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 Jeff Kirshenbaum.
Noddle became involved with the project "because it was in our backyard, 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 that 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 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."