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Lower Colorado Region
Boulder City, Nev.
Media Contact:
Rose Davis
702-293-8421

Released On: December 28, 2012

Reclamation Building Receives Top Sustainability Rating
Is it green, or is it platinum? For a new Bureau of Reclamation building, it's both. Reclamation's Green Building in Boulder City, Nev. has received a Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council under its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) sustainability rating system. The building opened in September 2011 as the newest addition to Reclamation's Lower Colorado Regional Office and is the first Reclamation building (and the third for the Department of Interior, Reclamation's parent agency) to receive the highest LEED rating.

For the high-tech, low-energy building, the Design-Build team used $17.8 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to construct a 50,000-square-foot building (about $4 million was for campus site improvements) with space for 170 current employees. Reconfiguring modular workstations allows room for an additional 30 employees if needed.

Thanks to features such as a water-cooled air conditioning system, high-efficiency light fixtures and a well-insulated building envelope, the building uses 38 percent less energy than a typical office building. An adjacent 270-kilowatt solar farm with nearly 1,200 panels uses southern Nevada's abundant sunlight to provide 100 percent of the building's annual electric budget, making the building's annual electric bill essentially zero.

Project Manager Terri Saumier, a civil engineer with Reclamation, said that the challenge in designing and constructing the building was figuring out how to merge two sets of criteria—Reclamation's Guiding Principles for Federal Leadership in High Performance and Sustainable Buildings and the LEED program's sustainability rating system. Saumier said she frequently used the more-tested LEED program to ensure compliance with the Guiding Principles requirements.

"The project team had to consider the power and water efficiency impacts of every design decision," said Saumier. "The Guiding Principles and LEED are complementary programs but they're distinct. The LEED program has required and optional credits, while the Reclamation mandate is to achieve compliance with the Guiding Principles."

There was also the historical aspect to consider. The new building is in the viewshed of the Boulder City Historic District, an area with a going-back-in-time feel, - especially when coming over the hill from Las Vegas, Boulder City's bigger, glitzier neighbor.

That meant the building had to comply with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. Reclamation consulted with the Nevada State Historic Preservation Office and developed design criteria for the project exterior that resulted in a finding of no adverse effect on the historic district.

The historic district dates from the early 1940s, and the Reclamation campus is located in what was historically an industrial area. These two factors largely guided the building’s size, orientation, window layout, and exterior finish and colors, giving the building a retro take on the industrial look that is still prevalent in this part of Boulder City.

"In the proposal phase, we were thrilled that the three proposers interpreted the requirements very differently and we had three unique designs to choose from," said Saumier.

Inside, the numerous windows and preponderance of cubicles give the building an open, airy feel that almost makes it seem you could clear out the space on the weekend for a monster-truck rally. In fact, flexibility is part of the building design, with an unofficial goal of not needing to remodel any hard walls for at least 10 years.

While the Green Building may not have a talking hologram who greets visitors, it does feature a Building Management System (BMS) that manages 27 individual heating, ventilation and air conditioning zones, adjusts air flow based on carbon dioxide levels and determines when to start heating or cooling the building before employees arrive for work. The BMS also automatically turns off unused non-emergency lighting after hours, monitors power generation from the solar farm, and meters power, water, and natural gas use.

To take further advantage of southern Nevada's nearly 300 sunny days per year, solar fixtures provide 100 percent of the campus parking lot and grounds lighting, and 95 percent of the domestic hot water. Let's just say these systems aren't likely to run out of power anytime soon.

Living and working in the desert means that water is scarce, so the building also has its own array of water-conserving features. Aside from low-flow fixtures throughout, which reduce water consumption by 40 percent, the building features a water system that collects water purged from the air conditioning system, treats it to prevent bacterial growth and reuses the water for sanitary purposes before it discharges into the sanitary sewer. The reclaimed water provides about 50 percent of the sanitary water used annually.

Saumier said that being involved in designing and constructing a green building was a rewarding experience.

"I learned that it's possible to integrate historic, high performance and sustainability elements into a project very successfully," she said.

Although, ironically, the Green Building appears in desert colors with hardly a green color in sight, Saumier did show off a recycled glass plaque with a platinum tint slated for installation in the building lobby to mark Reclamation achieving the sustainability rating.

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Reclamation is the largest wholesale water supplier and the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the United States, with operations and facilities in the 17 Western States. Its facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife benefits. Visit our website at www.usbr.gov.