In Arkansas, sustainable development in our built environment is gaining broader appeal and wider acceptance. Over the last 20 years, numerous communities, organizations, institutions and individuals have championed the cause of sustainability, energy conservation, improved indoor air quality and an improved built environment. The results abound, in our public buildings, office buildings, educational facilities, and military installations. And, the impact continues.
This pursuit of sustainability has resulted in some spectacular results like the Clinton Presidential Center, and other very notable landmarks. But, an equally amazing result is the deep rooted awareness in our design and construction communities. In the early days of “green” buildings and the emergence of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) designers, contractors, and suppliers all struggled with the challenges of sourcing the correct materials, conserving the environments, applying the correct energy consuming systems and equipment, all the while maintaining the construction site in a manner not previously required. Plus, the documentation required was far beyond what was considered normal.
Fast forward to 2019, Arkansas has hundreds of buildings certified by LEED, many certified by Green Globes, others gaining the Energy Star rating and the lists grows daily. Even more facilities both public and private constantly monitor energy performance using the Department of Energy’s “Energy Star Portfolio Manager” tool. Local and state codes and requirements for energy conservation and sustainable goals are growing, a great example being Act 1494 (House bill 1663) passed in 2009 by our legislature. Entergy and other large regulated utilities have implemented very aggressive mandated energy conservation programs that incentivize equipment upgrades, system improvements, and building lighting and insulation improvements.
Not widely known is another terrific program to encourage energy conservation in our built environment, the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program. This state endorsed PACE program is a simple and effective way to finance energy efficiency, clean energy, and water conservation upgrades to buildings. Property owners enter into a voluntary assessment to receive 100 percent project financing which is repaid as part of their property taxes for up to 25 years. The intent is to help our communities maintain social, economic and environmental sustainability by making energy efficient or clean energy choices that are safe and affordable for commercial property owners. The program has been implemented with several Cromwell projects in Little Rock, Fayetteville and Rogers.
From our work place to our homes to our schools and churches, the practice and awareness of sustainability abounds. It’s so in our lives that we seldom notice, it’s in some fashion become part of our life style. Recycling, installing LEDs, programmable thermostats, occupancy sensors, low water use fixtures, etc. all have become commonplace. We’ve made strides to our overall betterment as communities and this speaks the larger point of “we’re all in this together”.
The Paint Factory in East Village exists as one of the best examples of post-war industrial architecture in Little Rock, but it is also unique when it comes to being environmentally friendly. The Paint Factory and the site that surrounds it have been designed to have a low impact on the environment. A number of features have been utilized to reduce the negative effects that these buildings can have on our planet.
The streetscape has been fit with bio-retention areas that will improve stormwater quality and lessen the amount of water on the street. The building also includes low flow drip irrigation and extensive use of native plants that will lower the water consumption of the building.
The Paint Factory also has two features that are the first of their kind in Arkansas; Active Solar Skylights and an Eco-Activ roof that reduces pollution. The skylights bring natural light into the core spaces of the building, reducing the need for artificial light. Power generated by the skylights will lower the building’s energy consumption.
The roof, made by Siplast and applied by Mid-South roofing, is covered in a special Noxite granule that works to decrease pollutants in the air by absorbing them and turning them into harmless nitrate salt. Testing has shown that 20,000 square feet of the Eco-Activ roof can neutralize the pollution caused by 10 vehicles driven 11,000 miles.
Cromwell is excited to join our East Village neighbors Heifer International, Clinton Library, and Entegrity in operating our building in a manner that reduces our environmental impact. As stewards of our community, Cromwell is committed to the responsible use of natural resources in our design and community development practice.
The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) continues to be a center of sustainable construction in the State of Arkansas. Cromwell is proud to be their partner for the design and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification for all the LEED projects on the campus. The latest accomplishment includes the LEED certification of three floors in the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute. These projects achieved LEED certification for implementing practical and measurable strategies and solutions aimed at achieving high performance in sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality. The LEED rating system, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), is the foremost program for buildings, homes, and communities that are designed, constructed, maintained and operated for improved environmental and human health performance. Over 44,000 projects are currently participating in the commercial and institutional LEED rating systems, comprising over 8 billion square feet of construction space in all 50 states and 120 countries.
The latest certified projects increase the campus LEED certified square footage to over 73,000 square feet across four LEED certified projects. In partnership with Cromwell, there are three more projects completed and currently seeking LEED certification. “UAMS’ LEED certifications demonstrate tremendous green building leadership,” said Rick Fedrizzi, President, CEO & Founding Chair, U.S. Green Building Council. “The urgency of USGBC’s mission has challenged the industry to move faster and reach further than ever before, and UAMS serves as a prime example with just how much we can accomplish.” Of the four levels of LEED certification, the campus projects have achieved one Certified rating, two Silver Certified ratings, and one Gold Certified rating, only missing the most stringent LEED Platinum designation. “Achieving LEED certification on a project can be a very challenging process. It requires a high level of coordination and commitment from not only the construction and design teams, but from the project owner. The owner must re-evaluate day to day operations, policies, and purchases. UAMS’ commitment to patient well being and energy efficiency has resulted in LEED certification on the campus being an achievable streamlined process,” said Chris Whitehead, Project Manager at Cromwell Architects Engineers for all UAMS LEED projects.
LEED project goals naturally align with UAMS commitment to sustainable purchasing policies, energy efficiency, campus planning, maintaining high quality indoor air, and providing a healthy environment for patients. During the construction process, there was additional emphasis placed on products with high recycled content, low VOCs (volatile organic compounds), waste reduction, and isolating any harmful construction pollutants from patients.
This commitment to sustainability goes far beyond UAMS’ pursuit of LEED certification on new construction projects. UAMS has established an Office of Sustainability set to improve campus sustainability efforts based on the concept of “People, Planet, Profit”. This strong commitment from UAMS leadership will ensure that the campus continues to serve as a beacon of sustainability for the rest of the state.
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.