"At SmithGroupJJR, our mission is to create a legacy of inspiring places that enhance the environment and enrich the human spirit. Sustainable design is at the core of what we do. Through multi-discipline, integrated design, we’re committed to delivering sustainable solutions not only for our clients but for the overall health of our planet. In this vein, we at SmithGroupJJR also practice what we preach as we reduce the overall footprint within our own organization through our operations, education, work environment and process."
February 10, 2015
On January 5, 2015, the Hampton Road offices of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation moved into the Brock Environmental Center. It was the end of an exciting chapter and the beginning of a new chapter. The chapter that ended was the design and construction of the Center. So many pieces of the puzzle came together at the very end. One notable piece is that the Brock Center received Health Department approval on our rainwater harvesting system in mid-November, a day before the building dedication. We believe that the Brock Center is the first project in the U.S. to receive a commercial permit for drinking filtered/treated rainwater in accordance with the federal drinking water requirements. It was great timing, to be able to toast the accomplishment at the dedication with a big glass of rain. The verdict: it tastes great.
Brock is a new paradigm for what a building can be. I’ve noticed already that the team uses a different vocabulary when we talk about the Center. Instead of calling the opening ceremony a “dedication”, we called it an “unplugging”. Even though the Brock Center is grid-tied, this was a great symbolic way of celebrating our net-positive energy pursuit. Another humorous euphemism we use with Brock relates to its composting toilets and its ability to convert leachate from the toilets into commercially available fertilizer using a local struvite reactor. When we pause meetings for restroom breaks, it’s not uncommon for teammates to jokingly mention that they are headed off to help support the building’s fertilizer production efforts. (There’s no shortage of sustainable design humor with this bunch, that’s for sure!)
With construction complete, our team is still engaged. Our focus now is to ensure that the Center operates like we anticipated it would, that the staff are trained to use the building efficiently, and that the energy and water metering is tracking the building performance. The Living Building Challenge only certifies projects after they provide one full year of metered data demonstrating we’ve achieved net-zero energy, water, and waste.
We are not going to sit back with our fingers crossed over the coming year. Rather, we are monitoring energy use, how staff and visitors use the building, photovoltaic and wind turbine production, water consumption, and daily rainfall. We have targets for each of these data based on the predictive energy and water modeling we’ve done. We will check actual performance against predicted performance, so if there are any discrepancies, we will know right away and adjust our course to make sure we make it to the finish line.
I anticipate that the coming year will provide dozens of lessons learned. It’s a thrill to stay engaged in the project after “substantial completion.” I hope to share those lessons in this blog. Brock’s success was in many ways a product of the lessons we learned from over a decade of staying involved with the Philip Merrill Center, CBF’s headquarters in Annapolis. I hope by sharing the lessons on Brock, we might all learn together to create these one-of-a-kind net-zero, Living Buildings.