A few generations ago, the ultimate statement in corporate architecture might have been a marble lobby, or a corner office. Nowadays, it may just be the leafy emblem of LEED® certification.
Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council in 2000, LEED, or Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, is a nationally-accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high- performance green buildings. LEED certification is available for all building types, including new construction and major renovations and for existing buildings. Certification is attained through a point system addressing various criteria, including sustainable sites; water efficiency; energy and atmosphere; materials and resources; and indoor environmental quality. Gold level certification requires 60-79 points out of a 110 possible points.
Grant Thornton LLP recently attained LEED Gold certification for its new offices on the 14th and 15th floors of the U.S. Bank Building in downtown Minneapolis. The tenant relocated last year from the 5th and 6th floors with the goals of creating a more open and collaborative work environment, while reducing the office’s carbon footprint, said Michelle Montan, Grant Thornton office manager.
The initial project had a goal of LEED Silver certification, incorporating typical sustainable elements such as recycled materials, use of regional materials and reusing existing space in an urban environment. Reinforced by building owner U.S. Bank and building manager Hines Companies’ own sustainability goals, the collaborative team including Kraus-Anderson, Hines Companies and Gensler Architects raised the bar.
Kraus-Anderson worked collaboratively with Grant Thornton and with Hines Companies to demolish the existing 14th and 15th floors with intention of supporting LEED goals for both Grant Thornton and the building as a whole. (U.S. Bank Plaza also recently achieved LEED Gold.)
There was a comfort level going into the project with Kraus-Anderson, said Montan.
“We were fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with KA on three remodel projects in our previous space which allowed us to build a strong working relationship with KA and key people like Justin Webster (project manager) and Jack Bronczyk (project superintendent), who were available to work with us again on this major office build out. Having the existing relationships is key to managing expectations both from our perspective and KA’s,” Montan said.
“With the help of HGA’s engineering efforts, Gensler’s design team and Hines facilities group, the Kraus-Anderson team converted all of the remaining 14th and 15th floor public bathrooms outside of the tenant’s space to ultra low-flow fixtures, re-engineered power usage from the building Energy Management System, and identified specific areas in other parts of the building for bicycle storage, showers, and other green amenities,” Webster said.
In addition, KA committed to supporting the sustainable process by introducing Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) measures throughout construction, tracking and recording all deliveries to ensure adherence to the IAQ program, assisting the architect in identifying materials that carried higher-than-required recycled content, and identifying acceptable regional materials. KA also took the lead in diverting all of the construction waste from demolition through construction by separating and documenting all materials with the result that less than 25% of all materials were landfilled, said Webster.
Logistics of building in an occupied, high rise office building were handled with care to expedite progress over the 15-week schedule with minimal disruption to tenants. Parking spaces were reserved to handle multiple recycling dumpsters, and a huge team effort allowed for modifications to the building energy modeling without disruption to building tenants.
Freight elevators were scheduled during off hours usage to bring building materials up to the 14th and 15th floors under the watchful eyes of project superintendent Jack Bronczyk. Webster recalls that the elevator ceiling had to be removed on three occasions in order to bring steel up.
“Jack made it happen somehow, and I don’t believe I heard a single complaint! It had something to do with being very, very nice to the freight elevator people,” said Webster.
There was a lot of going to work at 3 and 4 a.m. to beat the office crowd.
“We had a live construction camera on site so we were able to verify that Jack really does work some weird hours,” said Webster.
Overall, communication was the key to the project’s success.
“It takes a very good client to allow the control we were given to get this project done in 15 weeks and a number of people to ready to answer the phone and provide assistance immediately,” said Webster.
“Overall it was a great project and everything came together to bring about a wonderful new office space,” agrees Montan. Her advice to others undertaking a similar project?
“Keep the communication lines open; ask questions sooner rather than later; keep functionality as much of a priority as design.”
The rewards of the new space go far beyond the satisfaction of LEED Gold status, of course. The new open floor plan sends natural light throughout the entire office environment, bringing intangible rewards to all who use the space, said Montan.
“There is a whole different energy in our new space that didn’t exist on floors five and six,” said Montan.