The Green Column #52

New gold found in Lincoln

July 25, 2011—As Assurity Life Insurance Company’s ad [in the Lincoln Journal-Star] states. “Assurity is ecological.” And ecological means, among other business strategies, that their new headquarters building at 20th and Q streets will be a “gold-rated” high-performance building—the first new construction in Lincoln to achieve the gold level of design standards as outlined by the LEED program of the U.S. Green Building Council.

By the time construction is complete and Assurity occupies its new facilities, scheduled for December 3, 2011, the conditions for the gold, third-party certification process will be complete. Signage will be permanently affixed to the structure to publicly acknowledge Assurity’s leadership in energy and environmental design (LEED) characteristics.

From the beginning of corporate planning for the new facilities, Tom Henning, president and chief executive officer of Assurity, and the board of directors stipulated two major planning and design objectives: first, that they preferred to be located in the center of the city rather than on the edge of Lincoln’s growth pattern; and second, that the building should perform in a green manner and that the gold level of the LEED certification system would be their target.

Henning and the board believe that the “green by design” objective would affect not only the physical characteristics and performance of the building, but the net outcome would affect the operational finances of the company and the productivity of employees. Bill Schmeeckly, vice president and chief investment officer, said, “We are constructing a sustainable building and have designed the building to receive LEED Gold Certification.” He said the principal advantages of the new building include:

  • Ability to attract and retain the brightest associates
  • Enhanced associate morale
  • Reduced operating expenses
  • Ability to use the most current technology.
  • How will this building be different from standard commercial construction? How will the goal of a “high-performance” building be manifested in the design and construction?

First, the building will incorporate energy and conservation features that are becoming almost universally standard for high-performance facilities, such as: maximizing the use of natural daylighting while minimizing interior windowless rooms; motion-sensing light switches with occupancy sensors and timed lighting; compact fluorescent and low energy lighting; dual flush toilets and low flow faucets and showers—adding up to a 33 percent reduction of water usage over the typical office building; diversion of 50–75 percent of waste during construction from the landfill and into recycling operations; and energy conservation materials by reason of the reduction of energy demands in the manufacturing, transportation and/or day-to-day performance after installation.

Special or unique features of the building will be:

  • Each work station will have individual controls for thermal and air conditioning and individual task lighting, in addition to state-of-the-technology for computing and digital tasks; no fixed wall floor-to-ceiling partitions will divide work spaces—all will be formed by office landscape furniture;
  • Low, or zero, toxics in adhesives, sealants, paints, coatings, or carpets and fibers;
  • An ice-making and storage system is designed into the air conditioning system to provide circulating chilled water for temperature control. The ice will be made with energy in the evenings and nights for off-peak conservation of electrical energy;
  • Employees will be encouraged to bike to and from work. Showers, secure lockers and bicycle stalls will be provided;
  • Employee use of high-efficiency and low-emission vehicles will also be encouraged by providing designated prime parking spaces for such vehicles;
  • All roof surfaces will be either planted, green roofs or heat reflective coated surfaces;
  • Underground cisterns will store captured rain and site stormwater for reuse in the irrigation of site landscaping; the cisterns are repurposed, existing but abandoned stormwater structures;
  • Native and drought-resistant plant species have been specified for the landscaping; bioswales, pervious hard surfaces, and rain gardens will control water runoff on the site.

Are there either economic liabilities, or benefits, for seeking the LEED certification, i.e., first costs and long-term values and operating costs?

Both the architect, The Clark Enersen Partners, and the general contractor, Sampson Construction, confirm that any increase in cost of this construction would be attributed to the degree of high performance desired for the materials and systems, not to whether or not the construction was rated as green. And, both agree that the high performance objectives will return savings in the operations of the building over future years.

When will high-performance and conservation-based design and construction decisions become the new standard for all major commercial, institutional, and residential buildings in our communities?

Today we can seek and achieve special recognition for a new green approach to the use of materials and systems, the environment, and the operational performance of buildings. But if the community is to be known to be sustainable, then all construction must be of high-performance quality.

Why would logic—eco-logic—not be a goal for all development in the city, be it public or private? Why should we not have a city that performs at the highest quality, at the lowest cost, resulting in the safest healthy environment, and through the development and building process a city that conserves materials and resources for the use of future generations who may also desire to live in a sustainable city?

Why not mine the gold when we now have the logical opportunity?

© Lincoln Green by Design