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green@work : Magazine : Back Issues : Jan/Feb 2004 : Green Design Beyond a Building


Green Design Beyond a Building

More and more companies are identifying environmental stewardship with an improved bottom line, and this starts with the design of their facilities. A sustainable design approach can provide a long-term green solution that guarantees the best environment for a company’s corporate culture, while taking a responsible approach to its surroundings. In fact, this design approach positively affects the culture and, in turn, the performance of a company’s employees.

In developing these long-term solutions, owners and facility managers can consider the following lessons learned surrounding four key considerations to sustainability: site, water and energy conservation, materials and indoor air quality.

* Sustainable Site

The headquarters for Butler Manufacturing Co., a leading producer of metal buildings, window systems and roofing systems, is an example of how a green building can be sensitive to its specific environment. The challenge facing the design team for Butler’s 154,000-square-foot, two-story new world headquarters was to develop a modern office building on a brownfield site. The vacant site, known as “The Yards,” was situated in Kansas City’s West Bottoms area near the Kansas River, a location that was formerly home to the cattle yards where trains were loaded and unloaded, in a city where fortunes were built on the thriving livestock industry. Butler Manufacturing’s leadership charged the project team with designing the building within the urban core, where access to public transportation, the history of the area and the community at large would stimulate ongoing redevelopment in this once-vibrant part of the city.

The approach of the design team was site remediation, clean-up and specific erosion-control efforts on the Butler site, including extensive storm-water management, which exceeded the requirements of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. The site restoration provided an opportunity to both eliminate erosion of the contaminated soil into the Kansas River and to use native plants, accustomed to the region’s climate and able to survive the wide climate changes Kansas City experiences throughout the year.

The Butler world headquarters also needed to be a showcase for its wide range of products. To properly display these products, lighting the building was an important factor. For example, using Butler’s skywall translucent panels as wall systems was a unique solution that created a profound design element. Dramatic energy savings were realized through generous skylights and a clerestory, which reduced the numbers of light fixtures needed. On most days, the building’s “community center” atrium requires no additional lighting due to the amount of natural daylight that enters the space.

Throughout the building, occupancy sensors shut off lights when spaces are unoccupied. The unique use of Butler’s own product covering the walkway from the building’s garage to the entrance screens the west side first-floor windows from intense summer sunlight. Low-E glass to the east, south and west façades protect the building from solar heat gain in the summer. These elements, along with a raised-access floor ventilation system and the reduced number of lights due to daylighting, allowed a significant reduction in the size of mechanical AC units, realizing dramatic energy savings and a significant decrease in upfront costs.

* Water and Energy Conservation
CDFM2 Architecture used its 4,000-square-foot rooftop deck as an opportunity for its own green roof project. An oasis of plants and water, the deck appears like a mirage amid the black asphalt roofs of downtown Kansas City. The plant material uses the sun’s energy to thrive, thus reducing the amount of radiation put back into the atmosphere, a process known as the urban heat-island effect. Rainspouts act as collectors for rainwater to water plants, significantly reducing water consumption in the maintenance of the rooftop garden. The thermal mass of the soil actually provides insulation to the occupied office space below. The rooftop greenery “saves green” for the bottom line. A silvery canister turns out to be a mini-pond, full of fish and aquatic plants. Garden lunches and client meetings become an opportunity to demonstrate green issues and technologies to CDFM2’s clients.

* Materials and Resources

When the Kansas City firm Midland Loan decided to move to its new headquarters, materials concerns guided the project team’s analysis, evaluation and review of a variety of real-estate opportunities for its headquarters relocation. Midland Loan’s parent company, Pittsburgh, PA-based PNC Financial Services Group Inc., has become known for its commitment to sustainable building, and has developed two LEED™ Green Building-rated buildings. For Midland Loan, the same commitment led the team to lease 120,000 square feet of space in an existing office building, thereby significantly reducing the amount of construction materials and infrastructure costs. The existing building in Corporate Woods is a verdant, tree-filled office park with extensive walking and biking trails in Overland Park, KS. Midland Loan provided bike racks and showering facilities for employees who want to bike commute or utilize the 900-acre wooded park and trails at lunch.

Due to Midland Loan Services’ commitment to sustainable design, green materials are evident throughout the building: low-VOC paints, 100-percent recyclable carpet tile, domestic and recycled wood products, local and regional materials, rapidly renewable flooring and recycled content fabrics. The project team worked to restrict the materials to regional sources from within 500 miles of Kansas City, whose central location allowed easy access to sources in Denver, Dallas, Chicago, Minneapolis and other major cities. Many of the materials emphasize rapidly renewable resources, such as bamboo flooring. Natural light is maximized to the core through the clustering of perimeter offices and the use of clerestory windows. The headquarters’ design has positively affected its corporate culture through reducing its impact on the environment and providing the employees with amenities they see as a benefit to productivity.

* Indoor Air Quality
The new Hall Center for the Humanities at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, slated for completion in 2004, is designed with special attention to the quality of the indoor environment. The building program includes conference, gathering and meeting spaces, as well as offices for the executive director, research fellows and distinguished chairs.

The Hall Center will incorporate the graceful stone arches of the façade of the Old Powerhouse, the oldest standing building on the KU campus, originally constructed in 1887 and influenced by Spanish Romanesque architecture. The historic setting for the Hall Center will preserve a valued piece of history of the campus and significantly enhance the fabric of the university as an important entrance to the campus.

Indoor air quality at the Hall Center will benefit from personal controls by occupants as well as measures taken to enhance air circulation and monitor air quality. Every occupied space—offices, conference rooms and other gathering places—has an operable window to allow fresh-air exchange. Additional measures were taken to keep the air clean and flowing inside the building. Smoking is strictly prohibited indoors. No chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are used in the refrigerant components. A CO2 monitoring system alerts the HVAC system to flush contaminants and replenish fresh air regularly, assuring adequate ventilation for occupants and supporting their health, safety and comfort. The use of these technologies has become common in new and renovation projects, pointing to the importance and acceptance of building owners and operators to provide a healthy working environment.

Educating the Community
Companies satisfied with their green buildings extend their new findings to their peers in the community. In many cases, the finished product and culture created far exceeds their early perception of the process and the building. And a building’s occupants, who understand and appreciate the values embodied in their facility, also help spread the sustainability message.

“We wanted this investment to change our culture—and it did, while also significantly increasing productivity,” comments John Holland, CEO of Butler Manufacturing Co.

In addition to designing buildings according to sustainability principles, green design firms can play a committed civic role as well. In Kansas City, firm principals work with developers and the city’s planning and zoning commission on plans to further revitalize the city’s downtown, participating in downtown and community committees, in civic organizations, and with non-profit environmental groups. Civic involvement extends the influence of holistic, responsible and sustainable design to the city and the region, marketing green design well beyond the building.


Chris DeVolder, AIA, is a LEED™ Accredited Professional and an associate with CDFM2 Architecture Inc.

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