Updated downtown Aspinall project nearly finished

The Aspinall Federal Building on Rood Avenue in Grand Junction.

Jason Sielcken, manager of the Aspinall Federal Building renovation project, discusses the 385 solar panels on the roof of the renovated building.

The wood frame windows facing the streets, dating to 1918, are now sealed on the inside by modern, energy-efficient storm panels.

Nearly century-old hardwood floors, obscured for years by carpeting in downtown Grand Junction’s Wayne N. Aspinall Federal Building and courthouse, were uncovered and refinished.

Project leaders with the federal General Services Administration were so desperate to revive the building’s original feel, they hired specialists to dig up and analyze layers of paint in order to replicate wall color from 1918 and 1938 in various parts of the building — a nod to the two major years of change for the downtown landmark.

Inside a second-floor men’s restroom, there’s the black, turn-dial combination vault where the U.S. Postal Service once kept its stock of stamps locked away. It’s unclear whether anyone still has the combination to the vault.

On the roof, the crown jewel of the project includes racks mounted with some 385 solar panels, now operational and capturing energy for what’s billed as a first-of-its kind effort among the 478 historic building managed by GSA nationally. The marriage of historic preservation and technology has an ambitious goal: “Net zero” energy, or the ability for the Aspinall building to produce as much energy as it consumes annually.

“What we’re trying to accomplish hasn’t been accomplished before in a historic building,” said Jason Sielcken, GSA’s project manager who’s shepherded the effort in Grand Junction since construction on the $15 million project started in March 2011. “We hope to be the first on the National Register of Historic Places to accomplish that.”

While the project is slated for completion in March, a re-dedication ceremony is tentatively planned Feb. 20 at the building, Sielcken said. The project was funded by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.

“Ultimately,” he said, “we’ve touched almost every aspect of the building.”

The roof’s solar panels, operational since November, are expected to generate approximately 123 kilowatts of energy, while Sielcken said they’re still in the process of analyzing whether the new systems are meeting projections for energy.

The new geothermal system, a series of wells and pipes that rely on the constant temperature of the ground in order to heat and cool the building, were buried under the parking lot last year.

Inside, employees and guests are peppered with messages about energy consumption. One of the new wall placards reads, “There are countless reasons to take the stairs. Join a movement.”

“We want people to be cognizant of their consumption in the building and the obvious health benefits,” Sielcken said.

The building’s elevator, installed in 1939, also was replaced.

Originally planned as a two-story building in 1916, construction on the building was completed in two years before a major reconfiguration in 1938.

Toward the front of today’s refurbished building, the public will see an interactive display detailing the building’s history and soon-to-finish refurbishment, Sielcklen said. They’ll also see real-time data about how much energy the building is producing and consuming, he said.


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