Gold Rush

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

November 01, 2004 |

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 manager 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, CB Richard Ellis. "They participated in additional engineering that allowed us to get over the hump." After the project was awarded to CB 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 stormwater 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 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 water 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 CB Richard Ellis' Carr. "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. CB 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.

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