Columbia City Hall renovation gets LEED's gold certification

Wednesday, October 12, 2011 | 12:00 p.m. CDT; updated 10:10 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 12, 2011
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Columbia City Hall has received LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council green rating system, acknowledging its energy- and resource-efficiency.

COLUMBIA — The city expected silver but ended up getting gold.

It was a close call, but Columbia's Daniel Boone City Building  expansion and renovation received the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design gold certification.

City Hall LEED features


Materials and Resources: The city hall expansion, according to St. Romaine, used the following recycled materials.

  • Concrete and recycled glass counter tops.
  • Bamboo ceiling tiles by the elevators.
  • Bamboo casework.
  • Woven grass wallpaper in the second-floor reception area.
  • Recycled carpeting in the main lobby and elevator lobbies.

Water Efficiency: LEED features in the city hall addition, according to a handout about the building, will reduce water use by 43.7 percent. Those features include:

  • Green-handled, dual-flush toliets that allow the user to lift up for low-flow flush and push down for regular flush.
  • Low-flow faucets.

Energy and Atmosphere: The new building also is expected to use 29 percent less energy. Energy-saving features include:

  • Ceiling occupancy sensors that control lighting and heating by relaying to the systems when the area is occupied. 
  • More windows to allow more natural light.
  • Roofing that reflects the sun's heat to keep the building cool.
  • Solar water heater.

Indoor Environmental Quality: Buffaloe said the air is fresh and clean in city hall. Features that help ensure that include:

  • Paint and adhesives that release little or no volatile organic compounds into the atmosphere.
  • Windows that employees can actually open to allow fresh air into the building.

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Joe Frigerio of Chiodini Associates in St. Louis was the senior project architect for the expansion and renovation. This is his first gold-certified building. 

"Quite honestly, we were mesmerized," Frigerio said. "We were dumbfounded."

LEED is a national rating system used to encourage the development of sustainable and efficient buildings. The U.S. Green Building Council reviews applications and determines whether a building is LEED certified based on criteria such as water efficiency, recycled materials and energy efficiency. A building can be LEED certified, the lowest recognition, or can win silver, gold or platinum certification based on the number of points awarded by the council.

Frigerio said the gold certification is a result not only of major features such as a solar water heater, but also of materials that were used throughout the addition.

Other LEED-certified features include a reflective roof, low-flow water faucets, dual-flush toilets, water detention beneath the plaza in front of the building to reduce storm water run off and filter water, energy-efficient heating and cooling systems and recycled and rapidly renewable construction materials.

From start to finish, the city, architects and contractors continued to raise their standards and ended up creating an appealing, sustainable and energy efficient city hall, Frigerio said.

Frigerio said former Mayor Darwin Hindman originally wanted only a LEED-certified building, but as the project unfolded officials told Frigerio to build for silver.

"As we moved forward, we thought the city was trying to get the highest level we could achieve without spending extra money," Frigerio said. "We found ourselves halfway through the design process relooking at points for LEED. We thought we could get to gold."

City hall almost dropped to silver, though, Frigerio said. LEED's review questioned four points for which the city applied. Losing those points would have put the project one point below gold certification.

"The architectural team addressed those issues but expected to lose at least a couple of the four points in question," Frigerio said. "It’s almost a running joke that LEED has to find something to take away."

But LEED found no points to take off, and Frigerio’s team was "elated" to find out their running joke turned out to be a myth. 

Emily Andrews, executive director of the U.S. Green Building Council-Missouri Gateway Chapter, said it's a substantial achievement for Columbia to have a major city building win LEED's gold certification.

"It’s an incredible achievement, and it shows a lot of leadership in Columbia," Andrews said.

Deputy City Manager Tony St. Romaine and Sustainability Manager Barbara Buffaloe said the city, architects and contractors worked hard to achieve LEED gold.

"The team was euphoric," Buffaloe said. "We knew we had a great project and were glad to be recognized for it."

Although there are numerous cost-saving features built into the city hall addition and renovation, sometimes it's the simplest things that make the biggest difference in the daily lives of people who work there.

"The fact that I can open my window is great," Buffaloe said. "I can regulate my own heating and cooling system to get fresh air."

Buffaloe said another aspect of city hall she values is that more departments and city employees work together under one roof. She said they can collaborate efficiently in a healthy environment.

St. Romaine's favorite feature is one few people see: the reflective roof.

"Having installed a highly reflective roof material gets us a long way toward some of the energy efficiency and cost savings by reflecting a lot of the sun’s heat," St. Romaine said.

Even though this is Frigerio’s first gold-certified building, he said he's happier for Columbia than for himself.

"The most impressive area to me is the main lobby and the council chambers," Frigerio said. "Now any citizen going into the front door can be happy with what they see."

He said the old council chambers on the fourth floor of the older part of the building didn't allow the city to show residents they are "putting their best foot forward."

The new chambers are the first floor of the city hall addition and the first thing the public sees when it enters the building.

While clearly proud of his achievement, Frigerio said building to LEED standards is simply what architects should do.

"We as an industry and stewards of planet Earth should be doing more to recycle to control our consumption of raw material," Frigerio said.

He added that LEED motivated the country to start raising standards for new construction and eventually, he suspects, it will lead to many of the principals being carried over into building codes with no special rewards.

Frigerio said he believes Columbia officials would have been environmentally conscious when renovating city hall with or without LEED. St. Romaine and Buffaloe agreed.

"Columbia is known for being good stewards of the environment, so they would want a high-performing building," Buffaloe said. "And the rating system raises those standards."

St. Romaine said that from 2000 to 2006, the city renovated the Howard and Gentry buildings using standards similar to those in the LEED system, even though it was not nationally recognized at the time. He said Columbia will continue to encourage sustainability and efficiency with all new construction and renovation projects.

"As we move forward with not only building projects but also the types of programs and policies that we implement or change, we want to make sure that all of those activities are sustainable."

Sustainable, St. Romaine said, means building with recycled rather than "virgin" material. Building with efficiency and sustainability in mind offers many benefits, the most obvious being cost savings.

"From a cost standpoint, we're spending a lot less on utilities than we would have had we not designed to the LEED criteria," St. Romaine said. "From a big picture standpoint, it sets the city of Columbia up as an example of what can be done at a relatively low cost."

The expansion and renovation, according to the city's website, is expected to reduce water usage by 43.7 percent and energy usage by 29 percent.

Buffaloe agrees that high-performing buildings save the city money, but she also noted that healthy, clean working environments mean fewer sick days among employees and a more efficient work force.

According to Frigerio, building to LEED standards saves Columbia taxpayers money on everything from material repairs to utility bills for the new city hall. He also said that building a city hall with sustainability and energy efficiency in mind sets the city up as an example of what can be done on a large scale with little to no extra costs.

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Cho Ling Ngai October 12, 2011 | 7:42 p.m.

This is a great article. For one thing I wasn't aware of the renovation of the city hall until reading this (embarrassingly), so thanks for the information. Love the detailed shots of the new designs, and I appreciate the graphic that has the roll-over feature, so convenient!

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