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Off the Shelf

The Building

The Building Responsibility.    It begins when an Owner decides to move forward with a project. A project Owners selection of materials, composites, and construction practices are generally conducted as a function of cost to value. Aesthetics and maintenance/ operation impacts are also considerations utilized in evaluating these selections. In an industry whose standard practices are frequently defined by minimum requirements, it is easy to see how responsible choices can and do often take secondary roles in these decisions.
In one of the Design / Construction Team meetings, Mr. Dave Treece, a key member of the EPA construction design Team challenged us to "tell the story" of how, on this project, we took the higher road. By challenging vendors, and ourselves, we "pushed the envelop" of complacency.

Alternate materials, methods, and resources that did not negatively effect cost. These options offered positive and creative environmental solutions to some ordinary, everyday issues. The following narrative tells this story. It's purpose is to encourage others and show them that an "off the shelf" office building can be purposeful in this endeavor and not become a costly "demonstration."

Responsibility. Maybe it starts at home with a trash recycling program, or maybe with your children for school or scouts for fund raising, or maybe at work with soda pop cans in a separate container. Regardless of where it begins, responsibilities must become a mantra for our generation to promise to ourselves and to those that will follow us, that we chose to be responsible. Because, after all, the Earth is a pretty nice place to live.


The challenge was to "win the beauty contest". In so doing, the prize was the opportunity to develop an EPA Regional Headquarters in downtown Kansas City, Kansas.

In late 1995, downtown Kansas City, Kansas had become somewhat physically distressed remnants of a once proud and vibrant metropolitan area. Here, the government saw an opportunity to participate in a revitalization...to lead by example, and create a "jewel" to be seen by the "neighbor across the river" making a statement and becoming the gateway to a new beginning.

In March 1996, development proposals were submitted to the government in response to the Solicitation For Offer (SFO). By mid year of 1996, Koll Development Company had been awarded the project and began moving forward with the design from Langdon Wilson Architects. The following represents the documentary as to "how" this building came to be.

Historical Photo

Provided by Wyandotte County Museum


Situated looking Southeast across the River to spectacular views of downtown Kansas City, Missouri, the building offers a transitional sensitivity from residential neighborhoods to a commercial district while still maintaining a strong "Gateway" impression.

The building integrated site topography to:
  • soften visual impact
  • reduce disturbance to site conditions and
  • surroundings
  • effective oriented to accommodate natural light and solar efficiencies
The design was intended to emphasize the EPA overall mission of enhancement and sustainability to the environment.
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To begin addressing environmental responsibility, the site chosen is a "Brownfield" site. Per definition of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a "Brownfield" site is property that is "...abandoned and/or underutilized and has...an actual or perceived threat of environmental contamination..." The EPA encourages redevelopment of such sites to eliminate the actual or perceived threat of environmental contamination.

Special design considerations were introduced, including indirect lighting, recessed windows for increased shading coefficients, outdoor terraces for employee interaction, a large green atrium with trees, a fountain and a skylight for increased natural lighting. Once the Architect had responded to massing and fenestration design opportunities, he turned his attention to the interiors and building systems.

Architectural Scale Model


In addition, you will note where the architectural focus towards a selection of proprietary products and materials that offer "off the shelf" solutions to the "green" intent.

Many federal goals and standards for environmental or "green" programs were originally set forth as law in 1976 under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, or RCRA. RCRA controls the generation, treatment, and disposal of hazardous and non-hazardous waste materials. RCRA can be found at Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Parts 240-282. The Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments (HSWA) significantly modified the Act in 1984. Due to problems with over-collection versus demand, Congress added Section 6002 to RCRA, which established the Federal Government's buy-recycled program. Section 6002 also required the EPA to identify and recommend what products made with recycled content should be purchased by federal agencies. The EPA has identified such items in their Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines (CPG).

This "Off the Shelf" publication includes information on how the products used in the construction of this building matched the requirements of the CPG. Note that many products were purchased prior to publication of the CPG.

Please read through our story. Use it, and pass it on. That, after all, is our mission; to pass on what we have learned and created to be used and re-used by others.

The EPA Regional Headquarters located in Kansas City, Kansas is a participant in a voluntary program known as "Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design" (LEED) promoted by the US Green Building Council in San Francisco, California. The US Green Building Council says the following about the LEED's process.

"The LEED Green Building Rating System is a priority program of the US Green Building Council. It is a voluntary, consensus-based, market-driven building rating system based on existing proven technology that evaluates environmental performance from a whole building perspective over a building's life cycle. LEED is intended to be a definitive standard for what constitutes a green building.

The US Green Building Council's LEED Green Building Rating System is based on accepted energy and environmental principles that strikes a reasonable balance between known effective practices and emerging concepts. Unlike many other rating systems currently in existence, the development of the LEED Green Building Rating System has been open to public scrutiny and has involved the participation of virtually all segments of the building industry including product manufacturers, environmental groups, building owners, utilities, state and local government, research institutions, professional societies, colleges and universities.

LEED is a self-certifying system designed for rating new and existing commercial, institutional, and high-rise residential buildings. It is a feature-oriented system where credits are awarded to applicants that earn two-thirds of the available credits and meet all prerequisites. The system is designed to be comprehensive in scope, yet simple in operation."

The EPA Regional Headquarters earned credits based on complying with criteria in areas such as energy efficiency, indoor air quality, water quality, landscaping/exterior design, recycling and other environmentally sensitive categories. Architects, Engineers, Contractors, Governmental Consultants and various other sources combined their ingenuity and expertise to support the validity of the criteria as it related to the EPA Regional Headquarters. Current documentation for this project supports 34 out of the 44 LEED criteria for application for a gold award.

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