Practical Commercial Sustainable Design
The client for this project, Christy Webber Landscapes, is a successful and growing landscape construction and maintenance company interested in sustainable practice. It is the first building in a newly created eco-industrial park in Chicago (also developed by the company).
The client has several objectives. First, to create room for growth in the business. The site provides an acre of work yard in addition to a central courtyard for business functions. The building itself aims for five years of projected growth. Second, to create an engaging and light filled space conducive to productive work for the office staff: designers, managers, estimators, as well as shop space for tool and equipment storage and maintenance. Third, Christy Webber believes utility costs are likely to rise significantly in the coming years. They want the building to function as a kind of hedge against high prices. The target was 55% less energy use than code.
Finally, a key goal is to demonstrate that high environmental values don’t need to break the bank. For example, there are no photovoltaic panels in the project (they typically have a 30 to 50 year payback and usually don’t make economic sense without a minimum 80% subsidy).
Elements were selected for specific project benefits. Geo-thermal heating and cooling is combined with under-floor displacement ventilation to reduce utility costs and increase occupant comfort. The front entrance canopy, an array of solar thermal panels on a steel framework, is designed as a kind of banner/gateway for the company and a mounting point for signage. It also creates hot water for showers (many employees bike to work), provides renewable energy to heat the shop building, functions as sun shading for part of the facade. The solar hot water also supplements the geo-thermal heating and therefore reduces the number of underground shafts that must be excavated which saves construction cost. The green roof will be installed by Christy Webber and used for marketing their installation services. Rooftop rain water collection, stored in a 25,000 gallon cistern, fills the maintenance program watering trucks. Daylight harvesting, using light shelves and automatic dimming, will contribute 20% of the energy savings. A rooftop greenhouse cleans and preheats incoming fresh air. Landscape waste will be composted and used during planting season. Bio-swales leading to a central rain garden will reduce runoff and treat it locally. The project, completed in December of 2006, came in $75,000 under budget and achieved nearly $400,000 in tax benefits related to sustainable design.