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Heifer International Center

Little Rock, Arkansas

Accommodating the Herds: Popularity and expanded use drives up energy bills and accelerates an expansion.

Originally published January 2007
Polk Stanley Rowland Curzon Porter Architects

By Nadav Malin

Heifer International center
Photo © Steve Hall/Hedrich Blessing

Heifer International Center, Little Rock, Arkansas

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Location Little Rock, Arkansas (Arkansas River watershed)
Gross area 94,000 ft2 (8,730 m2)
Cost $18.9 million
Completed January 2006
Program Offices, conference room, library, café, atrium

Click to enlarge
Annual Energy Use 2007

Owner Heifer International
Architect and interior designer Polk Stanley Rowland Curzon Porter Architects
Engineers Cromwell Architects Engineers (MEP,structural); McClelland Engineers (civil)
Commissioning agent TME
General Contractor CDI Contractors

The new headquarters of Heifer International, the charitable nonprofit famous for facilitating gifts of livestock to people in need, opened in January 2006. The project was an instant success, quickly becoming a tourist destination along with the adjacent William J. Clinton Presiden-tial Center. That success created its own challenges, however.

As is typical, the first year of occupancy was spent getting everything working properly. Fortunately, facilities director Erik Swindle helped to design the building and understood its sophisticated energy management and water-conserving systems, according to design principal Reese Rowland, AIA, of Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects.

The following year, 2007, energy use (see chart) was notably higher than the 34,000 Btus per square foot predicted in the design-phase energy models—due in part to the high visitation and expanded hours of operation. Open spaces in the office building that had been built to provide room for future expansion became popular meeting spaces for community groups, according to Rowland.

That visitor and community traffic led the organization to move ahead quickly with its planned-but-unscheduled second phase: an Education Center adjacent to the headquarters. This new building, with a 300-seat multipurpose room and cafe, hosted over 76,000 visitors during its first year.

The original building’s mechanical systems had been sized to support this expansion, which added 22,000 square feet to the 94,000-square-foot main building. Construction activities and the added program have thrown off the energy data tracking, however. “Personally I’d like to have each building metered separately so we can get the true cost for each of the facilities,” says Swindle. By late 2010 recommissioning was underway, and leading to some modifications: “Now we know how to engineer this building to get our key efficiencies back,” Swindle reports.

In spite of all these challenges, the building’s layered water systems have served it very well. Until the unusually dry summer of 2010, captured rainwater supplied all irrigation needs. The rooftop rainwater collection has required some work—the original 5-gallon filter installed to capture sediment wasn’t big enough, so they replaced it with a 15-gallon filter. Along with condensate from cooling coils, rainwater provides much of the cooling tower’s make-up water, and some of the toilet water.

The facilities team is happy with the waterless urinals, and had them installed in the new Education Center as well. They stay ahead of complaints by changing the cartridges on a monthly schedule. The only green specification they changed was the water-based coating on exterior steel. After seeing it fade on the main building, they switched to an oil-based finish for phase two.


This article appeared in the January 2011 print issue of GreenSource Magazine.

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