Using Local Materials
Anderson states that studies show that upwards of 50 percent of the cost of construction, not the labor, but the cost of the materials used for construction, can be traced back to transportation costs to get the material from the factory to the place of construction. “That’s a significant number,” he stresses. “If a facility is designed with regionally manufactured materials in mind, then you are, by definition, reducing the travel distance.
“One of the things that we have here relatively locally is a pretty large concrete plant,” Anderson says. “We designed the maintenance building and the fuel and wash buildings out of tilt-up concrete panels rather than steel that might have been wrapped with masonry or metal panel.” At the time they were designing it, concrete and steel were running relatively close in costs, but when they added in the fact that they could get the concrete locally, the cost of the product went down. Anderson says regionally manufactured materials not only make building easier, “If it’s done well, that can be a savings to the project.”
“I think it’s important for everyone on the team, the design team as well as the client team, to come in to a project with a fresh slate or a blank slate,” Anderson says. One of the difficulties he mentions, is when people come together to work on a project and have the mentality that since it’s always been done a certain way, it needs to continue to be done in that same way. “There is some value to experience, but at the same time, creative thinking right from the beginning is really nothing more than being able, or being willing, to think outside of the box. Being able to analyze and discuss, and possibly implement new ideas that you haven’t done before.”
One of the creative solutions that hadn’t been done before for this particular project was using decomposed granite parking. Anderson says, “As far as I know, in the city of Tempe, they don’t have any other city facilities that have that.
“When we first proposed it and discussed it, there was some resistance from some areas, particularly the folks that would have to maintain it, by saying ‘we’ve never done it that way.’” Once they were able to think about it creatively and thoughtfully, then a lot of the reasons for opposition faded. The decomposed granite reduces heat island effect and run-off.
Creativity went into the landscaping as well. The landscaping is drought-resistant; choosing materials in a hot and arid environment that are resistant to drought and will require less water to survive. Utilizing regional plants make this landscaping more cost effective. Anderson mentions, “You would want to be cognizant of that where ever you are, whether it be in the desert or up in the mountains.”
The project is going for two LEED certifications. The facility administration office will be submitted for LEED Gold and the remainder of the project will be submitted for LEED Silver. Anderson says, “Right now we are submitting enough points to achieve gold, anticipating that we may not get all those points.” Because of the function of the maintenance facility, there were some limitations on what could be done, mostly with the HVAC and the cooling system.
Though the focus here was on the free elements in design, Anderson stresses that for people looking at doing a building like this, they need to focus on the lifecycle cost-benefits. “To really make a true sustainable building, you may run into, depending on the site, depending on the building, you may run into a few decisions that need to be made where you may pay a little bit of money up front to install something, but that something that gets installed is really going to save you money over the lifecycle of the project. To see some of the lifecycle cost-analysis charts for this project, you can view them here.