Last year, Oregon ranked sixth in the number of Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certified projects, registering 47 buildings statewide. One of Bend's crown sustainable architecture jewels is the Bend Park & Recreation administration building, awarded a prestigious Gold LEED Certification upon completion in 2009. The building is fully loaded with radiant floor heating and cooling systems, natural ventilation and ventilation heat recovery, solar water heating, in-slab exterior snowmelt radiant heating system to clear walkways during winter, and a day lighting system with automated dimming controls. The building is fitted with a green roof, and looks generally futuristic yet simultaneously rustic with an acute angle slanted roof and jutting, exposed wood beams.
In its continued efforts to improve sustainable practices, Bend Park & Recreation just received three separate grants from energy efficient organizations (Pacific Power's Blue Sky Project, the Energy Trust of Oregon, and the Oregon Department of Energy) to add 156 solar panels on the roof of the building on the edge of River Bend Park.
An important part of the sustainability equation is not only to conserve natural resources, but also to create operating systems that don't gobble up financial resources—and the new solar panels achieve exactly that. With an average output of 275 watts per panel, the total system specification is planned to produce 43 kilowatts—or, about 15 percent of the energy that the administrative offices use in total. Moreover, facilities and construction manager Mark Ellington said that the majority of the project has been paid for by the granting organizations, leaving Bend Park & Rec to incur only a cost of about $17,000. He assured that money would see a quick return.
"We want to take advantage of any way to decrease our dependency and consumption of grid power utilities," said Ellington. "As a public entity, we are in a position where we can promote sustainable projects and let the public see them without investing in them directly. It's almost like beta testing. If we can have alternative sources, we're doing a good thing."
From large scale projects like the solar panels to much smaller details like using organic based fertilizers in riverside parks, Bend Park & Rec has demonstrated a continued commitment to sustainability in its buildings, and maintenance of its 81 parks and open spaces and 65 miles of trail. The projects are big and small, but even small changes make big differences, like changing out light bulbs to LED bulbs in the newly opened Millers Landing Park—which use one-third of the energy to produce the same amount of light as a commercial light fixture.
"It's been so successful that we're currently retrofitting the south Drake Park lighting with LED bulbs," said Ellington.
Another important sustainability project for Park & Rec is a water conservation effort. Using satellites that monitor weather patterns, it is able to adjust watering schedules to conserve water usage.
"Two satellites help us monitor usage," said Mike Duarte, landscape manager for Bend Park & Recreation. "We run off two weather stations that the district owns. One is at Big Sky Park and one is at our Simpson site. Basically, we pick up data from the weather stations and that adjusts our water times. If it's raining, or we have a bunch of heat that's coming through and it adjusts the run times up to meet those demands."
Duarte said that this practice can help save hundreds of gallons of water.
"Because we have east and west stations, we set the controllers to the region. It runs off E.T. (evapotranspiration) rate that takes in to account wind, moisture, solar radiation and that's how those run times get adjusted. Evapotranspiration has been used by farmers forever and has recently migrated to the landscape industry."
The sustainable success isn't limited to Bend parks. On a national scale, the Green Parks Plan initiated by the National Parks Service seeks to move toward sustainable management of NPS operations. A branch of the project in Oregon includes a net zero Ranger Station at the John Day Fossil Bends National Monument in Eastern Oregon that uses cutting edge technology—a photovoltaic solar array, heat recovery ventilation, and extremely energy efficient appliances—along with some common sense, like a south facing roof angled to collect solar gain, to allow the building to generate a remarkable 67 percent more energy than it consumes.
While the Bend Park and Rec offices may not be net zero just yet, executive director Don Horton explained that everything from converting to biodegradable dog waste station bags and recycling projects, to the larger construction efforts, are all part of Bend Park & Rec's effort to reduce its environmental impact.
"The community entrusts us to take care of the environment they live in," said Horton. "The least we can do is to have as light a footprint as possible."