The Royal Treatment
Laura Fisher Kaiser -- Interior Design, 10/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
Nusta Spa may be the first pamper palace in Washington, D.C., where stressed-out overachievers can get their toenails buffed while relaxing in Barcelona chairs. The spa is certainly this country's first to join the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED for Commercial Interiors Rating System pilot program—going for a gold. And, in what may be another first, every professional at Envision Design, the 17-member firm behind this $1.25 million project, recently received LEED accreditation.
The concept for a high-end "natural" spa came to founder and president Elizabeth Snowdon while traveling in Peru, where she learned about the bathing rituals of Inca royalty. (Nusta means princess in Quechua.) But, she says, it wasn't until consulting Envision Design founding principal Kendall Wilson that she realized that "everything could be done sustainably, without compromising on looks."
Snowdon considers one of the greatest design features at Nusta Spa to be something you can't see: superior indoor air quality. "It's important to make a spa healthy for clients," she says. "But for employees to breathe really great air all day—that's big."
Envision replaced the base building's existing system with a stand-alone HVAC setup that features multiple fan-coil units served by a dedicated chilled-water system. This system, combined with electric heat, also allows for temperature controls in each room.
A carbon-dioxide sensor sends readings to a variable-frequency drive fan that controls the intake of outside air. Furthermore, the ventilation system's air filters have a minimum-efficiency reporting value of 8, removing more than three times as many particles as usual.
An enthalpy wheel lowers energy consumption by exchanging heat and moisture between incoming and outgoing air, and lighting achieves 30 percent in energy savings above the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America standard 90.1. In total, the utility payback—15 percent over Snowdon's 10 year lease—made the initial investments worthwhile.
The greening of the 5,000-square-foot ground-floor space began with carefully sorting through demolition debris to halve the amount sent to the landfill. The former tenant's kitchen equipment went to nonprofit organizations. Doors and light fixtures headed for the Loading Dock, a nonprofit materials-reuse warehouse in Baltimore.
Certain walls are clad in slats milled from reclaimed oak beams. Envision also used bamboo plywood on lockers and Forest Stewardship Council–certified maple for flooring. The substrate on built-in case goods has a high recycled content, as do partitions of 100 percent postconsumer recycled paper sandwiching synthetic gypsum—actually benign residue recovered from smokestacks at coal-burning power plants. Paint, adhesives, and sealants give off almost no VOCs.
For flooring and base in back-of-house areas, Envision chose natural linoleum and rubber rather than the typical vinyl. In the treatment rooms, Envision's looped carpet contains more than 50 percent recycled content.
"Nusta proves that 'environmental' can be edgy," Wilson says. "You don't need flecks and chunks to prove its credentials."