EPA Region 7 Headquarters Building Dedication

On December 4, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and The General Services Administration (GSA) will celebrate the dedication of the new EPA Region 7 Headquarters. Region 7 encompasses four states: Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri and field offices for two National components. The 160,000-sf project involved the renovation of an existing LEED Silver certified building and included core and shell improvements, integrated security features, site and landscape modifications, and interior space planning and design to accommodate EPA staff and functions while promoting sustainable practices. The EPA and GSA worked in collaboration with building owner, Lexington LAC Lenexa, L.P., and architect, BNIM on the property’s design transformation. The construction team includes managers Means-Knaus Partners, LP and Radford Management Services and was built by J. E. Dunn Construction Company. Real estate transaction was with Waterford Property Company, LLC.

The EPA’s vision for their new headquarter facility was that it be innovative in concept and excellent in design, requiring the building design to embody image & aesthetics, accommodate needs for flexibility, accessibility and universality, and incorporate state-of-the-art technology and design solutions that foster communication, interaction, productivity, and sustainable design.

“The EPA’s new Region 7 Headquarters symbolizes a transformative step toward a new generation of workplace environments,” said Doug Stevens, BNIM’s project principal. “It is setting a good example for public and private organizations. The focus on human needs, communication, integrated technology, mobility and strong connection to nature – these are very progressive values for any organization.”

Registered with the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, the project is on track to achieve certifications for both a LEED Gold level for New Construction and LEED Platinum for Existing Building Operations and Maintenance.

The existing facility is located on a previously developed 31-acre tract of land and is bordered on three sides by developed streets and on one side by storm water retention lakes. The new design for the site reflects an approach of restorative intervention, incorporating native landscape with drought-tolerant and low-maintenance prairie grasses, wild flowers, and best management practices for storm water management. All on-site storm water is routed and cleaned through vegetated swales and constructed wetlands prior to reaching the existing retention ponds.

The new perimeter security design incorporates limestone boulders integrated into the landscape in an organic layout that respects topography and forms a more natural vehicular barrier versus that of hardened walls or fences. Creative barrier design includes integration of new bioswale depressions that slow storm water for improved run-off and prevent vehicular breach. The building’s glazing has also been reinforced for security protection.

The EPA’s new headquarters facility takes advantage of the existing building’s design, responding to climatic conditions, natural daylight, views and highly efficient enclosure. The two-story building is nestled into the sloped terrain and organized along a curved circulation system patterned after the natural site conditions – with entries above on a prairie level and ground setting at lake level. Four open office wings, housing various EPA departmental groups, extend out from the building services and circulation like “fingers” separated by exterior landscaped courtyards that connect down to the water and trail system. Three (3), 2-1/2-story atriums between wings are home for EPA’s employee Market Place dining, central resource library, and a major conference center that each allows daylight entry and views outward from the wings. Exterior courtyards extend the uses in each atrium to the outside. Runnels and rain gardens direct the flow of storm water from the roofs through each the courtyard.

The building form, shaped for improved energy performance, maintains its existing efficient enclosure with increased thermal insulation, Energy Star reflective roofing, and rain screen systems that protect the exterior walls with cladding materials of FSC-certified Cumaru wood planks from managed forests and zinc corrugated metal siding for long life and low maintenance. A new, exterior covered loading dock building addition extended the overall footprint.

Designed to provide increased daylight of 75% of regularly occupied spaces, south facing windows are optimized by external shading devices in higher heat gain periods and atriums have motorized shades that operate as a result of sunlight position. The existing central chilling loop, on-floor mechanical units and under-floor displacement air supply with user controls at the workstations are built upon as part of the renovation. Spaces for meetings – both open and enclosed - are located throughout to promote team collaboration and small enclaves give all employees a place to have private conversations or conduct concentrative work.

“The facility makes a perfect new home for the Government’s consolidation needs, saving taxpayer dollars, and it is enriched by EPA’s mission for protecting health and valuable resources,” said Stevens. “The commitment to material repurposing at the onset of the project and minimization of construction waste has been a successful, ongoing charge throughout this transformation.”

The open workplace design encourages interaction and the furniture selections give emphasis to EPA’s department functions. As an enhancement to the building owners offer, EPA accepted the idea for repurposing the building’s original workstation furniture, as it accommodates a desired operational, structural and cultural change specifically intended to reduce the physical space requirements per staff member, reduces rental space requirements, improves teaming and interaction between staff members, and reduces cost in purchasing new furniture. This change in operational strategy along with telecommuting strategies eliminated the need for a 25,000-sf building addition option. BNIM developed furniture workstation designs to meet EPA’s functional needs, which were different than the prior use, while incorporating as many existing components from the inventory as possible. Existing seating, tables, file cabinets, and library furniture are reused from EPA’s current facility.

Broadening the impact of their new high-performance workplace, the EPA is also currently developing an education program that uses the building and its myriad sustainable features as a tool to educate staff and visitors about the advantages of integrating sustainable strategies and practices into the built environments.