Virginia Theological Seminary Boasts LEED-Certified Homes
By Jonathan Moore
Adhering to the Episcopal Church’s Genesis Covenant of 2009 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent in 10 years, the Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) now lays claim to Alexandria’s first LEED®-certified semi-detached residences. Designed by Alexandria-based Cole & Denny Incorporated and built by Harry Braswell, Inc., these homes are sited on the spacious west end of the VTS campus at 1509 and 1511 N. Frazier Street just off Seminary Road. The homes’ style reflect their setting amid the traditional 19th century structures on campus, but both 2,700-s.f. units are thoroughly modern with regard to their energy-saving features.
The homes share a common wall, which significantly reduces their overall footprint. The surrounding open landscaping accommodates geothermal wells and adjacent trees. Drought-tolerant plantings and permeable driveway pavement retain groundwater and reduce the need for potable-water irrigation. More than 75 percent of on-site construction waste was recycled. And the site’s ready access to public transit and other community resources earned further LEED credit.
Other resource-conserving elements include high-efficiency gas furnace and air conditioner units, low-flow bathroom fixtures and faucets, spray foam insulation for the walls and roof, Energy-Star appliances, fluorescent and LED light fixtures, and low-VOC paints and sealants.
“Our design encompasses both aesthetics and efficiency,” says Kristine Hesse, LEED-AP, the architect for this project and a principal at Cole & Denny. “Efficient land management and energy savings were top priorities for our client,” she says. “The contractor wanted the experience of doing a LEED project. And the seminary was interested in getting LEED certification, even if they had to pay a little bit more. It was truly a team effort and fits in with the culture of Alexandria as a whole in this day and age.”
Alexandria’s recent adoption of energy conservation and green building design standards aligns with VTS’s sustainable ethos. “We view LEED as an important investment tool providing greater operational efficiency and long-term benefits for all of our buildings,” says VTS Facilities Manager Dave Mutscheller. He notes also that the LEED certification process reinforced the seminary faculty’s and students’ appreciation of their pastoral setting in an otherwise bustling area of Alexandria.
Kim Carr, LEED-AP, assistant commercial project manager at Harry Braswell, foresees more residential projects pursuing LEED over time, though she says certification is currently more prevalent among commercial structures. “As architects and contractors incorporate more of LEED’s concepts and practices, we will likely see greater adoption of green building standards among both commercial and residential projects,” she says.
Likewise, VTS will continue pursuing green building principles, both as an integral part of resource-efficient physical plant operations and for the sake of environmental stewardship. “The Seminary Board of Trustees is deeply committed to witnessing the importance of the environment in all our building projects,” says VTS Dean and President, the Very Reverend Ian Markham. “We are proud that the recently constructed townhouses received LEED certification. Going forward, environmental values will remain a top priority for our design and campus planning portfolios.”