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Exterior Environments

Exterior Environments

This section addresses all the design and construction factors of the New EPA Region 7 Headquarter's Building which may have an impact on the exterior environment. The exterior environment includes the ambient (outdoor) air, soils, groundwater, and surface water, including all animal and human life supported by these media.


The building's exterior landscaping was designed to emphasize the use of native plants which will require less water and maintenance than plants imported from another environment. The plants selected are tolerant of local climate, soils, and are not totally dependent upon receiving water from a municipal potable water source in order to stay alive. This design incorporates the use of minimal to zero harmful pesticides. Consideration was given to site functions for humans and wildlife as well as anticipating the cycles of use throughout the day, week, and year. Consideration was also given to extremes of climate, annual solar angles with patterns of light or shade, annual direction and intensity of breezes as well as seasonal color and life span of plants. The landscape concept was formal in keeping with the character of the building and its municipal setting.

More than forty shade trees were planted within the visitor parking area on the west side of the building. These deciduous trees will provide a considerable amount of shade to this area in the summer months and allow for solar heat gain in the winter when the leaves have fallen from the trees. A colonnade of ornamental trees were planted in the parking garage planters on the east side of the building.


These trees offer additional relief in the form of shade to those individuals approaching the building from the east parking lot. The shrub beds located throughout the site add visual interest to the site and serve functional purposes, such as softening the architecture, direct pedestrian movements, provide separation of spaces and aid in erosion control. All exterior paving is concrete with light gray coloring. One tree is planted on site for every 2,500 square feet of impermeable surface on the building lot.

IRRIGATION The irrigation system is designed with automatic valves that control individual zones. These zones are comprised of pop-up spray and gear drive rotors with matched precipitation rates for uniform water distribution. The valves are operated by an advanced water-management controller with beneficial water saving features, such as water budgeting, programmable rain delay, and cycle soak. The irrigation system includes probes which measure the moisture content in the soil. Therefore, the vegetation is watered only when the moisture is needed. Water conservation for the landscaping complies with the Department of Energy's International Performance Measurement and Verification Protocol for water consumption. In order to promote better water quality in the runoff water, sand/oil interceptors have been installed in the parking lot drains.


Erosion is another important element of site development as well as landscaping. Due to raised environmental awareness and the rising costs of repairing the damage erosion creates, erosion has become a important consideration for all potentially affected projects. Construction sites with slopes that are bare, along with surface drainage areas, are especially subject to erosion. Erosion reduces the productivity and usability of land areas.

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The sediment run off resulting from this erosion finds its way to streams, rivers, and other bodies of water, thus choking them and adversely effecting wildlife habitat. Erosion is an effect of multiple causes. Developing land is one of them. Vegetation helps to control erosion by keeping the water from washing silt and pollutants into streams. At this site, erosion was controlled during construction with the use of sand bags, straw bales and a silt fence.

When an area is developed it can cease to absorb rainwater, thus flooding streams, eroding banks, and sending silt into water ways. Erosion is still a consideration after construction is completed. The sloped bank near the northwest corner of the building is the only location where erosion control is needed. Erosion at this location is controlled by planting low spreading shrubs on the slope. In addition, a Geoweb cellular confinement system is used within the shrub bed to hold the soils on the slope. The Geoweb system is a jute or organic cover system of mats with integral plant seed designed to be rolled out or laid on the soil surface to mitigate erosion and potential turbidity.

Erosion Control

Erosion control at this site is in compliance with Sections 4.2 e. & f. of the Maryland Model Erosion and Sediment Control ordinance and Section 6 (Group 2) of the Maryland Model Storm Water Management ordinance.


Ozone is a gas composed of three atoms of oxygen (03) and can be found in the air that we breathe at ground-level as well as in the upper atmosphere. The ozone located at ground-level can cause detrimental health affects and damage to the environment. Ozone in the upper atmosphere is beneficial, as it forms a protective layer that shields the earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation.


