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Session 6: Green Buildings: New Construction

Wednesday, July 16, 1997
2:45 - 4:00 pm



The purpose of the session was to provide insights into the federal community's involvement in green buildings. Mr. Naser introduced himself by explaining that his office at the Department of the Interior is tasked with overseeing Executive Orders 12856 and 12873, which address, among other things, "green building" issues. He quoted from Bion Howard's, Green Building: A Primer for Consumers, Builders and Realtors: "Green Buildings are really resource efficient buildings and are very energy efficient, utilize construction materials wisely -- including recycled, renewable, and reused resources to the maximum extent practical -- are designed, constructed and commissioned to ensure they are healthy for their occupants, are typically more comfortable and easier to live with due to lower operating and owning costs, and are good for the planet." Mr. Naser also cited statistics that describe the enormous scale of the resources wasted in the United States. He suggested that the people who design, build, and operate buildings can do a lot to reduce the amount of waste by considering the environmental impacts of their buildings during all phases of its life--including building design, construction, and operation.

Speaker 1: Russell Belknap, National Park Services

Russ Belknap is with the National Parks Service and is involved with several projects in and around Grand Canyon National Park. He has a lot of experience with Internet databases devoted to sustainable design issues.

Mr. Belknap explained that the Park Service embarked on its sustainable design program to address two apparently conflicting goals--preserving the nation's parks and providing access to them. Their sustainable design efforts allow them to do both.

He demonstrated the National Park Service's Sustainable Design and Construction Database, which is available in Microsoft Access as a downloadable file from the National Park Service website [http://www.nps.gov/facilities/] Exit Disclaimer.

The database contains three major sections:

It can be modified for specific local/regional applications. It allows the user to list products and their environmental attributes by CSI category. This information can help designers make environmentally informed decisions.

The Park Service is investigating ways to make the information available on-line. One problem an on-line approach, however, is that activities that are considered environmentally sustainable in one region of the country might not be sustainable in another region.

Mr. Belknap explained that the Park Service is beginning to look at incorporating the bio-regional differences into the database. He explained that this is a particularly important issue for the Park Service because they manage land throughout the United States. Local environmental (bio-regional) concerns must be taken into account when making design and construction decisions.

They are also looking to add information on construction site recycling, which would allow the user to locate a local company to recycle construction and demolition debris.

Speaker 2: Chris Long, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (Research Triangle, NC)

Chris Long is overseeing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's design and construction of a state-of-the-art research and office complex being constructed in Research Triangle Park, NC. The facility incorporates lots of sustainable design features.

Mr. Long explained that he is the project manager for the U.S. EPA's new one-million square foot office and laboratory complex being built in Research Triangle Park (RTP), NC. Construction has just recently begun, but they learned a lot about environmentally preferable purchasing and "green building" principles during the 3-year design phase.

He suggested that it was not enough to simply incorporate a few environmentally preferable products into a building and call it a sustainable building. He proposed looking at the entire building as a single product and attempting to make it as environmentally preferable as possible.

He explained that the facility would house two of the three EPA national laboratories. He explained that there were three competing, but interrelated factors that had to be considered throughout the entire design process--the environment, cost, and function. He explained that these three factors mirror the slogan on the Environmentally Preferable Products (EPP) booth--Environment + Price + Performance = EPP.

Some of the difficulties with "greening" the EPA facility is that it combines both laboratory and office space. This makes indoor air quality a particularly important concern. EPA conducted several studies and created several air-flow models to ensure that the final design maximizes worker safety and energy concerns. It is difficult, for example, to ensure an adequate supply of fresh air without drastically increasing the heating and cooling requirements. One of the innovations they introduced into the design was a fume hood with multiple settings to maximize worker safety, but, at the same time minimize the strain on the heating and air conditioning system. The fume hood is also part of the building's automated control system and will automatically power down when the lab is not occupied.

The lab facility also includes an atrium connecting the lab facilities with the office tower. While some people perceived the atrium as an extravagance, Mr. Long explained that it was designed to reduce the surface area of the external building. Enclosing it actually requires less energy to heat and cool the building and, requires less materials to build it.

