Eco-Living Magazine

Site Visit: Alliance for Sustainable Colorado

Posted on the 24 March 2011 by 2ndgreenrevolution @2ndgreenrev

Site Visit: Alliance for Sustainable ColoradoI recently had the opportunity to take two tours of 1536 Wynkoop St in the Lower Downtown section of Denver. A hundred year old brick building that began as a warehouse, the structure is now home to some 38 non-profit organizations and the Alliance for Sustainable Colorado. According to the tour guide, the building was the first to receive two different LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certifications. The structure itself received a Silver certification under the existing building (LEED-EB) designation, and the interior earned a Gold level for Commercial Interiors. The latter certification was sought because much of the space is leased out to non-profits and not directly under the auspices of the Alliance for Sustainable Colorado. Furthermore, they aim to be the first historic building to achieve LEED Platinum when they reapply for certification after their current five year period expires.

Among the features in the building are the centrally located mailboxes, which garner a sense of community and conversation amongst the tenants in the building.  Recycled carpet squares from Interface that look to nature and the random way in which leaves fall, cover the floor in stochastic arrangements.

Many of the improvements during the initial renovation have already paid for themselves. The return on investment (ROI) for the lighting in the building was 2 and a half years. An automated climate system, which cost roughly $20,000, allowed for cooling certain parts of the building that were in direct sun, while not providing cold air to the entire structure. Five years after installation, the Alliance recouped their investment. Low cost items like motion sensors were placed in bathrooms along with light sensors that automatically adjust the amount of light produced from fixtures. These two sensors yielded 20% in savings. Many of the common areas are stocked with reclaimed furniture from places like Good Will and the Salvation Army.

Water was another area of immense savings for the building. With a five year ROI and $2500 annual savings, major water projects reduced consumption by 80% (from 229,000 gallons per year to 36,000). Low flow toilets (0.9 gallons per flush) and waterless urinals were installed, along with simple aerators on the faucets. These attachments combine air with water coming out of the faucet to reduce water usage by half while maintaining proper pressure and rates of flow. In addition, refrigeration was removed from drinking fountains, saving energy and reducing chemicals in the building. Another interesting water feature are showers in the basement for those that choose to bike to work.

Located near the main train station, the end of two light rail lines, and several bus routes, the building is perfectly situated for workers who use mass transportation. Other features of the building include no-VOC (volatile organic compounds – the chemicals in new car or paint smell), wheatboard room dividers on the fifth floor, and full spectrum light in the windowless basement. One of the most fascinating architectural curiosities are the giant logs hewn from pine trees (Ponderosa if memory serves) that serve as the structural support of the building without the use of nails. These trees were hundreds of years old when they were cut down. Withstanding the last hundred years, including nearly fifty years of abandonment when the building stood empty, these massive posts lend a sense of formidably to the building.

On a related note, there were multiple organizations that we’ve written about on 2nd Green Revolution that are tenants of the structure, including AASHE (the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education) and Living City Block. Lastly, for those interested in learning more, take the virtual tour.

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