SustainAbility: Aspinall building

History is being made at the Wayne N. Aspinall Federal Building in downtown Grand Junction. Jason Sielcken, project manager, said the major preservation effort will “push the envelope of sustainability in historic buildings.”

Sielcken, who works for the U.S. General Services Administration, recently took me on a tour of the impressive building. The administration manages thousands of federal buildings and owns about 1,600 of them. More than 25 percent of their holdings are listed in or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

According to a press release, “The Federal Government requires that all agencies achieve energy independence by the year 2030. This goal requires that buildings be designed efficiently using innovative technologies, while balancing remaining energy needs with on-site production using renewable sources such as the wind and sun.”

With the 41,562-square-foot Aspinall Building, the General Services Administration hopes to achieve Platinum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council and net-zero energy consumption.

The modernization will capture the best of both worlds by utilizing innovative technologies to create a high performing green building while restoring the original splendor. It could be the first net-zero building listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Funding for the $12.3 million project comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The building houses nine federal agencies and a federal courtroom.

Our local treasure was designed during the era of acting supervising architect James A. Wetmore and completed in 1918. It was enlarged in 1939 as a Works Progress Administration project, and the restoration will primarily be based on the later configuration. Wetmore’s buildings are known for their high style, and the Aspinall building is a subtle example of Italian Renaissance Revival.

All of the original drawings of the building from 1918 and 1939 were available. Sielcken said Zebulon Miracle, with the Museum of Western Colorado, provided a glimpse into the past through old photographs. The General Services Administration is also working with the state historic preservation officer and the local preservation community.

The design-build project is done in phases promoting early collaboration with contractors and allowing some elements of construction to take place while the design process is still being implemented.

The restoration project is on schedule for completion in January 2013. Offices for many of the agencies in the building have been relocated to the first floor to minimize disruptions. The vast majority of the work is done during regular business hours, and the team is trying not to have any closures. The Internal Revenue Service has been moved to another site for the duration of construction.

On the second and third floors, crews have been pleasantly surprised by unearthing wood floors under the carpeting in good enough condition for restoration. Sielcken anticipates finding terrazzo flooring on the first floor.

On the main floor, the drop ceiling will be removed to expose a 14-foot ceiling giving the space the lofty feeling of the original postal lobby. In public spaces, ceiling infrastructure will be moved to recapture the beauty of the building.

An elegant staircase between the first and second floors with marble treads and a beautiful wooden handrail will be restored. The cabs and mechanics of the elevators will also be refurbished.

Existing bathrooms, replete with marble and terrazzo tile, will be restored, and new unisex, accessible bathrooms will be added on every floor. Ramps in the front and rear of the building will improve accessibility.

When the building is completed, the first floor will have a lobby and IRS offices. The second floor will be reconfigured to comfortably accommodate several other agencies while the courtroom and offices for the U.S. Marshals will be located on the third floor.

Next week, we will take a look at specific steps in the modernization process designed to meet the challenge of energy independence for the Aspinall Building.

Adele Israel is a Grand Junction writer who has been involved in sustainability efforts for some 20 years. Have a question or column idea for Adele? Email her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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