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OEM city's first LEED certified public office facility.

This past summer, the New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM) moved into its new headquarters in Downtown Brooklyn, New York. The state-of-the-art emergency management facility, which replaces the OEM headquarters at 7 World Trade Center that was destroyed on 9/11, is expected to be the first LEED-certified NYC department headquarters office in New York's five boroughs.

Designed by Swanke Hayden Connell Architects (SHCA), with Steven Winters Associates supporting SHCA in development of the sustainable design approach, the new 65,000 s/f, three-story facility is more than a renovation and addition to the former Red Cross Building that occupied the site. It is an environmentally-friendly, green building that meets the stringent sustainable design standards of the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED certification program.

This means it has taken advantage of state-of-the-art materials and methods of construction that save energy, reduce water consumption and provide a healthier indoor environment for its occupants.

The OEM program entailed a recladding and gut renovation of the existing building, construction of a 116-seat emergency operations center, a new watch command center, general office space and a press and conference center. The project included an 8,000-square-foot addition on the north side of the structure. The building features state-of-the-art audio-visual and information technology (IT) systems, as well as redundant electrical and mechanical systems.

Converting a circa 1954 building into a modern, high-tech facility that could meet OEM's program requirements presented a significant challenge. The solution was to develop a strategy to not only reuse the building, but to add to it, redesigning the structure from by filling in the center core, and then by adding a side core. This created an expanded footprint of 12,000 square feet and allowed for the creation of open space for OEM's operations' center. The side core addition houses elevators, stairs, bathrooms and mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.

Another project challenge was to meet LEED certification requirements without increasing the project's construction budget. This was achieved through careful selection of building systems by that could meet LEED requirements and remain within the budget.

Part of the work involved demolishing the existing building's exterior walls to the concrete frame and replacing the facade with higher-efficiency walls clad with limestone. The roof was replaced as well with reflective pavers that reduce the heat load on the building. This process created a great deal of concrete, steel and masonry debris, all of which had to be recycled or properly disposed in an EPA-approved landfill.

Recycled materials--such as concrete with recycled fly ash & slag and concrete masonry with recycled content; structural steel, joists, deck and steel framing with post-consumer and/or post-industrial recycled content; building insulation; and "FSC Certified" wood products--were used in the renovation and construction of the building addition. Most materials specified were required to be manufactured within 500 miles to minimize use of fossil fuel for transportation.

A number of energy-efficient products were specified, including low-e glass windows; carbon dioxide and occupancy sensors that automatically control heating, cooling and lighting systems to provide a comfortable environment; computerized controls that automatically adjust the ventilation system according to the number of people in a given space; water-conserving fixtures such as waterless (chemical-based) urinals and low-consumption/automatic faucets and toilets; energy-star appliances for pantry areas; and uninterruptible power supplies and emergency generators to backup primary power and electrical systems.

Besides increased ventilation, another measure taken to promote a healthier indoor environment was the use of low-VOC (volatile organic compound) adhesives, sealants, paints and carpets.

For the owner, sustainable design improves building efficiencies and reduces facility management costs. At the new OEM headquarters, going green means better indoor air quality, a 20% reduction in energy usage, and a 30 percent reduction in the use of water.

The project promises to be the beginning in NYC's efforts to ensure that their future public buildings are green.

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Author:Aliotta, Joseph
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Dec 13, 2006
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