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Kresge Achieves Highest-level LEED Platinum Certification for Design, Construction and Operation of its Headquarters

General Foundation News

The decision to build green underscores the foundation’s commitment to cutting greenhouse-gas emissions and finding solutions to global climate change.

TROY, MICHIGAN – The U.S. Green Building Council has awarded The Kresge Foundation headquarters Platinum certification, the highest attainable level in the LEED – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – Green Building Rating System, the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance “green” buildings.

“We set a high bar for ourselves,” says Rip Rapson, president of the Kresge Foundation. “This Platinum certification validates our aspiration to be a model of environmental conservation. But that’s not all: It formalizes our commitment to being stewards of the environment and students of ever newer and better ways to foster sustainability in the workplace.”

Kresge made the decision to build an environmentally sustainable headquarters on its current three-acre site in 2004. The ambitious two-pronged project, designed by Joe Valerio of Valerio Dewalt Train Associates, integrated the renovation of a historic 19th century farmhouse and barn, which had served as offices for years, with the construction of a contemporary 19,500-square-foot office building.

Environmental-impact considerations were paramount throughout the design, site development, construction and interior finishing of the two-level, glass-and-steel facility, completed in 2006. The foundation sought LEED certification, which provides independent, third-party verification that a building project is environmentally responsible.

Kresge’s headquarters typifies the foundation’s commitment to solving the problem of global warming and serves as a model of sustainability for other organizations, says Lois R. DeBacker, program director and Environment team leader.

“Climate change is one of the most serious challenges facing society today,” she explains. “In the U.S., buildings constitute the source of approximately 40 percent of the greenhouse-gas emissions that contribute to global warming. By choosing to utilize green rather than standard construction, our organization is making a significant contribution to protecting the environment, as well as saving money in operating the building over the long term.”

Moreover, Kresge’s headquarters demonstrates it is feasible to have a beautiful, functional workspace that’s good for the environment, DeBacker adds. “Nearly every office has wonderful natural light and a view of green vegetation,” she says. “Just this week, we’ve seen a great egret, a green heron and a great blue heron, as well as our regular songbirds, ducks and geese.”

In addition to serving as standard bearer for environmental stewardship, Kresge invites architects, planners and nonprofit organizations to tour its headquarters and learn more about the nuts and bolts of environmentally sustainable construction and renovation. To encourage this approach, the foundation awards green planning grants to qualified nonprofits and encourages them to seek LEED certification at the Platinum level.

Dan Rappel, who served as the project architect for the Kresge headquarters on behalf of the Chicago-based Valerio Dewalt Train Associates, says several important goals were achieved. “First, we built a great workplace by orienting the building east and west on the site to provide plenty of daylight and attractive views of the courtyard or wetlands,” says Rappel, who is now with Koo and Associates in Chicago.

“We also created a model of sustainability by utilizing exciting infrastructure components, such as a geothermal well system for heating and cooling, photo sensors for controlling lighting and a storm-water management approach incorporating bioswales, cisterns, pervious paving and wetlands. Finally, we preserved the historic character of the site by allowing the low-rise farm buildings to remain and dominate the view from the road.”

Rappel stresses the importance of developing an integrated, whole-building approach to sustainable design to ensure that the various architectural, lighting, heating and cooling systems in the building are not working at cross purposes with each other.

“My advice to anyone seeking LEED certification for a building is to decide early in the project which level they’re going to consider,” he says. “Also, it’s important to get wide consensus from the owner, designers and contractor. The entire team must agree on a set of sustainable goals right from the beginning.”

Rapson credits Kresge’s trustees and staff for the prominent role they played in achieving the LEED’s Platinum certification. “Excellent design, planning and execution have contributed to making this an extraordinary office environment,” he says.

“A particular thank-you goes to former trustee Bob Larson, who chaired the building committee, and John Marshall, Kresge’s former president,” he adds, “as well as Cynthia Powors, who has labored for a very long time to make all the parts come together; Sandy Ambrozy, whose passion for green buildings helped animate our early efforts; Amy Coleman, who did much of the early trouble-shooting after we moved in; Dick Rappleye, who has assumed responsibility for many of the most complicated aspects of the building and has been an extraordinary problem-solver over the last year; Dan Kirby, who makes sure the day-to-day details of the maintenance and care are attended to promptly and completely; and Ron Gagnon, the building’s project manager who now conducts our informational tours.”

Kresge makes grants to nonprofit organizations that advance a set of nine values, which include environmental conservation. “When grantseekers apply to us for facilities capital, we ask them to describe the sustainable building practices they have incorporated into their proposed projects and whether, as an organization, they promote environmental stewardship,” DeBacker says. “The Platinum certification increases our credibility in this arena. It is important that we practice what we preach.”