Lead by example

07 Dec 2011

US Army looks set to improve its sustainable credibility with highly-efficient headquarters

Led by ZGF Architects and Sellen Construction, the Federal Center South Redevelopment looks to achieve unprecedented levels of efficiency and sustainability for its area. Resting on the banks of the Duwamish Waterway in Seattle, Washington, the project is currently targeting LEED Gold status, and is a shining example of the new eco-trend currently engulfing the design of government buildings. Utilising cutting-edge technology, such as specifically manufactured light fixtures and chilled sails, every effort has been put into rendering this $72m redevelopment as non-detrimental to the area and environment as possible.

Having to endure a rigorous process of intense scrutiny and potential elimination as they competed for this opportunity,the design-team had to unequivocally demonstrate that all efforts would abide by GSA’s progressive sustainability requirements. In fact, they are under contractual obligation to guarantee energy performance, just one year into occupation. To achieve this, various sustainable initiatives have been deployed.

The design combines geothermal heating and cooling systems, conscionably controlling internal temperature, whilst ventilation systems, consisting of five rooftop units, aids in heat retention. The facade and floor depths have been optimised to enable extensive sunlight to enter interior spaces. The point when natural lumination is no longer enough will be monitored by a series of occupancy sensors, whilst continuous dimming controls will minimise artificial light reliance during the daylight hours. Providing for those keen to avoid the sun’s rays, adorning every elevation will be sunshades, tailored to respond to specific solar conditions.

Treating falling precipitation as an equally opportune commodity, once constructed in the autumn of 2012, the design will incorporate rain gardens - an effective means of treating and filtering all storm water on-site - eliminating the expense of connecting to the City’s storm water system; meanwhile, a separate rainwater reuse system will capture water from the roof and store it in a 25,000 gallon cistern, to be used for toilets, irrigation, and water features in the atrium.

The new District headquarters of the Army Corps of Engineers, a large-scale, modernising revamp of a 1940’s warehouse, will reuse 200,000ft. of structural timbers preserved from the pre-existing foundations. Additional materials will comprise of 20% recyclables, and 50% certified wood. Practically neutralising the negative issue of construction waste, 98% of scrap parts will either be recycled or else salvaged in some form. Returning to its perimeters will be four acres of greenery with surrounding soil amended for such purposes.

Accommodating all these sophisticated designs, and sustainable practices, will be the premises themselves. The building is orientated towards the river, offering perfect views stretching across its surface; the four housed quadrants, creating the interior, are each named after the four rivers that historically came together to form the Duwamish River.

Accompanying these artificial innards is an atrium, the central gathering place for interaction amongst the inhabitants. Relying often on the modern attributes of glass, the sleek skin of this three-storey, 209,000 sq ft building seeks a distinct impression on the regressive, aged background. Regardless of what its aesthetic attributes may amount to, included in the top one percent of U.S. buildings for energy performance, this project represents an impressive step forward for environmental architecture.

Tom Aston

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