Sustainability Is Our Business

03/13/2014

Cromwell has been incorporating sustainable values in our projects for decades, celebrating these efforts internally, but not sharing the accomplishments with our valued clients and friends. We want to use this opportunity to share some these exciting events with you.

As some of you may know, Cromwell was founded in 1885 making it the oldest firm in the state. This long history has allowed Cromwell to weather a multitude of economic situations. Throughout that history, we haven't seen clients expressing a desire to waste money on utility bills. This has led Cromwell to develop a culture of valuing efficiency in all of our projects, even when “being green” lacked the mass support of today.

In 1947, the firm designed the new Governor’s Mansion on the site of the original Blind School. Even over 65 years ago, Cromwell recognized an opportunity and reused the original brick from the school to construct the Governor’s Mansion. Fast forward to 2004 and Cromwell again incorporates the reuse of brick in the University of Arkansas Innovation Center which was also the first LEED certified building in the state. LEED wasn’t developed until 1993, so let’s look at a few more earlier projects.

In the 1960’s and 1970’s, Cromwell was experimenting with the use of daylighting and shade to reduce energy bills. The Little Rock Air Force Base commissary was an example of designing for daylighting. It utilized clerestory windows to allow the daylight to spill into the space. Years later studies would show that daylight increases sales over artificial lighting. This partnership continues to this day with Cromwell designing energy efficient and LEED certified commissaries across the globe.

Perhaps the most innovative project in our history was the Mississippi County Community College in Blytheville, Arkansas. The concepts in the project were so innovative; it was selected to represent solar photovoltaic research and design for the American Pavilion at the 1982 World’s Fair. The project incorporated everything learned about daylighting in the 60’s while utilizing the technology of the day. At the time, it was the largest solar installation in the world. The project had 270 parabolic mirrors which tracked the sun and directed the light to photovoltaic cells producing 5500 kilowatt-hours of energy a day. A central barrel vault corridor blocked the hot summer sun while encouraging prevailing winds and natural convection to cool the space naturally. Listing the sustainable strategies on this project alone would require a book (there is one), but the design decisions resulted in the building having an energy savings exceeding 35%. This would achieve 12-13 points out of the 19 points possible in today’s LEED rating system.

With new sustainable programs such as LEED being developed, Cromwell continued to be at the forefront of sustainability by not only certifying the first LEED project in the state, but by also providing the engineering services for the Heifer International Headquarters in Little Rock, Arkansas. This project was awarded the most prestigious LEED rating of Platinum. Along with the two benchmark LEED projects in the state, Cromwell has continued to be a responsible for many LEED projects across the world. LEED certification only addresses a small percentage of our projects. With that in mind and having provided the services for years, Cromwell officially launched our Energy Services Department in 2011. This team of professionals works with new and existing facilities to maximize the efficiency of their systems and identify any problems that may be wasting energy and increasing their overhead. They even have the capabilities to identify system failures before they ever occur increasing overall reliability! Our Energy Services team has partnered with the Heifer International headquarters to provide these commissioning services. The savings from the Energy Service team’s work have resulted in 23% electrical savings and a 55% natural gas savings. These were significant enough that Heifer extended the contract to include daily monitoring of their facility.

The work of our Energy Service team is the latest in Cromwell’s attempts to be at the forefront of sustainability and symbolizes our commitment to energy savings for all our clients. In the 128 years we have been around, we have seen a variety of economic conditions and “energy crunches”, but the desire for our clients to save money has always been consistent. No matter the time frame, a happy client who saves money is a client we look forward to working with again.