Sunday, March 10, 2013

Touring the LEED Platium Certified Nature Conservancy Building - by Lauren Campbell


Earlier this week I had the wonderful opportunity to tour the Indiana’s Nature Conservancy headquarters. A friend was going and asked if I wanted to tag along; touring buildings isn’t something that I typically do in my spare time, but the Indiana State Nature Conservancy building is a site to behold.

The building is LEED Platinum certified (a wonderful thing in and of itself); however, this particular building, which achieved 56 points (52 are required for LEED Platinum certification), now has the highest point total recorded by any project in the State of Indiana.

It is quite the achievement.

When walking into the Nature Conservancy (NC), the front entrance is completely landscaped with plants native to Indiana and designed for maximum storm-water management; this includes the front walkway, which is made up of local Indiana limestone (one of our biggest commodities), leading people into a beautiful entry way.  


The reception desk in the lobby
Using local products was a priority for the NC and also attributed to points for the Materials and Resources category of LEED. Majority of all the stone used inside the building is local Indiana limestone; with the exception of the building itself, which is comprised of the bricks that were used in the previous building that was there (The NC had to demolish the old building; it was too timeworn and was deemed unsafe for use). According to the NC, “Careful planning and waste sorting allowed for reuse or recycling of over 75% of the construction waste for our project.” This included salvaging, by hand, over 8,000 square feet of bricks. As I walked up to the building, you could see the salvaged brick and timber; a large amount of the timber from the previous building was milled down and refinished for use in furnishings: the front desk and the staff break room table, just to name a few.

Poplar wood and Limestone floor
Once I walked into the building a beautiful hardwood floor caught my eye. This beautiful lumber, Poplar, is native to Indiana; other lumber that was used in the building include Red Oak, Shag-bark Hickory, and Maple, also native. While all the wood is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified, the land where the Conservancy Sits on is itself FSC certified due to the land management and timber-harvesting practices the NC uses.

The Conservancy has various research sites throughout the state, studying native plants and animals and their effect on our forests; one particular study, for example, researched Red Oak saplings and their survival rate in dense canopy. Researchers found that the mature and much larger trees, including mature Red Oak trees, absorb most of the sunlight preventing younger trees from growing. In nature, this is balanced by forest fires that would blaze through southern Indiana, burning much of the canopy and giving younger trees access to sun, promoting growth. Of course now, we do not allow fires to run rampant through our forests and because of this the current Red Oak population was not sufficiently replacing itself. To combat this issue, the NC cut timber on the property to improve the overall structure of the forest (the next best thing to fires). The Red Oak that is featured in the building is comprised of that cut timber. This allowed the NC to use local wood, in addition to improving the structure of many Hoosier forests; helping their building, their cause, and their research.

Cabinets in the break room 

Break room sink
Other recycled items included wall tiles made out of recycled bottles and glass which are produced north of Indianapolis and highly textured cabinet material, located in the break room and other board rooms, made of Kirei board: compressed grasses and stalks of sorghum.

Another important quality for the NC was storm-water management. Indianapolis has an archaic water system and there are a lot of problems with sewage water and storm-water runoff combining, causing the storm-water to be untreatable and then is dumped into the White River; which flows through downtown and is one of the state’s largest rivers. The NC made it a priority not to contribute to this community issue. They received all points possible under the LEED Water Efficiency category.
Green Roof

2500 gallon water cistern
The NC had to take several different measures to achieve a water efficient building. In addition to the native plant landscaping, which helps store and filter the storm-water, they installed a green roof.  Lined with native plants, this area of the building also stores a lot of water (it also helps reduce their Heat Island Effect, cooling off the local area and optimizing energy efficiency indoors) keeping it off of the roadways and preventing it from emptying into the city’s storm-water system. Once the storm-water is filtered through the plants, they make their way into a grey-water cistern. This huge cistern, located in the basement of the building, holds 2500 gallons of water which is reused for watering plants and flushing toilets.



It was a privilege to have toured this building. It not only gave me a perspective on the LEED knowledge I had learned from books, but it also gave me an understanding that LEED is to be flexible and its success depends on human ingenuity to utilize local resources in a responsible and productive way.  

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