Third Street Center
- Building Name: Third Street Center
- Building Location:
- City: Carbondale
- State: Colorado
- Country: USA
- Project Size (ft², m²): 45,100 ft²
- Building Type(s): Single level institutional – non-profit center
- Project Type: Building preservation with occupancy change and retrofit
- Delivery Method: Design / Bid / Build
- Total Building Costs: $4.34 Million
- Cost/ft² or Cost/m²: $96/ft²
- Owner: Town of Carbondale and Carbondale Community Non-profit Center
- Building Architect/Project Team: Energy and Sustainable Design, Inc. (architect), Land+Shelter, Inc. (developer), B&H General Contractors>
- Project Contact Person: Angela Loughry, Energy and Sustainable Design, Inc.
The Third Street Center is a transformation of a 45,100 square foot decommissioned elementary school into a vibrant community non-profit center. While there was no square footage added to the Center, the interiors of an old, dank building were completely reworked to provide: energy savings, improved indoor air quality, and greater connection to the community. In addition to physical transformation, the Third Street Center is also a transformation of social and economic structures that are integral to this community building. Located on the termination of Third Street in Carbondale, Colorado, the Center is physically and psychologically central to this small mountain community. Carbondale is caught in the middle of divergent industrial concerns of energy extraction, and tourism. These sometimes competing forces, have fueled economic growth and but have also created certain social and environmental pressures. As such, Carbondale is an emerging home of non-profits that ease these pressures. The Center assists Carbondale non-profits by providing an inexpensive and vibrant home.
Overall Project Goal/Philosophy
The Third Street Center's transformation is driven by two goals: minimize project price and maximize building performance.
A minimal project price allows The Third Street Center to provide stable, low-cost rental space for local non-profits. The Center relieves tenants of the burden of volatile and high regional rents and allows them to focus on their primary missions.
The Center acts as a showcase for sustainable building re-use. Through careful utilization of its limited budget, the center was able to find strategies and solutions that reduce long term operability costs and also serve as a teaching tool to the public it serves. The Center is stretching beyond LEED to a whole building sustainability inspired by the Living Building Challenge.
For the Center, both cost and performance are needed for long term viability. The Center is an attempt to navigate this collision of cost and performance by focusing on low cost solutions while simultaneously developing innovative economic structures.
Cost effectiveness is a primary goal of the Third Street Center. It keeps rents low to allow tenant organizations to direct resources to support the delivery or expansion of services and programs that enrich the entire region.
- $9.75 per square foot per year lease rate (30%-50% less than commercial rents in the area) resulting in $4.34 million or $96/sf budget was achieved.
- The Third Street Center is fully leased 1 year after opening its doors with a waiting list. This lease rate is notable in an economy that saw increasing vacant commercial space and 30% decline in typical lease rates.
- Utility rates are $1.15 per square foot per year. These rates are 40% of the national average.
- The Third Street Center is based on a sustainable economic model that ensures that Center will not require ongoing fundraising to cover operating expenses.
The center provides a real world example of how sustainable high performance building techniques can not only be cost-effective, but mindful of the people they serve and the environment they impact. The retrofit interventions maximize carbon savings at an affordable cost.
- In the first year of operation, PV electric production is at 40% of energy use tracking closely with model predicted goal of 45%.
- The electricity use of the Third Street Center is 60% less than a typical office building in our climate zone, based on 2003 statistics from the Department of Energy.(). Current energy use as an office occupancy is tracking equal to historic use as a school.
- In the first year, the Third Street Center is using 40% less natural gas than the school, exceeding original energy modeling estimates showing 30% reduction.
- The 52.2 kw PV array was financed through an innovative funding structure, a power purchase agreement (PPA). Through the agreement, RC Energy covered the cost of equipment and installation, and the Third Street Center buys power from the company at a set rate. In seven years, the Center has the option to buy the panels or continue with power purchasing.
Safety in Carbondale and for the Third Street Center has a meaning beyond physical security as the region enjoys a very low property and personal crime rate and few natural hazards. The largest safety concern resided in the existing building. Safety concerns were addressed by upgrading dated fire and mitigating asbestos.
Third Street Center functions by the effective transformation of existing school spaces into spaces tailored for office, art production, and commercial uses. This included changes to allow previously non-existent summer occupation, increased electrical capacity for added office plug loads, and updating plumbing infrastructure. A functional goal of note is cooling. Through effective use of existing building mass, addition of operable skylights and windows and effective tenant communication, the Center has proudly avoided the addition of air-conditioning.
Welcome and easy access for the diverse Carbondale community is key to the mission of the Third Street Center. Tenants are wide ranging from Senior Matters, serving those over 60, to Ballet Folklorico serving dancers aged 3 years and up. To welcome all, ramps, accessible bathrooms and parking, and new hardware were added. These improvements were funded in part by a grant from Garfield County that realized the critical role the Center would play in serving population with limited access. All told the basic accessibility renovations required 8% percent of the budget highlighting the importance of this basic work but also challenging the budget.
The Third Street Center transformed a dated, stuffy, dark, and sprawling building into a vibrant and welcoming center. Warmth, light, air, and color were key design qualities achieved in the remodel. These were achieved through careful application of new skylights, cupolas, solar tubes, greenwall features, paint and carpet. The Center added nodes of communal spaces that encouraged tenant interaction and sharing of common programs (such as copying, printing, meeting rooms, and break rooms). These nodes simultaneously order a confusing interior environment by providing a series of wayfinding breadcrumbs marked by bright colors, natural light, and plantings. The building also needed a new identity to declare its transformation. Solar structures did double duty of generating carbon free energy and transforming the exterior aesthetic from a bland pancake-like institutional building with new saw tooth roofing elements and colorful high tech entry structures.
