By Anne Cosgrove
Published in the February 2012 issue of Today’s Facility Manager
As part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Bureau of Reclamation is known for its construction of dams, power plants, and canals in 17 western states. This infrastructure plays a significant role in moving water through these areas to be used by those who live and work in the region. Established in 1902, Reclamation has evolved into a water management agency that oversees programs and initiatives to meet the needs of those who live and work in that part of the country.
The efficient handling of water resources is top of mind for those who work at Reclamation, and conservation is important in its facilities operations as well. In 1985, the Lower Colorado Region office took ownership of 17 acres in Boulder City, NV from a sister agency, Bureau of Mines. In 2000, site work was initiated with the goal of eventually consolidating Reclamation’s local facilities there—to improve efficiency in staff productivity and environmental stewardship.
So when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 made billions of dollars available for eligible construction projects, management at Reclamation’s Lower Colorado Region seized the opportunity for facility improvements and applied for funding. The agency received $14.8 million through ARRA, which it used to build a new two story, 49,000 square foot office that, since November 2011, has housed 170 of the 320 regional staff members. Previously, employees were working in four locations in Boulder City; now, there are two offices (this new facility and an administrative complex across town).
While recognizing the potential productivity benefit of bringing many employees together under one roof, Reclamation also focused on designing a facility that would be built and operated in a sustainable manner. There were specific requirements to be met, since the U.S. Department of the Interior was a signatory to The Guiding Principles for Federal Leadership in High Performance and Sustainable Buildings. Initially introduced in 2006, the Guiding Principles provide direction on how federal facilities should be built and operated to reduce total cost of ownership; improve energy efficiency and water conservation; provide healthy, productive environments; and promote environmental stewardship. The documentation lays out ways stakeholders can achieve general and specific goals.
The requirement to adhere to the Guiding Principles prompted the project team to pursue LEED certification for the building. Terri Saumier, civil engineer for Reclamation, acted as the owner’s representative, and she explains, “At the time, the Guiding Principles were fairly new, and not many contractors were familiar with them. But they certainly were familiar with LEED, and the Guiding Principles parallel LEED in a number of ways. There are differences between the systems, but essentially they involve the same type of documentation, so it really helped in the procurement process to have contractors and vendors understand what the Guiding Principles were going to require of them.”
A Chat With Terri Saumier
Meanwhile, since the site was located in the viewshed of the Boulder City Historic District, the building’s features needed to be compatible with existing buildings in the district.
Ultimately, the project was certified LEED Platinum by the U.S. Green Building Council, a proud achievement for the project team that had initially been aiming for Silver certification.
David Palumbo, then director of engineering for the Lower Colorado Region (he’s since been promoted to assistant regional director), expands on the motivation behind pursuing LEED, “An informal analysis revealed that adhering to the Guiding Principles was roughly equivalent to LEED Silver. We also decided to pursue certification, because it is globally recognized inside and out of the government community.”
The progression to LEED Platinum certification was facilitated by several factors. For one, Reclamation used a design-build approach (versus design-bid-build), and this afforded flexibility as circumstances changed—such as the agency securing additional ARRA funding during the course of the project.
Saumier explains, “At the outset, the general contractor committed to delivering a LEED Gold building. Several months into the project, additional ARRA funds became available, and we were able to request funds for items that weren’t in the original scope. That is how we were able to add a solar farm [a 135 kilowatt photovoltaic system], and we also upgraded from an air cooled to a water cooled HVAC system.”
Making the move from an air cooled HVAC system was part of a strategy to reduce the building’s energy demand by 30% over the ASHRAE baseline (a component of the Guiding Principles). An air cooled system uses more energy to extract heat from a building than a water cooled system does. The energy reduction was significant enough to move to the water cooled system, but Saumier acknowledges the team then needed to address the increased water use for HVAC.
Adds Palumbo, “The maintenance people also provided insight on things like the types fitting to use on the pipes or where to place electrical outlets. On the same note, IT provided insight on where to run wiring.”
With the new Boulder City office, Reclamation took a leap with a new approach to workspace layout. Says Palumbo, “We originally anticipated more enclosed offices but moved to a modular, open environment. This helped achieve daylighting objectives but also fostered better space management. There is more flexibility; we don’t have to knock down walls and pull new wire when changes are made to facility layout.
“We knew it was going to be a cultural shift, since a lot of people were coming from an enclosed office environment,” continues Palumbo. “So we created ‘collaboration rooms’ throughout the building.” These rooms are enclosed spaces equipped to function as a private office (with a phone, docking station, chairs, and table). People can use them as private spaces if needed, while groups can use the rooms for meetings at other times.
Says Saumier, “The fact that the collaboration rooms can be used as a private office or as a shared space has worked out already. Several groups have reorganized, and if we had built specific to the organizational chart, the building wouldn’t be meeting our goals.”
Working in the building every day, Saumier is privy to occupant reactions. “Primarily, people tell me they like it,” she says. “I think they enjoy the fact we are in the same building with more opportunities to collaborate. They also enjoy the open, airy atmosphere. It’s very rewarding to see the end users happy.”
This article was based on an interview with Palumbo and Saumier at the Bureau of Reclamation, Lower Colorado Region.
Name of Organization: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation. Type of Facility: New. Function of Facility: Government Office. Location: Boulder City, NV. Square Footage: 49,800. Budget: $16.3 million (includes solar farm, campus infrastructure and utility improvements, and furniture). Construction Timetable: August 2010 to October 2011. Cost Per Square Foot: $230. Facility Owner: Bureau of Reclamation. In-House Project Manager: Terri Saumier, civil engineer. Architect/Interior Designer: Tate Snyder Kimsey Architects. General Contractor/Construction Manager: Whiting-Turner Contracting. Electrical/Mechanical Engineer and Lighting Designer: MSA Engineering. Structural Engineer: Leslie E. Robertson Associates. Landscape Architect: Quercus LLC. LEED Consultants: Daniel Huard, LEED AP BD+C; Tate Snyder Kimsey Architects.
Furnishings: Herman Miller. Flooring: Euclid Chemical (Euco Diamond Hard polished concrete); Mapei (Keracolor U + Planicrete UA). Carpet: Shaw industries Group (EcoWorx squares). Ceilings: USG Interiors. Paint: Frazee Paint (Envirokote). Building Management System/Services: Delta Controls (programming by ABS Systems). Fire System Components: Fenwall Protection Systems (dry system); Tyco (wet system). Lighting Products: Acuity Brands (sensors); GE Lighting (lamps); Lithonia Lighting (recessed fixtures); Peerless Lighting (pendant fixture). HVAC Equipment: Grundfos; Marley; Trane; VRTX Water Treatment. Plumbing Equipment: American Standard; Bradley; Sloan. Power Supply Equipment: Cummins; Eaton Powerware; Schneider Electric; Square D. IT Infrastructure: Cisco Systems; Corning (fiber optic cable); Tyco Electronics. Roofing: Insulfoam LLC; Johns Manville; MBCI. Signage: Fusion; Takeform Architectural Graphics. Exit Signs: ExitStore; Lithonia Lighting. Windows/Curtainwalls: EFCO Corporation System. Skylights: Kalwall Corporation. Elevators: Otis Elevator Company. Other Systems: Sharp (solar electric system); Satcon PowerGate Plus Inverter; Solar Site Lighting; A.O. Water Systems (water treatment system); Goulds (water pumps).