Ground level ozone is commonly referred to as smog. It is produced by a combination of pollutants from many sources including smokestacks, cars, paints and solvents. When a car burns gasoline, releasing exhaust fumes, or a painter paints a house, emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) rise into the sky and react in the presence of sunlight forming smog.

Smog can cause a variety of health problems because it damages lung tissue, reduces lung function, and adversely sensitizes the lungs to other irritants. Smog also interferes with the ability of plants to produce and store food making them more susceptible to disease, insect attack, and other pollutants.

Smog causes health problems:

  • Acute respiratory problems
  • Aggravates asthma
  • Reduces lung capacity
  • Inflames lung tissue
  • Worsens heart disease
  • Impairs body's immune system

Since NOx and VOCs are the two primary precursors to the formation of smog, the minimization or elimination of these two compounds during planning or construction is ideal. Since automobiles contribute more than 50% of the precursors to smog, the use of alternative transportation will decrease the concentration of smog.

Alternative transportation is when an individual chooses to get to their destination by some other means than by driving a motor vehicle. Some examples of alternative transportation include walking, riding a bike, taking public transportation such as a bus or train, and carpooling.

One element of design that is being incorporated into this building project is the construction of a combination bike trail and jogging path. This bike trail / jogging path is an attractive environmental feature as it incorporates the planting of trees along its half mile length. It is a total of ten feet wide, in which four feet is dedicated to the jogging path. It provides a "safety zone" from automobiles for cyclists and pedestrians. If an employee chooses to walk or ride their bike to work, rather than getting to work in a motor vehicle, they are significantly reducing the amount of contributors to smog. For more information on the planning and design of this bike trail/jogging path, contact the Kansas Department of Transportation at (785) 296-7448.

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As an incentive to interests EPA employees to participate in alternative transportation (thus reducing automobile emissions), the EPA provides for FREE transportation. The Kansas City Regional EPA Headquarters office participates in a reimbursement program, called the Transit Subsidy Program, where employees can have all of their bus fare reimbursed, if they ride the bus. For more information on the Transit Subsidy Program, contact the EPA Regional Transportation Coordinator in EPA's Air Program at (913) 551-7020. Health effects of ozone (upper atmosphere)
  • Skin cancer
  • Cataracts
  • Impair's body's immune system

The mechanical equipment installed in this building eliminates the use of CFC and HCFC refrigerants, thus will not contribute to the stratospheric ozone depletion problem.

In addition to EPA's Transit Subsidy Program, Kansas City's three transit systems have cooperatively agreed to allow anybody to ride any of the three transit systems free of charge on "Ozone Alert Days." "Ozone Alert Days" are days when smog is at a high enough concentration to cause health concerns. Employees located in this building or those visiting are welcome to join in this cost-effective effort to reduce the contributors to smog. For more information about this program, call the Metro at (816) 221-0660.

Another incentive is provided for EPA employees to use alternative transportation. Preferred parking is being provided for all employees at this Kansas City location who carpool.

In addition to alternative transportation, the reduction of smog was also considered when selecting building materials. Low emitting VOC carpets, adhesives, architectural sealants, and paints were specifically selected for this building in order to help reduce the contribution of VOCs into the atmosphere, hence reducing the formation of smog.


As mentioned above, the ozone in the upper atmosphere (the stratosphere) is beneficial, as it forms a protective barrier, shielding the earth from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays. This ozone occurs naturally, yet is being destroyed by manmade chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), halons, and other ozone depleting substances (used in coolants, foaming agents, fire extinguishers, solvents, and aerosol propellants). These manmade chemicals escape into the air and damage this protective layer of ozone by thinning it similar to clothes getting worn to threads at certain spots.

These thinning spots in the ozone allow ultraviolet rays to make their way to the earth's surface. Ultraviolet rays are known to cause skin cancer, cataracts, and impair immune systems. These harmful rays also damage crops and cause diseases in plants.

Ozone Hole

When the ozone layer is damaged, there is an increase in harmful rays from the sun reaching the Earth. These rays can harm both human health and the environment.

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