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Off the Shelf

Indoor Environments

Atrium Looking Downtown

This section will address all the items presented previously focusing on some background information and the action taken by Koll, GSA, and EPA to use market, "off the shelf" products and procedures to enhance the indoor health of the New EPA Region 7 Headquarters Building.


What does it take to create a healthy indoor environment for EPA Region 7 employees? This is a question that Koll Development Company and Langdon Wilson Architects had to consider when designing the new EPA Regional Headquarters office building. There is no more important issue facing facility managers today than the indoor environment and air quality, Koll Development Company and Langdon Wilson Architects placed great importance on operations and maintenance procedures. A healthy indoor environment cannot be sustained without careful attention to routine maintenance.

Several factors were considered in the design of the building to keep the interior of the building and the employees healthy:

  • Air Quality
  • Sound
  • Visual / Aesthetics
  • Lighting including artificial and natural light
  • Heating / Cooling
  • Smoke Free Environment
  • Fitness Center
  • Government supplied equipment

EPA has determined the average U.S. citizen today spends 90% of the time indoors. Indoor air pollution levels can be up to 96 times greater than outdoor pollution levels. Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is one of the greatest health concerns in this country. Poor air quality can have a significant impact on worker health and productivity. The table below, "Indoor Air Quality Impacts on Health," identifies the sources and symptoms of indoor air quality impacts on health.

A good program of filter changing, control system checks, and air / water system balancing will positively effect the air quality of the interior spaces. Interior finishes can also cause air quality problems. For chemically sensitive people, the effects can be severe. The EPA Regional Headquarters building contains low-emission finishes, including carpeting, paint, wall coverings, sealants, and varnishes.

Irritation Formaldehyde, VOC's combustion gases, particulates, man-made fibers, and pesticides Irritation of skin, upper airway, eye, nose and throat, headache, erythema
Pulmonary Asbestos, combustion gases, Formaldehyde, ozone, particulates Rapid breathing, fatigue, increased infections, pulmonary edema, asthma, allergies, flue-like symptoms
Cardiovascular Carbon monoxide, particulates Headache, fatigue, dizziness, aggravation of existing pulmonary conditions, heart damage
Nervous System Carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, Formaldehyde, VOC's Headache, blurred vision, fatigue, malaise, nausea, impaired judgement
Reproductive Formaldehyde, VOC's Menstrual irregularity, birth defects
Cancer Asbestos, radon, combustion gases, VOC's particulates Cancer of the lung, stomach, colon
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Koll's strategy in dealing with indoor air pollutants was to find material and set up procedures that eliminate the four main sources of indoor air pollution:
  • VOCs, particularly formaldehyde, in building materials cleaning products and pesticides
  • Bioaerosols from both indoor and outdoor sources
  • Combustion gases from appliances and automobiles
  • Particulates from fibrous materials and combustion gases.

Specifically, Koll Development Company used many building products that were environmentally sensitive, including a few products which met or exceeded the recycled content specified by EPA's Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines (CPG) which became effective after the building was contracted.

The table in the Building Products Appendix identifies the building product category, product, benefit, recycled content, EPA's CPG requirement, and the manufacturer. Some of the product categories are building insulation, cement and concrete, paints and coatings, ceiling systems, floor covering, and lighting and energy systems.

Since poor ventilation can be a major cause of indoor air quality problems, Koll Development Company relied on properly balanced and maintained ventilation systems that provide adequate outdoor air quantities to the building.

