different types of solar systems and finally chose a film photovoltaic system, Silicon panel PV, to assist in powering the ventilation system. We also created a building that maximizes natural light. Translucent plastic panels in the upper-third of the family shower rooms and bathrooms bring light deep into the building,” Randolph Pease, NCARB, and member of the project design team states.

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