Willing to take the LEED

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Willing to take the LEED
Willing to take the LEED
The Pacific Northwest is renowned for its sweeping forests and low, rolling mountain ranges. The environment is a big part of life in that corner of America, so it should come as no surprise that area seniors look for eco-friendliness in their retirement communities, as well.

Just east of Seattle, nestled among the pines on the side of Cougar Mountain, is a retirement community that boasts independent living, skilled nursing and an ethos as green as the forest that surrounds it.

Certifiably silver

Timber Ridge at Talus is the first continuing care retirement community in the nation to achieve LEED® Silver Certification—no small feat to achieve. LEED  stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and is a voluntary, third-party rating system administered by the U.S. Green Building Council.

More than half a decade ago, when Dave Durden, director of project development at Timber Ridge parent company Life Care Services, and his team embarked on the Timber Ridge project, the certification was used primarily for commercial buildings.

“We had to work with local Seattle-based consultants to help us work through how a large residential healthcare type of building could fit in to the LEED certification process,” Durden recalls.

It started with the construction. Work crews achieved a remarkable 87% rate of construction waste recycling. Scraps of wood, pieces of drywall and hunks of metal would be organized into separate piles and sent off to the recycler to be processed before returning to the site as new materials.

Indoors and out

The skilled nursing wing and all 184 independent living apartments use Energy Star appliances, says Timber Ridge Executive Director Scott Doherty. Energy-efficient lighting systems, enhanced refrigeration units and natural ventilation all help cut the facility's carbon footprint—and energy bills.

“We expect to, based on studies, try to cut our utility bill by about $50 per unit, per year on the independent side,” says Doherty.

Combination washer/dryer laundry units and dual-flush toilets also help save water. Just how much water Timber Ridge saves every year is a source of some amusement to Doherty.

“I played with the numbers once, and with the toilets, the washer/dryer units and the dishwashers, we could save about 1.8 million gallons of water, which would fill about 90 Olympic-sized swimming pools. We feel pretty good about that and we share that with our residents and visitors,” he says.

Field trips

Even outside the facility, eco-conservation is a goal for both residents and staff.

“We're trying to team up with the city and the county to have the public transportation system rotate around our community so that our employees could ride public transportation to work or residents could use it to go into the city or shopping,” Doherty explains.

And environmental learning opportunities abound for residents.

“Our activities folks set up something every month for residents to go tour a wildlife refuge area or an environmental learning center, or maybe it's just taking a tour of another green community,” Doherty says.

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