February 26, 2009 | by Peter Downs, Editor
When the citizens of Cottleville, MO, decided it was time for their municipality to have its own city hall, they also decided that the times demanded that they build an environmentally friendly city hall. When construction was completed on the town’s $5.3 million city hall and police station in December, city government could boast that their new home used 30 percent less energy than a similar traditional building and reduced water pollution by capturing and treating water on site.
Paric Corporation managed construction of the two-story, 15,888-square-foot facility, which sits on a 40-acre site at Highway N and Fifth Street north of the Cottleville Town Centre. The project was funded by a one-half cent sales tax approved by the town’s voters in April 2006.
“The community, to their credit, wanted a LEED project,” said Bob Leonard, Paric’s senior project manager. LEED, which is short for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a building rating system designed by the U.S. Green Building Council. The level of certification – certified, silver, gold, or platinum – reflects how many environmental and sustainability standards were met during the construction of the project. Certified buildings meet the minimum number of standards to be considered “green”. Platinum buildings meet the highest number of standards. “We’re going for silver certification,” Leonard said. St. Charles County currently has no green-certified buildings, although five facilities, including Cottleville’s City Hall, have registered with the U.S. Green Building Council and have begun the process of moving towards certification.
Leonard said that the easiest thing to do “green” is energy efficiency. “Everybody wants energy efficiency. It is easy to do and it pays you back so you would be idiotic not to do it,” he said. Treating water on site was not that hard either. Designers used both bioswales and a clay-lined detention system, as required by most sewer districts, to handle storm water. “We built bioswales into the landscaping, which connects to a 37-acre park,” Leonard said.
Energy Efficiency –Easy; Paperwork – Hard
The hard things are making sure building materials and recycling meet LEED standards. “You have to be very careful when ordering materials that you are getting materials that satisfy LEED, and that involves a lot of paperwork,” Leonard said. “One of the things we were fearful of, for example, is caulking. Some caulking does not meet LEED air quality standards. The last thing you want is a contractor who installs a product that when you submit it to the Green Building Council gets rejected because it doesn’t meet LEED,” he said. “The paperwork falls on the contractors and as CM we assisted them, but we had to make it clear that until a product was approved by our LEED consultant, it was not acceptable to use it,” he added. Daniel Hellmuth of Hellmuth & Bicknese Architects was the LEED consultant.
Leonard recalled having a problem with doors. “The manufacturer stated they would meet LEED requirements, but when it came time to submit them there were problems with them and we had to replace that choice of door,” he said.
Paric specified LEED requirements in the bid documents and even brought in someone to explain to contractors before the bid deadline how many hours they should anticipate needing to fulfill all the LEED requirements, so that they could include that in their bids.
Paric made the general trades contractor responsible for recycling construction waste. “We made the general contractor responsible for having dumpsters and made the other contractors responsible for disposing of waste in the proper containers. We had a container for concrete, another for drywall, and another for wood products,” said Leonard. “And then the general contractor has to police the bins and pick out any noncomplying material. One worry on a project like this is that the public will put stuff in your dumpsters,” he said.
The city contracted with C. Rallo Contracting Co. for general construction and broke ground for the building in September 2007. “This was my first LEED project and for a lot of the contractors, including Rallo, there was a learning curve, too,” Leonard said. Concurrently with this project, Rallo was involved in another LEED project, Cannon Design’s Powerhouse project in downtown St. Louis.
Cottleville City Hall also was the first green project for Kurt Kostecki, principal of St. Peters-based Kostecki Architects. The city’s decision to go green required him to make changes in his initial design. “The first thing we had to do was entirely reorient the building,” he said. He had originally designed the building to face Highway N, but, with the length of the building facing the street that meant the long side of the building faced east. “When a building faces east or west, it experiences significant solar heat gain through windows in the morning and evening,” Kostecki said.
“I wound up looking at the site and realized that we had the building close to being perpendicular to Fifth Street in Old Town Cottleville, so we turned it to face Fifth Street,” he said. “Facing south, we can keep the windows covered more when the sun is up high and we don’t get as much heat gain,” he said.
The building’s design also grew more windows to let in more natural light and energy efficient glass to reduce heat gain in the summer and heat loss in the winter, said Leonard. Kostecki also added more insulation to the walls and attic spaces. “It all goes together with the electrical and mechanical systems to save energy,” Leonard said.
‘We also added windows in different places in the interior to get natural light into the interior space. We call them “borrow lights,” because they are borrowing light from other spaces. That was a major change,’ Kostecki said.
Contractors finished work on the building in December. Work on the adjacent park, also funded by the one-half cent sales tax, is expected to be finished in April. The park will include biking and hiking trails, and outdoor amphitheater, athletic fields, and a playground.
Simple Things Make a Difference
The Chicago-based Heartland Institute, which bills itself as “a free market think tank,” specifically targeted Cottleville for criticism for raising a sales tax to build a “green” city hall and decried “costly environmental gestures” on the building that, the institute claimed, “include solar collectors, wind turbines, and rainwater collectors.”
In reality, the building has none of those. Indeed, anyone looking for exotic or cutting edge environmental features would like come away disappointed. “The city wanted a classical look, like an old time city hall,” Kostecki said. In addition to a sloped roof and shingle, “We tried to incorporate brickwork and lintels and soffits to bring that about. We’re happy with the way it turned out,” he said.
So what makes Cottleville’s city hall green? Many simple things do, but nothing very exotic. In addition to orienting the building to make better use of the sun; windows; energy efficient glass; insulation; an efficient heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning system; recycling construction waste and using products that don’t emit volatile organic compounds; “in general, all the materials are as local as we can get them to avoid transporting materials a great distance,” Kostecki said.
Doing all those simple things does take work and money. Kostecki said he found with the Cottleville City Hall that, “in the beginning, LEED is more expensive, but in the long run it is cheaper because it makes the building more efficient. In the meantime, it is better for the environment and the whole building can be torn down and recycled in the future when it is not needed anymore.
“The sooner people and architects realize that green is the new thing, the better off we all will be,” he added.