Going Green in Minneapolis
As interest in sustainable design and building practices continue to build momentum in this Midwestern city, LHB plans to do its part to advocate for growing environmental responsibility.
by Janet Wiens
The designers, manufacturers, facility professionals and business leaders who gather in Minneapolis, MN, for EnvironDesign®8 will visit a city where the commitment to sustainable design has been a slow, but continually evolving progression. This cosmopolitan city is home to a growing legion of design firms that are becoming ever-stronger advocates for green or sustainable design. A look at LHB Corp. (LHB), one of the area's leading voices for green building design, shows a firm whose sustainable evolution mirrors that of the city it calls home.
The LHB Story
LHB made a commitment to sustainable design about four years after the Duluth, MN-based firm opened its Minneapolis office, according to Rachelle Schoessler Lynn, ASID, principal in LHB's Minneapolis office. "We entered this market in 1988 and refined our strategic plan for the office in 1992," she says. "We determined that we wanted our designs to be more environmentally responsible while also becoming an advocate for green building development. Our company is equally split between architects and engineers, so we had all the resources within the firm to address a range of sustainability issues and approaches on our projects."
LHB started by designing a house for a woman with chemical sensitivities to numerous environmental conditions and materials.
But it was the firm's work on the Health House for the American Lung Association (ALA) in 1994 that really began to move things along. The project, part of the ALA's campaign to encourage the development of healthy buildings, focused on Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) as well as resource and energy efficiency.
"Thousands of people toured the home, which was the first opportunity for many individuals to gain exposure to sustainable design practices," states Schoessler Lynn. "We demonstrated through our design what materials and systems they should be concerned about, and how these practices could be applied to their own residences or other facilities."
LHB continued to gain commissions for sustainable projects, including two projects for St. Joan of Arc Church in Minneapolis.
It was, however, the Phillips Eco-Enterprise Center (PEEC), completed in 2000, that provided another major push along the sustainability road for the firm. The project, developed by The Green Institute, is a cutting-edge green project, and followed on the heels of the development of the Minnesota Sustainable Design Guide (see sidebar on page 43). The project's completion and the adoption of the guidelines created extensive local coverage for sustainable design.
The 64,000-square-foot PEEC is located on a reclaimed brownfield site adjacent to what would become one of the city's light rail stations, and is also easily accessible by bus and bicycle transportation. The project was one of the first within city limits to use a geothermal heating and cooling system, and also incorporated an advanced glazing system, energy management system, plus efficient lighting and controls. A minimum of 10 percent of the project's construction materials were derived from salvaged sources and 25 percent were derived from recycled content. Other environmental features include a roof garden, native landscaping and a 100-percent on-site stormwater retention and photovoltaic array.
Fast forward to the present where LHB is celebrating the opening of the recently completed Eagle's Point, a wastewater operations and maintenance building for Southwest Washington County in Cottage Grove, MN, just outside of Minneapolis. The firm designed a very green 7,500-square-foot office building that is part of the complex. By sensitively combining products and systems to create a highly sustainable environment, the building is projected to use 70 percent less energy than traditional buildings as constructed to Minnesota Energy Codes. Sustainable design features incorporated into the building include daylighting; R-26 precast wall systems for greater thermal efficiency; high-performance polycarbonate windows; use of renewable materials and products such as wheatboard shelving and sunflower composite cabinets; and low VOC paints and finishes among other attributes.
Green in Minneapolis
"Our firm is indeed like the city itself," asserts Schoessler Lynn. "More and more firms, communities, owners and developers are embracing sustainable design practices on their projects. These efforts help to spread the word even more, which in turn generates additional interest."
A chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council is being formed in Minneapolis, and should be in place soon. Schoessler Lynn says that numerous contractors are joining with members of the architectural and engineering community in this effort, which will help to further the group's cause since the membership will be very diverse.
Schoessler Lynn, who also teaches in the University of Minnesota's College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, says that the education of the state's architecture and interior design students will come into play more and more in future years.
"We're focusing more on sustainability in our curriculum than we ever have in the past, which is true in many degreed programs throughout the country. The generations of designers to come will bring this knowledge to the firms where they work, and they will hopefully become passionate advocates for designing sustainable projects."
Efforts in the state of Minnesota also bode well for the future. A team, led by LHB, is developing Sustainable Design Guidelines and a benchmarking tool for the Department of Administration that will meet state legislative requirements that became effective on January 15, 2004. This legislation mandates that all newly-built, state-funded buildings of more than 5,000 square feet will initially exceed existing Minnesota energy codes by at least 30 percent. The project, known as the "Buildings Benchmarks and Beyond (B3) Project," will dramatically impact the future design and development of future state-funded buildings. (The B3 Project will be featured in the cover story of the April isue
of Interiors & Sources).
"The bottom line is that we continue to move in the right direction, and that an increasing number of individuals and businesses are expressing a desire to be sustainable in their projects," concludes Schoessler Lynn. "There are varying degrees of interest and
commitment between members of the design community, public officials, owners and building operators, but the interest is there. The completion of more sustainable projects provides additional opportunities to herald their benefits, which we believe will subsequently lead to more sustainable design undertakings. The future is very bright."
250 Third Ave. N.
Minneapolis, MN 55401