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Off the Shelf

Building Materials

Building Materials

As the 21st century approaches it has become incumbent to design and build in a more environmentally responsible manner. There is more and more evidence that supports the need for designing for future reuse and adaptability. It is an amazingly simple and relatively inexpensive venture. Today's building products and materials are more environmentally sensitive, or "greener" than ever.


An excellent example of this environmentally responsible approach is the new 200,000 square foot EPA Regional Headquarters office building being constructed in downtown Kansas City, Kansas. The building design and site location was strategically assessed to take advantage of passive solar energy.

Recycled materials were used extensively in the finish selections of the EPA building. Early in the scope development stage, only a limited number of recycled materials and finishes were specified. Dialogue between the EPA, Koll Development and the designers from Langdon Wilson Architects resulted in nearly all the interior finish selections containing recycled or environmentally friendly content.

Exterior at Night


The owner took possession of the site with a worn concrete foundation in place. As part of the site work, the old foundation was removed and a great deal of the rubble was recycled as roadbed. The rubble was used at the fill site for temporary roads. The part of the foundation that could not be recycled was disposed of in an environmentally sound manner.

Foundation Installation


Following site preparation the auger piles, footings and foundations were constructed with concrete containing 1,000 tons of Fly Ash. Fly Ash is a coal combustible byproduct from coal-fired electric generating plants. It's in the form of a particulate (much like dust) and when it gets into the air it can cause various health problems, such as eye, nose and throat irritations. Utilizing Fly Ash in concrete design not only locks it up so it doesn't blow in the air, but it also improves the strength and stability of concrete. Typically there is no cost increase to use Fly Ash in concrete, which is always preferable.

Once the new foundation was complete it was sealed with bentonite water proofing and a modified bitumen membrane. This greener alternative was utilized instead of a petroleum-based product.


The exterior of the building features a majestic skylight and glass wall construction. Exterior facing materials include polished Texas granite and precast concrete. The skylight and glass wall integrated design features allow for daylighting and passive solar heating in the building. Both of these features assist in highlighting the spacious 4 story, stair-stepped atrium that dominates the center of the building.

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The aluminum mullions and trim on the windows, sheer wall, sunscreens, cable trays and skylight are all constructed from 12.9 tons of recycled aluminum. All of the glass features play a significant role in the energy profile of the building.

As mentioned earlier the "hard" materials on the exterior of the building are polished Texas granite and precast concrete. In the early stages of the project, India sandstone was considered for the exterior of the building. The owners of the building reaffirmed their desire to retain a more democratic presence and chose to make the switch to the Texas granite. In furtherance of the "green" effort, aggregate used in the precast is from local Kaw River gravel surplus instead of a synthetic or imported aggregate.

Precast Shot

Great care was taken to strategically design and place the facing windows and glass wall to take advantage of the solar heat, but also to prevent overheating in the summer months. Low emittance (Low-e) coatings were used on North side of the building to reduce the heat loss during the winter months.


The paint used on this project contained no volatile organic compounds (VOCs). This type of paint is readily available from major manufacturers and is competitively priced. The vinyl wall covering used in this project contained 100% clean water based inks.

Typical Restroom

In restrooms, the floors and walls were constructed with ceramic tile made from over 70% post-industrial recycled waste glass. Nearly thirty-eight tons of recycled glass was used in the construction of this building. The lavatory counters are stone, thus inert, non-toxic, and chemically non-reactive hypoallergenic material. There was no additional charge associated with the use of the ceramic tile that contained recycled glass.


The carpets selected are from Lotus and Shaw manufacturers. Both are non-latex products and are 100% recyclable. The Shaw carpet is made of 25% recycled material. The carpet installation was a glue-down process that used a no VOC glue. These carpets are 100% solution dyed, which extends the life of the carpet. To accent the carpet installation, the vinyl wall base is an antimicrobial product using an adhesive with no VOCs.

Executive 5th Floor Area

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The lobby and atrium floors both feature the same Texas granite used on the exterior of the building. However, it was not polished like the exterior facade. This allows the building design to gracefully flow from exterior environments to interior spaces with a contiguous "feel." The wall base in the atrium is wood, which provides richness of finish and is 100% recyclable.

In selected areas of the building, such as servery areas and storage rooms, vinyl composition tile (VCT) was installed because of the durability and heavy traffic. Mannington Impressions VCT was selected because it met the environmental goals of the Team. It is the only VCT to feature partially recycled content and green manufacturing practices in its production.

In these same servery areas and storage rooms where millwork is installed, the plastic laminate on the counters has partially recycled content. The manufacturer, Wilsonart, is also environmentally responsive in its manufacturing practices.

Roofing Systems

The ceiling system that was used is an acoustic tile and grid system. The ceiling tile is made from 93%-recycled slag and the grid system from light gauge steel made from 67% recycled material. To accompany this system, indirect ambient lighting was installed to enhance the light levels in the building and use the outside light to the best advantage. Additional lighting will be supplemented in the use of task lighting at the desktop. The overall effect is a more aesthetic, evenly lit building than the usual 2 x 4 fluorescent lighting to which we have all grown accustomed. The doors throughout the building are American Red Oak. They are a very durable product and are not an endangered wood species. Langdon Wilson Architects were very proactive in selecting a wood that came from a well-managed forest with certifications for its management and replenishing practices.

And finally, one of the basic building requirements the government specified in its solicitation for offer was that the building include no asbestos-containing materials (ACM). This building complies with that requirement.

5th Floor Conference Area

As you can see there are several "hidden benefits" that have the ability to produce a very professional and elegant building. With a little research and legwork a dramatic difference can be made in the environment without sacrificing the beauty of the space or the cost of the materials.

Computer Room

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