Green Latrine

Also working on the design was Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-accredited professional Jeff Werle, HVAC designer. “We considered utilizing a solar system for heating the shower water, but we were able to determine that the demand for the hot water would quickly exceed the system’s production ability. While the roof would provide a perfect location for the solar water heater, the glass-tube system was too expensive to maintain and a potential target for vandalism,” Werle says.

Adopting A Model

Final recommendations included avoiding heating systems whenever possible, and if required, limit them to a small portion of the building, using condensing boilers and in-floor radiant heat with a goal of achieving 95 percent efficiency. Plumbing recommendations featured proven commercial technologies, such as low-flow urinals, battery-powered electronic-sensor faucets, 1.5-gallon-per-minute showers and on-demand water heaters rated above 90-percent efficiency, grouped together with one heater serving three showers. These suggestions were used to create standard specifications and an adaptable, modular, prototype design that could be adjusted to serve large and small parks.

While Grand Haven Beach is a popular summer destination, it can be a harsh environment. Blowing sand and annual temperature extremes from 100+ to -20 F are the norm. The structure design had to be flexible, durable and, of course, sustainable.

“The design intent was to sandwich the shower and bathrooms between three massive masonry walls that mimicked the nearby lake breakwater walls. With the masonry walls taking the brunt of the wind and sand energy, the infill would support light, minimal material that would then define the shower and toilet rooms,” Pease states. “The pitch of the roof and its southwest orientation was perfect for the PV solar panels.”

Going Green Anyway

The state’s initial objective was to create a green building, built to U.S. Green Building Council LEED standards. The enthusiasm for sustainable design generated through the discovery and design process resulted in a desire to obtain a formal LEED rating, which was not possible because the facility does not operate year-round. Even without the LEED plaque, the facility is green. “The sustainable features incorporated in the building and building process would equal a Silver LEED certification,” Olson states.

Besides the natural lighting and solar-powered ventilation, the facility also offers energy-efficient electric lighting with occupancy sensors, timer-controlled showers, no/low VOC finishes, high recycled content block walls, sinks, countertops and toilet partitions. It is also handicap-accessible and family-friendly. The facility offers private showers and shower/toilet rooms suitable for family or individual use.

The prototype design included both a small and large size, with construction costs set at $600,000 and $800,000 respectively. Total cost for the Grand Haven project was $750,000, including demolition of the existing facility and site work.

State department officials are confident that the new facility will set the standard for park and recreation-area facilities. “This is visionary leadership for sustainable buildings, and definitely a model that park and recreation departments should emulate,” Murdoch Jameson, Chair of the State Parks Citizen Committee, said at the building’s ribbon cutting.

“While this is, perhaps, not the most glamorous of state park buildings, it is one to which every park visitor can relate,” says Paul Dickinson, AIA, Integrated Architecture president. “Our goal was to create standards and a prototype building utilizing sustainable materials and forward-thinking technologies to create green structures filled with natural light and fresh air, and surrounded by indigenous plants that would become gems of the park.”

Green gems. Indeed.

Trisha Spaulding is a Senior Associate at Integrated Architecture. For more information, visit

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