New Employee Residence in Yellowstone National Park Receives Highest LEED Rating

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Platinum Rating is Highest Available from US Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Program

The 78-unit residence replaces employee cabins that will be renovated and used for guest accommodations next summer.

A new employee residence in Old Faithful Village in Yellowstone National Park has received “Platinum” rating by the US Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) program. The residence was built by concessioner Yellowstone National Park Lodges, operated by Xanterra Parks & Resorts.

The project is the first platinum-rated certification achieved by a concession operator inside a national park. Platinum is the highest LEED certification level and accounts for only about seven percent of all LEED-certified projects.

In order to achieve LEED certification, the project needed to meet stringent sustainability requirements in areas such as site selection, water use reduction, energy performance, materials usage, indoor environmental quality and innovation in design.

As part of its concession contract with the National Park Service, Yellowstone National Park Lodges built the 78-unit residence and moved employees from cabins that will be renovated and used for guest accommodations next summer.

“This project is representative of how we emphasize sustainability in our company,” said Jim McCaleb, general manager of Yellowstone National Park Lodges. “We are creating state-of-the-art employee housing that will be in service for many years to come, while using techniques and materials that support our environmental mission and that of the National Park Service.”

Notable achievements in the project include:

  • More than 94 percent of construction waste was recycled or reused so that it was not transported to the landfill, the closest of which was 150 miles from the site.
  • Water usage in the building will be reduced by 45 percent and energy savings will be more than 40 percent versus that of a building using standard construction methods.
  • Solar panels on the building’s roof will generate 11 percent of its electricity.
  • Beetle kill pine from Montana was used extensively in trim and paneling.
  • The residence’s entry staircase treads were built from cedar reclaimed from a deconstructed Montana cabin in partnership with the Department of Environmental Quality. The cabin’s owner razed the outdated structure and wanted the cabin’s reclaimed materials be used in a park project.
  • Because the work site was located in an extremely sensitive and active thermal area, extra care was taken to protect existing topsoil and control erosion and sedimentation.

Xanterra worked with Kath Williams + Associates of Bozeman, a consultant who has been instrumental in shepherding many projects through the LEED certification process including an employee residence that Xanterra built in 2004 in Gardiner, Mont. that was the first LEED-certified building in Montana.

“It truly takes a team to make this happen,” said Williams. “LEED certification, especially at the Platinum level, is impossible without the cooperation of the owner, project managers, design team and contractor. And I have the documentation to prove every step was verified and everybody involved did their part.”

A key approach to constructing the residence was to use a modular construction process which allowed for a swift schedule while minimizing waste and maximizing efficiency during the construction process. Constructed in Boise, Idaho by Guerdon Enterprises, the modular units were transported into the park for final assembly and finishing. This approach meant that in the fall when the temperatures dropped crews were able to continue to work inside the building instead of putting the project on hold until spring.

The building was designed by Mosaic Architects in Helena, and Montana-based Swank Enterprises was the general contractor on the project. The entirety of the building’s high-performance windows were donated by Andersen Windows in partnership with the National Park Service and Yellowstone Park Foundation.

Yellowstone National Park Lodges operates nine lodges and five campgrounds as well as restaurants, gift stores and activities.

Reservations for lodges and campgrounds in the park can be made by visiting or calling 1-307-344-7311 or toll free 1-866-GEYSERLAND (1-866-439-7375).

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Mona Mesereau
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