Gold Rush

Developers of two leased projects for the GSA never thought twice about stopping at LEED Silver when they could go for Gold.
August 11, 2010

Although they serve vastly different functions, two recently completed GSA leased buildings share a common characteristic. They were initially designed to meet Silver-level requirements of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating program. But in each case, the developer raised the bar.

One of the buildings, the EPA Science & Technology Center in Kansas City, Kan., has been certified as Gold. The other, the National Park Service’s Carl T. Curtis Midwest Regional Headquarters in Omaha, expects to receive a similar designation.

The Kansas City building, which opened in April 2003, achieved a Gold rating even though the laboratory operations it houses make it an “energy hog,” says Ken Henton, project principal with the building’s architect, Hoefer Wysocki Architects, Kansas City, Mo. The building’s HVAC system supplies 100% outside air and exhausts 100% of it. Laboratory chemicals are exhausted through fume hoods.

“As we went through the planning process, GSA saw how close we were getting to qualifying for Gold,” says Dan Carr, SVP of the building’s developer, C.B. Richard Ellis. “They participated in additional engineering that allowed us to get over the hump.” After the project was awarded to C.B. Richard Ellis, GSA ponied up an additional $57,632 for a grey-water system and $41,969 to provide additional indirect lighting. These additions helped move the project into Gold range.

But the project also seemed to have a streak of luck running with it. At the time the building was bid, LEED 2.0 was in draft form. As the project entered the negotiating stage, LEED 2.0 advanced to the balloted version. In this revised form, the number of points required to achieve Gold level was lowered. As a result, when the building was submitted for certification, it had amassed enough credits to achieve a Gold classification.

A stormwater management plan also helped with achieving a Gold designation. LEED Sustainable Sites Credit 6.1 provides that if the existing imperviousness of the site is greater than 50%, a stormwater management plan that results in a 25% decrease in the rate and quantity of storm water runoff should be implemented. Prior to construction, the site was occupied by two one-story buildings surrounded by asphalt parking lots. Its imperviousness was calculated at 75%.

The site now includes concrete and asphalt paving and natural and native landscaping. Its calculated imperviousness has been reduced to 43%.

The reduction in stormwater runoff would not have been achieved if 31,600 sf of the building’s 57,200 sf roof had not been connected to a rainwater harvesting system, removing it from the “impervious area,” according to Douglas Benton, project manager in GSA’s Kansas City office.

Rainwater drains from the roof and is collected in a 10,000-gallon storage tank. Since Kansas City’s average annual average rainfall is 39 inches, 735,000 gallons of water is projected to flow into the system. This water is used to flush toilets and as makeup for the cooling towers. The sanitary fixtures are designed to require an estimated 55,000 gallons of water annually, so the system’s remaining 680,000 gallons of capacity is available for the cooling towers. They will require an estimated 2.77 million gallons of makeup water per year. The rainwater collection feature earned two LEED points for water efficiency.

The project team prepared an energy model based on ASHRAE/IESNA 90.1-1999. Actual first-year operating data now indicate that the building is using energy at a rate of 273,000 Btu/GSF, or about 3% less than the 280,000 Btu/GSF projected by the energy budget.

Benton says that the Kansas City building is EPA’s most energy-efficient laboratory, based on comparisons with six other facilities located in similar temperature zones. As required by the U.S. Department of Energy, EPA tracks the energy use of its laboratory facilities

A prominent building feature is a 480-foot-long, 36-foot-high concrete “great wall” that runs north and south. To the east of the wall are offices, to the west a courtyard and laboratories. In order to prevent cross-contamination, the courtyard separates labs used for inorganic analysis from those that perform organic analysis.

The city of Kansas City, Kan., contributed to the project by providing the mostly vacated former brownfield site, which it had remediated. The laboratory is one of two EPA buildings at the eastern edge of the city’s downtown. The other is EPA’s regional office, which is housed in a 200,000-sf building two blocks away. It was built about five years ago on another one-time brownfield site donated by the city.

“We always wanted to do a LEED-certified building, and really enjoyed participation in the process,” says Carr of C.B. Richard Ellis.“We are now looking at all our projects from a LEED perspective.” The company’s current projects in development include a laboratory for the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration in Salt Lake City.

Carr says the key to success was teaming up to figure out which points would be beneficial to the project not just to get LEED points, but to do what would be good for the building for the next 20 years. “You’ve got to look at every aspect of what you’re doing, starting with site selection.”The project received a LEED point under Sustainable Sites Credit 1 for being in an urban area.

Carr also emphasizes that achieving LEED goals should continue after a building is occupied. C.B Richard Ellis was also hired as the on-site property manager.

When a developer submits a proposal to construct a Federal building, GSA evaluates the design and determines its desired energy-efficiency features. A major project in which GSA is the lessee involves a two-step procurement process. After the solicitation and evaluation of technical proposals, GSA negotiates for the “best and final” offer. It weighs proposed levels of LEED against other required building features and available funding.