Historic Preservation Goal
Transformation, rather than strict preservation, is the goal of the Third Street Center project. The majority of the existing building was saved. Only one exterior wall was rebuilt and a minimal amount of interior walls were removed or added. Beyond the physical elements, the building featured murals and a communal Round Room with exposed wood beams, which were saved and enhanced. Recycling was key element to the building transformation starting fist with re-use and extending to an extensive construction recycling program where 75% of construction waste was recycled.
The planning team agreed that access to the beautiful surroundings would improve occupant mood and therefore, improve occupant productivity. With this goal in mind, the Third Street Center is a lively, light and air filled environment, featuring daylight views to the surrounding environment, and plenty of fresh air, thanks in part to the eighty-six operable skylights that were added to the building. The addition of the cupola to the Round Room improves a treasured existing space by lifting a new operable window filled cupola above existing glu-lam arches. The Center is also a showcase of healthy materials, reaching beyond LEED standards for the shell remodel while tenant improvement guidelines (integral to each tenant lease) carries these standards forward for all tenant improvements.
Overview of Process
Out of necessity, the process was very interactive and blurred the typical phase divisions in design and construction. Planning, pre-design, design, construction, operations and maintenance, and post-occupancy evaluation activities overlapped into a series of spiraling multiple feedback loops rather than a single linear process. Actual construction occurred in three phases. The construction of phase 1 was proceeding while the design of phase 2 was underway. Evaluation of phase 2 performances (PV production and roof performance) occurred simultaneously with phase 3 design. This allowed integration of lessons learned quickly into the process.
The spiraling feedback loop required a high integration of consultant work. Mechanical and lighting designers were involved from the beginning of the project. The DOE2 model was complete during early schematic designs and then tweaked in many iterations as the design developed and the budget solidified. Early daylighting consultation greatly affected the thrust of the schematic design and the placement and number of the skylights solidified as the skylight benefits proved worthy through testing with energy modeling, costing, and tenant response. The general contractor was selected during schematic design and provided pricing and constructability feedback through the design process.
Layered onto this integrated design process that is typical of high performing buildings were innovative community and financial feedback loops. The financing of the building was entirely dependent on community support, via two mechanisms. First, construction loan financing levels were tied to leasing levels. Lease negotiations were occurring with clients well before a full picture of the final design was known. Tenant feedback in the form of lease out had a powerful voice in the ongoing design. Second, 40% of the project financing was required to come through capital campaign fundraising. Foundations and individuals seeking to donate became integral to the design process. For better or worse, interventions that had a likelihood of being funded were given priority of those less desirable to donors.
There were, and still are, a multitude of people involved in the Third Street Center. What this meant for the design teams (all from small businesses) is that they all got a taste of large organization dynamics. Not only did they need to know the best design or engineering, solution – they also had to grapple with the large organization running in multiple feedback loops and be able to temper the straight forward solution for their specialty to the larger needs of the complex organization. Not only were more typical tradeoffs made, more complex interactions took place. For example, the mechanical engineer was critically involved with fundraising, using energy modeling to answer questions by grant making foundations and donors.
Information and Tools
- Living Building Standard
- LEED Core and Shell
- DOE2 Energy Model, PVWatts for PV design
- Many Community Meetings
- Many rounds of pricing (9+ different pricing rounds)
Energy Use Description
Good energy performance is key to the Third Street Center's success as it assists in both main goals, low cost and high performance.
Annual Energy Use by Fuel
|Gas||1,441,855,667 Btu or 422,566 kWh|
Annual Energy by End Use
Annual On-site Renewable Generation
Data Sources and Reliability
Based on Utility Bills:
Source Gas, May 2010 – April 2011
Xcel Energy, May 2010 – April 2011 (covers PV monitoring as well)
Indoor Environment Approach
Indoor environment was enhanced by strictly limiting pollutants. This including elimination of red list materials in the building shell remodel. This Living Building materials standard list features 16 materials that are not typically regulated, but are thought to have negative effects on health and the environment effects. It includes phalates, Cadmium, and Chlorinated Polyethylene among others. Indoor Environment is enlivened by light and ventilation by the addition of operable skylights and windows and solar tubes. Every occupyable room and all hallways have natural light.
A. Lessons Learned
The Third Street Center design team was energized by being engaged in what we came to term "bleeding edge" technology and process. The philosophy and outcomes desired by the Living Building challenge, inspired the team greatly, despite the fact that no members had been involved in a Living Building design before. While the e Living Building goal was dropped due to budgetary constraints, the ethos of pushing the limits of what we could do with the small amount of money continued to energize the team. That being said, the entire design team was taken aback by how time consuming the design process proved to be. Design elements went through multiple iterations in response to feedback from specialists, the public, and budgetary considerations. The completed project was relatively simple and cost effective – depending heavily on integration between human behavior and simple technology solutions, rather than high-end technologies. The "simple" seeming solutions beguile the complex process and large amounts of time that went into them.
The financing mechanisms employed required that the Center be operationally sustainable meaning the loan burden had to be repaid purely on rents. This proved a a double edged sword. On the positive side, it was an innovative solution that ensured the ongoing success of the center beyond the construction phase. On the negative side, it was predicated on typical construction financing mechanisms that only accounted for initial costs. Life cycle costs were irrelevant to the original loan amount. As a result, sustainable technologies with a higher initial price tag but larger life cycle savings were out of reach for the project.
- SBIC Beyond Green™ High Performance Building Awards, Citation for Community Involvement, 2010