  • Air handlers were selected that are easy to clean and tightly sealed. Additionally, they have a mini mum of joints and other dust catchers, and have efficient filters.
  • Inspection of air handlers are facilitated by good access doors and light or white-colored surfaces inside the air handlers to accommodate ongoing inspections.
  • Condensate pans inside air handlers drain fully, and any debris will be removed from the pans.
  • Fresh air intakes will be inspected to ensure that poor quality air is not drawn into the building from "short circuits" between exhaust and air intakes, or site-specific conditions such as wind patterns.
  • Floor drains will be refilled periodically to prevent sewer gas from entering the building through dry traps.
  • Paints and adhesives contain no or very low VOCs. Adequate "airing out" was done to remove the majority of the VOCs from the air prior to occupancy.
  • Durable building materials were selected to eliminate the need for strong cleaning chemicals. For example, ceramic tile is used in entry areas rather than carpeting.
  • During construction, all air duct openings were sealed with plastic to keep construction dust from entering the system.

Indoor air is inherently polluted by hundreds of indoor chemicals. The most common pollutants are carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and benzene. Even humans emit bioeffluants which are potentially harmful to others in closed, energy efficient environments. To alleviate indoor air pollution, EPA's New Region 7 Headquarters Building took the traditional approach of controlling contaminate through filtration and developing procedures concerning building operations.

Koll Development Company promptly investigate indoor air quality (IAQ) complaints and implement controls including alteration of building operating procedures (e.g., adjusting air intakes, adjusting air distribution, cleaning and maintaining HVAC.).

Another step to control the contaminates in the air and add aesthetically pleasing features to the atrium is the addition of twelve Ficus Benjamina trees, one of the most aggressive pollution-fighting plants according to NASA tests. EPA research suggests one type of throat cancer caused by formaldehyde is the result of indoor air pollution. Studies show that commonly used indoor flowering plants can reduce levels of potential cancer-causing substances by up to 70 percent in 24 hours.


Building acoustics have traditionally been a low priority compared to other indoor environmental problems, yet acoustically acceptable indoor environments increase worker satisfaction and morale. Irritating and unexpected noises create distractions that reduce productivity. Bathrooms, plumbing fixtures, exhaust fans, mechanical ducts, outdoor condensing units, lawn maintenance equipment, traffic, and airplanes are all irritating sources of noise. Some noises created in building systems, such as fluorescent lamp ballasts that buzz, or HVAC systems that generate and transmit various noises, can be difficult to trace.

Background noise is beneficial if it is of the proper level and tonal quality. Above a level of Noise Criteria 40 (NC-40), background noise interferes with speech and telephone conversations. If it is too low, it fails to drown out intrusive noises and diminishes privacy.

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White noise or sound-masking systems artificially raise the background noise level to maintain speech privacy. Koll Development Company has introduced a fountain in the east end of the atrium that will provide a natural, soothing background noise. Koll also considered an array of speakers located above the finished ceiling. However, Koll found that many people find the use of white noise systems objectionable and opted only for the use of the fountain.

Additionally, the acoustical requirements in EPA's new building call for:

  • Reverberation control - Ceilings in carpeted space have a Noise Reduction Coefficient (NCR) of not less than 0.55 in accordance with ASTM C-423. Ceilings in offices, conference rooms, and corridors having resilient flooring have an NRC of not less than 0.65.
  • Ambient noise control - Ambient noise from mechanical equipment operates in a range of 18-28 Noise Criteria curve (NC) in accordance with ASHRAE Handbook in offices and conference rooms; NC 32 in corridors, cafeterias, lobbies, and restrooms; NC 50 in other spaces.
  • Noise isolation - Rooms separated from adjacent spaces by ceiling-high partitions (not including doors) are not less than 40 Noise Isolation Class (NIC) in the conference rooms and 35 NIC in the offices following NIC Standards when tested in accordance with ASTM E-336.



When employees or visitors enter the building on the east and west sides, they will be treated to carefully thought out designs in the spacious atrium floor plan with a fountain in the east end of the atrium.

The building incorporates several convenient employee entrances. Upon leaving vehicles in the parking structure east of the building, employees are afforded two entry alternatives. One option is to walk up the pedestrian pathway at the center of the parking structure and enter the building below the verandah at the east end of the building. Alternatively, the internal interconnecting stairs at the east end of the atrium continue down through the ground floor and connect the parking structure levels to the building. A garage elevator also travels from each level of the parking structure to the Plaza Level. Employees accessing the building from off-site bus stops or parking lots to the west, enter the building from that side near the visitor's entry at a key card controlled access point.

