Firsthand View of Green Building Practices

by John Sharkey, MBA’13 (12/11/11)

John Sharkey, MBA’13

Sustainable Global Enterprise (SGE) club members attended a private tour of the Kitchen Theatre Company (KTC) in downtown Ithaca, a recently renovated building that is pursuing LEED certification through the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).

Sustainable Global Enterprise (SGE) club members, including members of the Sustainable Operations and Green Building & Development affinity groups, attended a private tour of the Kitchen Theatre Company (KTC) in downtown Ithaca, a recently renovated building that is pursuing LEED certification through the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). Despite being in the middle of rehearsals, the KTC was more than happy to accommodate a group of students eager to gain a firsthand view of green building practices.  In 2009, the theatre company began a $1.2 million fundraising campaign to relocate from the Clinton House in Ithaca to a larger location in town.  With sustainability in mind, they hired a LEED accredited professional as their principal architect to help guide them through their journey.

Tour Attendees
Photo caption: Tour attendees Bobby Frisch (MBA'13) and Kara Schnoes (MBA'12) with Kitchen Theatre Manager Stephen Nunley (middle) in back-of-house area.

The tour began with a review of the LEED Project checklist, which is a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, renovation, and construction solutions.  Depending on the project’s compliance with the criteria outlined in checklist, the building receives credits towards a certain level of certification.  The checklist covers building practices under the following subsets: materials/resources, indoor environmental quality, innovation in design, regional priority, water efficiency, and energy/atmosphere.  The theatre’s overall level of certification is determined after their application is reviewed and audited by a member of the USGBC.  KTC is hoping to obtain the Silver designation, which is the third highest level of LEED certification. 

flooringThe KTC began implementing green building practices as soon as it started demolition. Construction workers saved anything they could reuse and recycled nearly everything else. Even though they could not rebuild with the extracted lumber due to fire codes, they are currently reusing some of the 2x4’s to build stage props for their performances.  The KTC also found creative ways to reuse fixtures, molding, furniture, and mirrors from their old theatre.  They recycled the existing building’s old HVAC system, metal structures, and copper piping. For building materials that were purchased, the KTC chose to use environmentally safe and energy efficient products.  For instance, they used low VOC paint throughout the building and covered the lobby floor with Marmoleum, an environmentally friendly linoleum brand that does not contain any toxic chemicals.

Two of the most significant and influential investments in the renovation were the installation of an efficient HVAC system coupled with a spray foam insulation of the entire building.  In conjunction, they outfitted nearly every room in the building with temperature controls so they can heat or cool rooms according to their specific needs.  The KTC’s managing director, Stephen Nunley, stated, “Everything is so much more efficient. The theatre can maintain the same temperature for the entire show due to the insulation of the new building.  The ducting is even designed to cool the actors on stage more than seating area.” The company was not as fortunate in their former venue, as it only had one temperature control for the entire building.  Nunley chuckled as he reminisced, “We used to have to run the air conditioning and the heating simultaneously just to maintain the proper temperature for our actors and guests.” 


Apart from their quest for LEED certification, the KTC continues to make improvements with sustainability in mind.  They recently installed energy efficient LED lighting to highlight the artwork in their lobby, even though it won’t be considered as part of their LEED renovation.  Their continued enthusiasm towards environmentally friendly and energy efficient design is a trait that all businesses and homeowners should emulate.   Since over 40% of our nation’s green house gases are emitted from existing buildings, it’s imperative that we follow the Kitchen Theatre Company’s example.  Bravo, Kitchen Theatre Company