SALT LAKE CITY — From the ninth floor of a condominium in Richards Court, floor-to-ceiling windows reveal a panorama of mountains and clouds, temple and tabernacle.
What isn't as obvious from the perch across from the LDS Church's Temple Square are features that earned the Richards Court residential towers a Gold LEED designation for its high level of environmental sustainability.
Richards Court, a residential community in two 10-story buildings on South Temple, is part of the massive 23-acre City Creek redevelopment project in downtown Salt Lake City that is scheduled to be finished in March 2012. The project, as a whole, was also awarded a "LEED Stage 2, Silver certification."
LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and is a way to measure building performance against environmental sustainability goals. The standards were set by the U.S. Green Building Council, a non-profit trade organization, not a government agency. According to the council's website, LEED certification looks at things like "energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reductions, improved indoor environmental quality and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts."
Wood used in floors and cabinets in Richards Court come from sustainable sources, said Bill Williams, director of architecture and engineering for City Creek Reserve, Inc., the project's developer. Paints are used that give off less fumes. Toilets have dual flush capability — one for low-flow flushing needs, and two for higher-flow flushing needs. The sink faucets have a flow of 2.2 gallons per minute versus the standard 4 gallons. Behind walls and hidden away in basements are more efficient mechanical systems — plumbing, heating and cooling.
As much as possible, materials are brought in from local sources, keeping the environmental impact of transporting the materials to a minimum and keeping money in the local economy. Construction materials were recycled from the old buildings destroyed on the site.
Even the roofs are green — many of which have plants growing on them to reduce heat.
"We are doing things for the long term," Williams said. "Being environmentally prudent is part of that."
The LEED certification process for the entire City Creek project is even broader. It is called LEED Neighborhood Development certification. City Creek is one of about 60 projects chosen to be part of a pilot project to develop this certification, which comes in three stages. The first deals with the development phase. The second stage covers construction. The third comes at completion.
Even though some buildings are complete, the overall City Creek development is at stage 2 and has met its goal to achieve Silver certification.
The LEED Neighborhood Development certification looks at how projects create neighborhoods that are walkable, sustainable and environmentally friendly. A City Creek press release said that the development achieved Silver certification in part because of a "pedestrian-friendly layout that puts a number of uses, including residential, employment and shopping, within walking distance of one another."
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which owns the City Creek development (and the Deseret News), was awarded LEED certification for the new Church History Library building dedicated in 2009. The church also has been working on creating energy-efficient church buildings that use solar power. Other buildings in the City Creek project are also expected to achieve LEED certification.
"It is about being a wise steward," Williams said. "We hope our children will enjoy benefits we have, instead of us consuming them all now."