The building's design accommodates a separate visitor entrance. Once arriving from the plaza at the west end of the site, visitors enter the building at a security check area located adjacent to the elevator lobby and building core area. This is the only building entry not controlled by a key card security device. Visitors can conveniently access the training rooms and several conference facilities that lie directly adjacent to the Plaza Level lobby in the base of the atrium.

The floors are configured so that employee interaction and productivity are maximized. The open atrium facilitates the visual sighting of colleagues and encourages circulation and interaction within the office area. In addition, the Plaza Level verandah on the east side of the building invites employees to gather for lunch and conduct informal Team meetings when weather permits.

The large open floor plan and space configurations provide for efficient and flexible workspace planning. The floor plan is incorporated into an efficient "U" shaped design that implements a centrally located building core at the base of the "U". A pair of stairs are located in the building core that interconnect the office floors and allow employees to freely circulate. A second pair of interconnecting stairs that are open to the atrium are located at the ends of the "U". These stairs join the unique terraced floors which provide a rich source of natural light to the walkways and work areas. As you go up each floor in the building, the widths of the "U" legs decrease from 90 feet to 53 feet. Since the inside of the "U" is an atrium, natural light is no further than 45 feet from all office space in the legs. These bay depths, combined with efficient 30 feet by 30 feet column spacing, allow workspace areas to be efficiently and flexibly planned on each office floor.

The building's core is located at the west end at the base of the "U" and provides for an inviting, yet compact arrangement of three passenger elevators, one freight elevator, restrooms, two stairwells, and other core elements.

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Atrium Looking East

Located on the interior of the floor plan, the core placement allows the adjoining space on all office floors to benefit from the atrium and exterior natural light sources.

The building placement and atrium orientation capitalize upon the site's excellent views of the river confluence and downtown Kansas City, Missouri. The atrium leverages the enjoyment of this perspective by allowing more employees to experience it within the building. The placement of the building on the site's elevated west side enhances the western views that encompass downtown Kansas City, Kansas and the Federal Courthouse. The liberal use of windows on the building's west side provides for open and expansive perspectives to the downtown area.

Atrium Looking West


Day lighting and artificial lighting are required in order to perform visual tasks, to provide views to the outside, and to provide a connection to the daily rhythms of the natural environment. Sunlight provides an equal spectral distribution of visible light frequencies to produce 'white light' and provides the truest color rendition. Artificial light is limited in the frequencies it can emit, often producing blue- or yellow-tinted light. Lighting levels and distribution can either enhance or detract from the efficient use of both day lighting and artificial light for energy savings and occupant comfort.

The two components of interior lighting are ambient and task lighting. Ambient lighting provides general lighting for orientation and background visual identification. Task lighting provides focused lighting, which will aid in the performance of concentrated and small-scale tasks such as reading. Windows and light fixtures have been properly located and balanced to provide the most efficient and visually pleasing lighting in interior environments.

Artificial Light

Indirect Lighting

Lighting accounts for 25% of the electricity used in the Federal sector. If new lighting technologies were used everywhere in the Federal sector, electricity required for lighting would be cut by 50%, electrical demand reduced, and working environments improved.

The Regional Headquarters building uses compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) which are energy-efficient, long-lasting substitutes for the traditional incandescent lamps. Introduced in the early 1980s, CFLs use about one-half to one-tenth the energy to produce the same light output.

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They also last up to thirteen times longer than the incandescent lamps they replace, providing an attractive return on investment.

