The wait was a lot longer than anyone expected for what architecture firm BNIM’s director of design Steve McDowell calls “the greenest office building in the world,” but on September 23, the city’s tax increment financing commission finally approved the project.
The three-story building in Kansas City, which will have 47,650 square feet after a roof addition, will be net positive for both energy and water consumption. It will feature a sophisticated scheme for utilizing natural and LED lighting—also a net positive, McDowell hopes, for his staff’s physical and mental well being.
To back up its “greenest office” claim, BNIM is evaluating its design against five different sustainability metrics, and McDowell and other BNIM staff are wearing biometric wristbands as they begin to study the impact of lighting on productivity in partnership with the Salk Institute for Biological Studies of La Jolla, California.
The standard from Portland-based EcoDistricts takes BNIM well beyond the boundaries of its lot to consider its impact on a surrounding 100-square-block watershed. Water runoff, a long-standing concern of city managers in Kansas City, has become a specialty within BNIM.
By converting an adjoining parking lot into a xeriscaped community park, BNIM plans not only to add a precious amount of public space to Kansas City’s urban core but also improve its water table by redirecting millions of gallons of stormwater to the park. BNIM is partnering with the city government to provide information on the impact of this and other buildings in the downtown infrastructure.
McDowell credited city manager Troy Schulte with making the building’s geoexchange system possible. City waterlines will run through concrete slabs in the building through heating and cooling loops that will return the water to the street at or near the temperature it entered.
All this, and a striking facade of white Terra Cotta shingles and tiles, makes 1640 Baltimore a thoroughly modern counterpoint to the renovated 1956 TWA corporate headquarters building that is now the home to BNIM and advertiser Barkley Inc. The irony is that 1640 Baltimore is much older. It dates back to the early 20th century, when it sported a terra-cotta facade. The cladding was added in the 1970s, said McDowell.
BNIM’s decision to relocate to the Crossroads, a gentrifying arts district south of downtown, comes 20 years after it was hired to develop a master plan for the area. With the Crossroads thriving (the renowned Performing Arts Center was built just west of 1640 Baltimore), opponents argued against giving tax credits to developer Shirley Helzberg, who paid $1.8 million in 2005 for the property. The renovations will cost $13.2 million, or $217 a foot including tenant finish.