Natural Resources Defense Council Headquarters, Santa Monica, CA
Achieving the highest level of LEED™ certification possible – Platinum – the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Headquarters building, completed in December 2003, exemplifies an integrated design process that began from Day One and continued through the commissioning process. The project team created innovative ways to introduce fresh air ventilation and natural light into this 15,000-square-foot, Class A office building, while at the same time addressing significant site and budget constraints. The facility uses 60-percent less water than a standard building of its size by capturing and filtering rain, shower, and sink water to irrigate landscaping and flush toilets through on-site gray water treatment/recovery and storm water treatment/retention/recovery systems. Daylighting via lightwells and other energy-efficient measures – high-efficiency fixtures and appliances, natural ventilation combined with displacement ventilation and individual HVAC controls; photovoltaic panels atop the building; and more – are expected to dramatically reduce the building’s energy needs when compared to a standard office building designed in compliance with California’s Title 24 energy standards.
Project Team: Natural Resources Defense Council (owner); Elizabeth Moule & Stefanos Polyzoides (architect); Syska Hennessy Group Inc. (MEP engineer); CTGEnergetics (sustainability consultants); Environmental Planning and Design (water systems); TG Construction (contractor); Tishman (project manager).
Learn more about this project at (www.syska.com/sustainable/projects/nrdc.html)
Q: As a non-profit environmental law firm, did the NRDC have specific goals in mind for its new headquarters building?
“It was absolutely part of the NRDC’s mission to implement green building practices as part of this headquarters building,” explains Rob Bolin, PE, vice president of Sustainable Design in the Los Angeles office of Syska Hennessy Group Inc. “When they put out the RFP and RFQ, they wanted a LEED Platinum rating and, if at all possible, for the building to be a net energy and water producer or to have an energy and water footprint of zero. While leaving solutions to the creativity of the design team, that fundamentally meant [implementing] storm water catchment and gray water recycling for water strategies; and, on the energy side, it was first how to make the building as energy efficient as possible and then to offset remaining electrical requirements through photovoltaics, fuel cells, etc. However, the NRDC even took it to the next step and purchased green tags to offset the remainder of its annual energy consumption, in which in addition to the utility bill, an owner pays the equivalent to a third-party green power producer (wind, geothermal) to generate [the same] amount of kilowatt-hours per year to put back into the national grid.”
Q: What were some of the innovative solutions employed at the NRDC Headquarters?
“It was a very challenging site: basically, a very narrow building situated between two other buildings, so the siting of it was certainly not ideal from a solar orientation or natural ventilation perspective,” explains Bolin. “It also wasn’t facing the optimal direction. Having said that, it’s also two blocks from the beach. So capturing the ocean breezes as a primary means of conditioning the building using natural ventilation was a very significant component to it.”
“Daylighting is handled in several ways; first, using office windows primarily on the long sides of the building, which stops short of the property line and adjacent buildings. Because of the close proximity to these other buildings, we wanted to drive daylight down into the building, so we created light wells in the middle of a doubly loaded corridor on both levels. Rather than skylights, these roof ‘monitors’ with clerestory windows pop out of the roof (pictured above).
“An interesting aspect of the integrated design is that these light well monitors, which provide daylighting, are also part of the ventilation system. On two sides of the monitors are louvers that provide the relief air path for the building. Think about the double loaded corridor: Occupants open their windows; air comes in from the side court and ventilates the office area; then travels through the corridor and up into the light wells; and finally exits the building through the louvers.”
Q: What kinds of sustainable building materials were used?
“The building features recycled-content carpet from a local manufacturer; 75-percent recycled-content ceiling tiles; concrete flooring with fly-ash, which is a by-product of coal burning; countertops made with recycled-content fiber and no toxic resins; a durable wood substitute for exterior and interior siding; and more,” says Bolin. “Even the material for the toilet partitions was made from 100-percent recycled bottle caps.”