Lighting is controlled automatically by various methods to save energy:

  • energy management and control systems
  • daylight sensors that detect available daylight
  • control fixture outputs accordingly
  • occupancy sensors which prevent energy waste by turning off lights operating in unoccupied spaces
  • by dimming lights according to daylight level within the building

All conference rooms are equipped with occupancy sensors that are set to turn off the lights after a period of inactivity.

Natural Light

Day lighting and artificial light fixtures can be significant sources of heat gain in commercial buildings. All day lighting strategies need to be designed to minimize heat gain along with the reduction in the heat gain of the fixture. The additional first costs of day lighting devices, such as light shelves and other daylight collection devices, should be balanced against the reductions in costs for interior light fixture, and long-term electricity use costs.

Direct sunlight can damage interior furnishings, and the ultraviolet radiation component of sunlight can combine with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that might be present to form ground-level ozone, which is hazardous to human lung tissue. VOCs should be minimized as a matter of course, and space planning should specify interior finishes and furnishings that have low to zero VOC emissions.

Koll Development Company addresses these issues by innovative designs in which all exterior windows are equipped with one-inch wide, non-corroding, slated horizontal aluminum window blinds.


The variety of functions anticipated for the building warrants the need for built-in system flexibility. The building includes numerous spaces, requiring separate temperature control zones, i.e., conference rooms, office areas, and computer areas.

The design condition of the building calls for a temperature of 74-76oF during the summer in occupied areas of the building.

Cooling Tower
During the winter the temperature inside will range from 70-74oF. These temperatures must be maintained throughout the building, regardless of the outside temperature, during the hours specified in the lease. During non-working hours, heating temperatures shall be set no higher than 55oF and air conditioning will not be provided except as necessary to return space temperatures to a suitable level for working hours.

Special purpose areas (such as photocopy centers, large conference rooms, computer rooms) with an internal cooling load are independently controlled. Concealed package air-conditioning equipment is provided to meet localized spot cooling of tenant's special equipment.

Intakes for outside air are located to avoid contamination of the air from sources such as vehicle exhausts from the garage, loading docks and street traffic, exhausts from restrooms, sanitary vents, and cooling towers. Ducts and plenum were constructed and maintained to minimize the potential for growth and dissemination of micro-organisms. Humidity will be maintained at 30 percent during the winter to 50 percent during the summer.

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In an August 9, 1997, Executive Order, President Clinton banned smoking inside all Federal buildings. Smoking is currently prohibited inside all buildings managed by GSA and in many other facilities where Federal employees work.

The goal of these actions is to "protect Federal Government employees and members of the public from exposure to tobacco smoke in the Federal workplace."


The Regional Headquarters building houses a 1,200 square foot fitness center on the main floor. The center will be equipped by the EPA with various weight machines, free weights, and aerobic equipment such as treadmills and stationary bikes. After working out, employees shower in either of the two locker rooms adjoining the center. A regular program of physical fitness decreases the body's suseptability to illness and promotes a more alert focus during work.


EPA required emission testing assessment of environmental policies in place at each manufacturer's facility, and the environmental characteristics of all workstations submitted for consideration. These characteristics include issues of global pollution, energy consumption, and resource conservation, as they pertain to factory and office procedures, and to the workstation product. Human health and safety issues were also considered.

Systems Furniture

Emission testing included an indoor pollutant source management plan which provides assurance that minimum pollutant emission rate standards for components and finish materials are met by applying uniform testing controls and procedures. Products include a single, easily assembled, composite workstation, incorporating panels, components and related modular units. The target emission standards are defined as those "emission rates" of pollutants emanating from the product. Fabrics are excluded from the testing procedure.

EPA was not looking for the "greenest" vendors. However, EPA was concerned that the vendors providing furniture, and accessories demonstrated due diligence relative to environmental, sustainable and ergonomic issues. Vendors were encouraged to provide written detail describing the environmental, sustainable characteristics of their systems. EPA uses electronic white boards in conference rooms to eliminate or reduce chalk dust and increased maintenance.

Systems Furniture - 5th Floor
Systems Furniture

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