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SHI – A Story in Sustainability

By: Donna M. Miller, Associate AIA, LEED AP 
The new world headquarters for SHI International Corporation has been an exciting and significant project for both the client and for Cornerstone Architectural Group. This project signifies tremendous growth for our client and a physical representation of their dedication to sustainability with their first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified headquarters. It is also the first LEED project designed by Cornerstone Architectural Group. 
Cornerstone Architectural Group has been involved with the LEED process for SHI International’s new headquarters since the beginning, sparking the client’s original interest in LEED. The initial presentation made by the design team included a list of achievable points based on the Cornerstone’s design standards and characteristics inherent in the existing building. 
The project consists of building infrastructure upgrades and a 220,000 square foot interior alteration that anticipates LEED Commercial Interior (CI) Silver certification. The design includes sustainable strategies such as: an energy efficient lighting design, naturally lit open offices, occupancy sensors, water efficient plumbing fixtures, low VOC finishes, zero irrigation landscaping, and a 500 kW photovoltaic array that will be installed end of 2011/ beginning of 2012. The team took sustainability and air quality even further and instituted construction waste recycling, a paperless submittal process, and the creation of a tobacco free campus.  
The most successful design strategies implemented were the energy efficient lighting design coupled with the naturally lit open office space, and the water efficient plumbing fixtures. 
The existing building consisted of open office floor plates with central cores and ribbon windows around the perimeter, allowing natural light deep into the space. The design team took advantage of this and kept the plan open, with private offices into the corners of the plan, allowing natural light into both the offices and open office spaces. The energy efficient lighting design included direct-indirect lighting fixtures that were centered over the open office furniture, as well as a task lighting component. This allowed people to customize the light level in their space. This lighting design was mocked up for the client to ensure them that there would be comfortable lighting levels. The lighting design resulted in a 35% reduction in the lighting power density. 
The water efficient design for SHI International allowed the team to anticipate a 40% reduction in water usage. This was achieved by using low flow toilets, waterless urinals, and automatic sink faucets. This design is anticipated to achieve 12 points toward LEED Silver Certification. 
Outside of the design aspect of this sustainable project, Cornerstone Architectural Group coordinated the design team, set goals for the LEED Certification, and kept the team on task with these goals. We also coordinated the construction staff, and made frequent site visits to ensure that the intent of the design was being carried out. In continued sustainability awareness, Cornerstone Architectural Group will be teaching a course to SHI International’s facilities staff about sustainability and the LEED GA exam.