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February 15, 2005 8:14 AM CST

Masonry Aids in Green Building Project


When the students of Bolingbrook High School of Bolingbrook, Ill., began the school year, there was a more significant change than just their grade level and class schedule. Not only were the students fortunate enough to receive a new high school building, but it was one of the largest high schools to open this year ? 562,000 square feet ? and in the near future it will be the first high school in Illinois to become LEED-certified.

Having created one of the first LEED-certified buildings in the world in 1997, Wight & Company took the lead on the Bolingbrook project by providing the design, construction management and philosophy behind pursuing a LEED building.

"In this case, bringing it up and telling them about the U.S. Green Building Council and the LEED green building rating system ? it resonated with them," explains Lois Vitt Sale, AIA, LEED AP, Wight & Company's Director of Sustainable Design. "They decided that it would be a good demonstration to their community and to their students, and that it was the right thing to do. So they jumped on board, and they've been on this journey with us to make their high school a green building."

The Bolingbrook building is equipped with several features that will save the school and community money over the life of the building. The school sports amenities such as landscaping that will absorb and filter water run-off from the parking lots, computerized temperature controls, a system that reuses condensation from the building's heating and cooling system, and lights that automatically brighten or dim depending on how much natural light is being provided through the multitudes of windows. Masonry also plays a role in the school's green build design.

"Masonry helped gain LEED points largely in that the raw materials are harvested locally and the products are manufactured locally for the Chicagoland construction market," says John Rockwell, LEED AP, Wight & Company Project Architect for Bolingbrook. "Also, masonry has a small amount of recycled content but largely helps gain points in the construction waste management program in that it can be recycled and diverted from the local landfills."

Plus, he adds, "Masonry often performs better for a longer period of time and can be a comparable thermal wall system to other building materials."

According to Vitt Sale, as science evolves, new philosophies arise. In this case, she feels that green building is the new direction of architecture.

"They are estimating that about 7% of all new construction is green building now," she states. "There has been a major increase in green building. It's huge, and it makes sense. We need to do it because we're not a small tribe in a big place any more. We're using our resources ? landfill space is running out, energy is an issue, and blackouts are an issue. Also, we're making buildings more affordable in their lifetime. The first cost is just a small piece of the overall investment for an owner, but the lifecycle costs year after year are tremendous. Green building can save 30-40% of operating costs in their lifetime, and that adds up."

"Green building is not only a 'feel good' thing to do, it's a responsible thing to do to conserve resources."

About the Author

Masonry, the official publication of the Mason Contractors Association of America, covers every aspect of the mason contractor profession - equipment and techniques, building codes and standards, business planning, promoting your business, legal issues and more. Read or subscribe to Masonry magazine at


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