EPA's Region 6 Office
Serving: Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and 66 Tribal Nations
In Little Rock, Arkansas, a 28-acre site with a history of invasive industrial use has become home to an award-winning Green Building, that is, one that minimizes environmental impact. This state-of-the-art facility serves as the new headquarters for Heifer International, an organization working to end hunger in the United States and countries around the world.
For more than 100 years, this site, situated on the banks of the Arkansas River in downtown Little Rock, was used as a rail yard. The property was also polluted during stints of warehousing, light industry, and trucking company occupations. One trucking company operated on the site for more than 50 years, contaminating the area through decades of vehicle maintenance and other industrial activities.
To solidify its commitment to sustainable design in the development of its new headquarters, Heifer developed a 15-member Smart Building Committee to ensure that its new facility would meet the standards of the LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) rating system for new buildings. The LEED system is a voluntary national standard developed by the U.S. Green Building Council to create sustainable buildings through green design strategies. As a result of the organization’s efforts to utilize green building design and green product technologies in transforming this former industrial site, Heifer International was named a “Green Building on Brownfields” pilot project by the U.S. EPA on September 25, 2002. The pilot program provides technical, financial, planning, outreach, and design expertise to incorporate environmental considerations into redevelopment efforts. Heifer International headquarters has received the highest LEED certification: Platinum.
The property on which the Heifer facility was built is part of a larger, constructed wetland. As a result, one of the greatest challenges to site redevelopment was the integration of a proposed 4.2-acre, 337-space parking lot. Conventional paved parking lots are impervious to rain water, causing rapid runoff, erosion, and flood damage during severe storms. Parking facilities can also contribute to contamination from oils, metals, and other vehicle pollutants, which are swept from parking lots during storms, creating pulses of contaminated waters into the surrounding environment. To develop an innovative design for the parking lot that would minimize the impact on the surrounding wetland environment, Heifer International was awarded an Innovation Demonstration Grant from EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER). Included in the proposed parking lot design is a series of small “green” parking plazas that will move storm water through a vegetated runoff collection system that will collect and cleanse storm water and return it to the environment. The Heifer International Green Parking Lot Case Study describes the environmental impacts of parking lots, green parking lot techniques, and benefits of green parking lot construction (Green Parking Lot Case Study (PDF, 43 pp., 353 KB, About PDF).
This new “green” facility, has created more than 200 full-time jobs, and draws 250,000 people to the site annually for public events where visitors have the opportunity to learn about world cultures, issues of hunger and poverty, and the role that a healthy environment plays in solving these problems. These events use the environmentally sustainable features of the facility to illustrate how the United States and other wealthy countries can improve properties in ways that protect and preserve the environment.