Mr. Long also explained that the concept of sustainable buildings extends beyond the building itself to include the building's impact on the local environment. EPA decided to reduce the number of access roads to the facility from a four-lane divided highway to a two-lane road and to build parking decks rather than surface parking to minimize the number of trees that would have to be cut down. They also decided to put all utilities under the roads rather than in an access lane beside the road. These activities saved over 20 acres of trees.

They also minimized costs and the use of materials by removing curbing and guttering from the site whenever possible. They opted for natural bio-filtration instead of concrete gutters and pipes.

They further extended the concept of sustainable buildings by relying on natural landscaping, including the use of indigenous plants and wild flowers. This eliminates the need for artificial fertilizers and minimizes the greenhouse gasses emitted by lawnmowers. In fact, people were so involved with protecting the natural setting, according to Mr. Long, that an EPA worker organized a "plant rescue" to relocate plants from the building footprint to other areas on the site. In doing so, they saved 2,000-5,000 native plants. Mr. Long concluded with a quick list of some of the items that are contained in the 6,000 pages of building specifications. They include requirements to recycle all construction and demolition debris, to prohibit on-site burning, to mix concrete onsite rather than trucking it from another location (which saves thousands of truck trips and the accompanying pollution), to use recycled content products whenever economically feasible, to require that recycled-content carpet be used in the building and be a part of a recyclable carpet program, and to finish the interior of the building according to a schedule designed to minimize indoor air quality concerns.

Mr. Long also offered to make available an extensive bibliography on sustainable building practices that was compiled by James White at EPA. It is available by e-mailing Mr. White [jwhite@engineer.aeerl.epa.gov].

Speaker 3: David Gutherie, Department of Interior, Fish and Wildlife Services

David Gutherie is the Energy Coordinator for the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) Fish and Wildlife Services and was recognized for exemplary service by Department of Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary. He has been actively involved with the design and construction of DOI's National Conservation Training Center.

Mr. Guthrie highlighted some of his agency's recent sustainable building activities. Currently the Fish and Wildlife service is completing construction of their National Conservation Training Center campus. The campus includes 19 buildings comprising 350,000 square feet and will house approximately 250 students at a time.

Construction began in July, 1994, and is expected to open in September, 1997. The Fish and Wildlife Service's goal was to use low-risk energy conservation management technologies and applications that were readily available, easily maintained, and cost effective. In addition, the project met a number of other goals, including maximizing biodiversity, preventing a net loss of trees, and maintaining local cropland for a demonstration farming site. They incorporated environmentally preferable products when possible.

For example, they:

The building was also designed to maximize energy efficiency. These included:

Finally they were concerned with indoor air quality issues. All interior finishes and related systems such as adhesives, laminates, paints, and carpeting were specified to reduce indoor air quality concerns.

Questions & Answers:

Q: What, if any, additional cost is required to incorporate green building principles into the design process?
A: (Long) Not much. It probably requires 10-15 percent extra effort because of the additional decisions that need to be made and the multiple factors to consider. Most of this work, however, is on part of the building owner, not the architect. It probably only cost 5 percent extra during the design phase, but most of the cost was probably related to the additional modeling that EPA required.
A: (Guthrie) A lot of the environmentally preferable components are easy to incorporate if the architect knows to do so. Once architects have their specs properly developed, incorporating them into green buildings is easy.

Q: How do you know you are getting what you paid for? Is it possible that the contractors just aren't providing what the architects spec?
A: (Long) EPA hired a construction contractor through GSA to oversee the work of the primary contractor. EPA is extensively involved with overseeing their new facility. Green components were intentionally introduced and we want to make sure that they are included.
A: (Guthrie) Fish and Wildlife Service is working with the Army Corps of Engineers to make sure that all of the specs are followed.

Q: Mr. Belknap, how did the National Park Service develop the product specifications provided in the database?
A: (Belknap) We used AIA guidelines and ASTM specs, including proposed specs. The database lists all of the references.
A: (Comment)A spokesperson for the Steel Recycling Institute stated that all steel, including all steel siding, contains at least 25 percent postconsumer steel. Steel is also cut to length, so there is not any waste associated with its use. Architects and engineers should make frequent use of it.

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