Thursday, November 19, 2009

Blacksburg Motor Co. Tour

Today I was able to attend a site tour of the Blacksburg Motor Company, a former car dealership and filling station in downtown Blacksburg, Virginia that has just undergone a complete renovation and earned a Platinum certification under the LEED rating system administered by the United States Green Building Council. Design for the facility was undertaken by Spectrum design in Roanoke and construction by Breakell Incorporated, with project financing coming from the Town of Blacksburg. The project presented a unique opportunity for the three stakeholders to collaborate on a project, and the Town of Blacksburg was particularly supportive of the effort to bring a marquee green project into its building portfolio. As a former heavy brownfield site, the Blacksburg Motor Company renovation posed unique challenges that pressed the creative potential of the project team. Following are some photos snapped during the tour and accompanying explanation of particularly interesting features of the project.

The majority of the exterior facade of the building was preserved, and new energy efficient storefront windows were installed to replicate those found in pictures of the original building. The original structural brick is preserved throughout the building providing an old-fashioned look and feel to the building.

 Other exterior features include rain barrels, pervious concrete parking lot, and a rain garden to filter runoff from the grounds. Large amounts of the former site were concrete or pavement, and the project team was able to earn LEED points for reverting this land back to open space for community use:
 The interior of the building was gutted for renovation, but as many materials as possible were salvaged from the original construction. Here is a shot of original office doors incorporated into the reception area of the office. The interior walls in which these windows are set, however, were constructed of light gauge steel during the renovation process, and do no reflect the original floor plan for the building. Also shown is an image of original flooring in that was able to be salvaged and an interior view of the storefront windows, custom made to look like the orginials.

Here is a shot of the original roof trusses retained for the building. This saved time and resources that would have been consumed in re-constructing the roofing system and also earned building re-use points for the LEED certification. A high reflectance coating was also installed on the exterior of the roof yielding energy benefits for the building and lowering its global warming potential.

Perhaps the most impressive, although virtually invisible, feature of the Blacksburg Motor Company is its heating and cooling system. A large ground source heat pump system was installed under the parking lots and around the exterior site of the building to harvest heat from the earth in the winter and dump heat from the building in the summer. The system consists of 25 pipes drilled 300' vertically into the earth. Coolant will run through these pipes, using the constant temperature of the earths crust as a source of energy for air conditioning. This coolant is then run through coils in an air handling system which effectively transfers this energy to hot or cold air that can be circulated through the building in standard ducts. The only visible sign of this system in the building are the coolant pipes being routed to the air handling units:

 All of these building features and many more aspects of its construction and operation were involved in attaining a LEED Platinum certification for the Blacksburg Motor Company. This is the highest level of certification available from the USGBC, and represents only the "greenest" buildings of the day, and only a limited number of Certified Platinum buildings exist throughout the world. Breakell Incorporated has successfuly incorporated its green philosophy into its ongoing construction projects and continues to show leadership for the future of construction with projects like the Blacksburg Motor Co.

Blacksburg Motor Company Website:

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