July 29, 2004
Contractor finds silver at new headquarters
By FRANK FIRMANI
Charter's 12,000-square-foot, $1.3 million building in Seattle's Georgetown neighborhood embodies dozens of green elements and practices, from recycled concrete in its foundation to a sensor-operated cooling vent in its roof.
Charter followed the U.S. Green Building CouncilÃs LEED program throughout construction. The building is in line to receive a silver rating from the agency, which would make it only the fourth A/E/C company headquarters building in the country with LEED certification.
Charter's decision to seek a LEED silver rating stemmed from a desire to learn first-hand the pros and cons of sustainable building from both a contractor's and an owner's point of view. Project cost comparisons during the design phase proved going green would cost about the same as a similarly sized structure using traditional building methods, and the project team was committed to taking on the added administrative efforts to become certified.
Red outside, green inside
The building, built on recycler SeaDruNar's old site, has deep red metal siding that blends with the older brick warehouses in the neighborhood. The interior is designed to encourage collaboration between project teams and takes advantage of open space, high ceilings and extensive windows.
Before three SeaDruNar structures were demolished, Charter invited a number of companies that specialize in reusing old building products to salvage the existing radiators, light fixtures, doors and cabinetry. This diverted 189 tons of material from area landfills, saved Charter more than $15,000 in dumping costs and earned Charter credits towards its LEED certification.
Concrete from the existing structures was taken to a facility to be crushed, and in turn, Charter was given concrete for its building's foundation that used fly ash and recycled water in its production.
Charter used a number of materials it had salvaged from past jobs. A 24-foot-long redwood conference table uses four glu-lam beams that were rejected from a residential project four years ago. Another conference table was crafted from unused panels from a church project. Stair treads leading up to the buildingÃs mezzanine were leftovers from a renovation Charter performed at the Pike Place Market.
Office desks, chairs, shelves and file cabinets are remnants from area dot-coms that went out of business. Overall, nearly $45,000 was saved by using salvaged products.
Energy efficiencies in the building abound. An economizer detects the building's interior temperature and opens a large vent in the ceiling to expel warm air when the temperature begins to rise. High ceilings, skylights, numerous windows and few interior partitions allow for 95 percent of the building's light to be natural. The few hanging lights inside the main building area operate on sensors, switching on when outside light is not sufficient. Lights in the restrooms activate when the space is occupied, and automatically turn off when it's not.
Drought-tolerant plants surrounding the building require no irrigation system. Dual flush toilets and waterless urinals conserve even more water.
The building helps counter the effects of "heat islands" dense urban areas of asphalt and buildings that raise temperatures. A white roof reflects sunlight instead of absorbing it. A geogrid, or grass parking area, replaces heat-absorbing asphalt.
Still keeping it green
Even though construction of the building was finished last summer, its occupants continue to promote sustainability. Bins throughout the building encourage recycling of paper, cans, glass and other materials, and environmentally friendly building methods are practiced as a rule on all of Charter's jobsites.
Charter employees are encouraged to further their education through sustainable building classes and programs, and the company financially supports these efforts.
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