Each GSA procurement incorporates a statement of priorities. After technical proposals from the offerers have been reviewed, price becomes a crucial factor. The best scenario is one in which the highest-ranked technical proposal stays under the budget. The lease rate to be paid by the government factors into the evaluation process.

Hometown team scores with NPS regional HQ

On a bank of the Missouri River in Omaha, Neb., an aspiring LEED Gold candidate houses offices that serve 13 states in the National Park Service’s Midwest region. The Carl T. Curtis Midwest Regional Headquarters of the National Park Service, which opened in June, was delivered by a team assembled by the hometown firm of Noddle Development Co. Noddle typically develops retail and office buildings, and the Park Service facility was the company’s largest GSA-leased project. Government projects “are not a business we really pursued,” says company VP JeffKirshenbaum.

Noddle became involved with the project “because it was in our back yard, we know the site, and members of our Building Team had worked in the riverfront area,” Kirshenbaum says.“We felt it was a natural for us to pursue.”

GSA requested a building that could achieve a Silver LEED accreditation. “We immediately said, ‘What can we do to set us apart?’” Kirshenbaum says.“The answer was, ‘Let’s shoot for Gold.’”

“Fortunately, the selection process lasted long enough for us to get our arms around what it would take to make it a Gold building, and we put together a team that could deliver. We think that was one of our best selling points.”

“We established a plan for achieving Gold and checked regularly to make sure it was being followed,” Kirshenbaum says. “Once you decide you’re going for LEED certification, everything is on the table. You have to make sure that everything you’re doing falls in line.”

The three-story building features extensive glazing, and incorporates sensors adjust the lighting level based on available daylight. The building utilizes natural materials, particularly exposed concrete, as well as products, such as carpet tiles, made with recycled materials. “Natural sugaring” of wood used in the interior allows its the natural appearance to be retained. Most of the building’s construction materials, including Kansas limestone, came from within 500 miles of Omaha, helping to qualify for LEED points under MR Credits 5.1 and 5.2.

The building also incorporates a raised-floor system with floor diffusers, which not only minimizes energy use but allows building occupants to essentially control the temperature and flow of air in their work area, he says.

The building, which is open to the public, incorporates displays relating to National Park Service attractions. It has large meeting rooms in which NPS conducts classes, and will be the final home for Lewis and Clark Exploration exhibits now touring the U.S. to commemorate the 200-year anniversary of their expedition.

Patrick Morgan, project principal with architect Leo A Daly, says the siting of the building represented a critical planning decision for the Building Team. The plans submitted by most of the other teams vying for the project oriented the building north-south, parallel to the river. The Noddle team, capitalizing on the river’s meandering path, positioned the building perpendicular to the river. This orientation not only maximizes views of the river and downtown Omaha for building occupants, but also minimizes views of the extensive parking lot of the new Qwest Center convention facility.

The two acres of natural landscaping on the site will become self-sufficient, requiring neither mowing nor watering. In anticipation of alternate-fuel vehicles, the parking lot contains several 110-volt power outlets for recharging electric vehicles.

Morgan says the project received a LEED credit for development on a perceived brownfield site. The Building Team decided not to request documentation from the city that might have resulted in additional credit for remedial actions the city took before turning the site over to GSA.

Kirshenbaum says he has no doubt that the number of both government and private buildings designed and constructed according to LEED principles will increase. For example, he cites voluntary recycling of trash by contractors seeking to reduce their costs. He notes that obtaining construction materials locally has always made sense especially now that fuel costs have skyrocketed. “We’ve embraced the LEED philosophy,” he says. “It has become second nature for us.”

Kirshenbaum says that although a building constructed to LEED Gold standards may cost 10-15% more than a conventional structure, “The reality is that operational costs are lower. Pay now, but realize savings later.”

Any thoughts that Kirshenbaum may have harbored about the bureaucratic nature of a Federal agency were dispelled as a result of his experience with this project. “GSA put some very talented people on this job,” he says. “They made all of us better. We’re now looking for more opportunities with GSA projects.”

Project summary

EPA Region 7 Science & Technology Center

Kansas City , Kan.

Leaseholder: U.S. General Services Administration

Developer: C.B. Richard Ellis

Architect: Hoefer Wysocki Architects

Laboratory designer: Clark Enersen Partners

General contractor: Koll Construction

Area: 71,100 gross sf

Construction cost: $20[?] million

Completed: April 2003

LEED rating: Gold

Project summary

Carl T. Curtis Midwest Regional Headquarters

National Park Service

Lease Holder: U.S. General Services Administration

Tenant: National Park Service

Owner: Noddle Development Co.

Developer: Park Service Developers, Inc.

Architect and Engineers: LEO A DALY

Civil Engineer: Kirkham, Michael & Associates

General Contractor: Kiewit Construction Co.

Area: 68,000 gross sf

Construction cost: $12 million

Completed: June 2004

LEED rating: Registered (seeking Gold)

         
 

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