Alise O'Brien Photography  

NOVUS International, St. Louis, is a scientific research-based company that produces and sells nutritional feed additives for livestock and companion animals. Green is part of NOVUS International’s culture, so when it was time to build a new headquarters, it was natural for the company to seek LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. “Our goal is to consider the environment and the people in it in everything we do. Green materials and methods have been a part of our principles and mission statements as early as 1991 when the company began,” says Don Vondruska, NOVUS director of finance.

Prior to the new construction, NOVUS had two facilities in St. Louis, located 12 miles (19 km) apart; one was the administration building and the other was the research lab. “We researched half a dozen architecture firms, and interviewed three seriously,” Vondruska says. “We had three specific goals in mind for the new project. We called them the 3 C’s; to establish communication, to build a new culture, and do it all at a competitive cost. We never deviated from those principles.”

Teamwork Leads To Success

The $20 million project’s scope included renovation of the existing building in St. Charles, Mo., with a large addition that includes two floors of office space, 10 research laboratories, a state-of-the-art employee- and customer-training center, fitness center, and catering cafeteria. “We delivered a beautiful, nice, and environmentally safe building for the benefit of the 250 people who work in our headquarters,” Vondruska explains. Green aspects of the project include outdoor views, natural lighting, upgraded lighting fixtures, efficient HVAC that uses a chilled-water distribution system, drought-resistant native landscaping, on- and off-site construction recycling, the use of 10 percent salvaged materials and 30 percent materials made from recycled content, updated plumbing fixtures, preferred parking for low-emitting and fuel-efficient vehicles, and a large rooftop photovoltaic panel array.

Vondruska was happy with the cost savings. “We built the project at a price competitive with other traditional building types,” he says. The original 1994 building, which was 42,000 square feet (3,902 m2), was renovated and the new laboratory building added 48,000 square feet (4,459 m2) to the facility. “Their net lease rate of new space is the same as they were paying before and now they have a LEED Platinum building,” says Paul Todd Merrill, director of sustainable construction at Clayco in St. Louis, the design/build firm behind the new headquarters.

The new NOVUS International building was fitted with floor-to-ceiling vision glazing to provide maxium daylight and views to its occupants. 
Alise O'Brien Photography The new NOVUS International building was fitted with floor-to-ceiling vision glazing to provide maxium daylight and views to its occupants. 

Vondruska and Merrill believe the keys to the project’s success were careful planning and excellent team integration from the beginning. On the architectural side, Clayco worked with Forum Studio in St. Louis, one of its long-standing partner companies.

“We worked on the project as an integrated team from early on in the design phase,” Merrill says. Many architecture firms find they are pushing clients to pay for extra green features up front on the faith that it will pay off in relatively few years. The tables were turned in this case. “NOVUS pushed like no other client. They pushed us to find new and better ways to achieve an outstanding array of sustainability goals,” Merrill says.

Daylighting and Plantings

To achieve natural daylighting, the new building was fitted with floor-to-ceiling vision glazing. “We avoided tinted glass products so we could still achieve views to the outdoors,” Vondruska explains. In the original renovated building, skylights and solar tubes were added. “It was challenging to add the solar tubes because we had to avoid the original rooftop mechanical penthouse. Then we had to drill through the concrete deck. But, it was worth the effort,” Merrill says.

Vondruska favors the natural daylighting and views to the outdoors in the building. “I can stand anywhere in the building and have a view outside,” he says. “Now, I am more sensitive to the need for daylighting. I notice how depressing it can be when I go to visit other dark office buildings.”

The landscaping was designed to restore the area to its original, natural Missouri habitat. As such, the grounds are decorated with biological designs that use native plantings that don’t require artificial irrigation. “We didn’t want the landscape to look like a bunch of weeds. It took a long time to select the right plants and to then get the appropriate approvals before we started installation,” Merrill says. For the most part, the native plants include grasses, sedums, and low ground cover.

Along with the native landscaping was the addition of vegetated bioswales that divert stormwater from the municipal wastewater system. A bioswale is composed of constructed soils that slow down stormwater runoff to help prevent it from polluting the surroundings. Moreover, rather than contaminating nearby streams and rivers with excessive water runoff filled with vehicular pollutants such as oils and grease, the bioswale collects the extra runoff water and allows the water to slowly seep into the soil. Pollutants are ingested by microorganisms in the soil before they reach the underground water sources.

Alise O'Brien Photography  

Reuse and Recycle

For the NOVUS project, 98 percent of the on-site construction waste was diverted from landfills and recycled, which earned the building a LEED point for Innovation in Design. “It took every person working, from the one in charge to the one with a shovel, to make the recycling possible,” Merrill explains.

Masonry was sent to an aggregate recycler. When it returned, it was reused on the site as fill under the parking lots. Drywall waste was ground up and used as soft material in the sculpted landscaping soil surfaces. Metal was sent to a metals recycler and wood went to a composter in St. Louis. Cardboard, plastics, and paper all were recycled in traditional methods, and all of the old lighting fixtures, including the lamps and the ballasts, were sent to recyclers. “We suffered some challenges finding a place to recycle the batt and roofing insulation. Unfortunately, a bit of it ended up in a landfill,” Merrill says.

At the other end of recycling was the practice of installing salvaged materials back into the building. NOVUS purchased a large shipment of salvaged raised flooring from an old computer center. The HVAC was installed as an underfloor system with controls at individual workstations. “We covered over the used raised flooring system with new finish flooring materials. The product even came with its original warranty,” Merrill explains.

Efficiency Measures

Operations efficiency also was a focus in both buildings. In the restrooms, exchanging all the older 3.5-gallon (13.2-L) toilets with dual-flush 1.6-gallon (6.1-L) tanks, reduced the quantity of sanitary wastewater by 50 percent. In addition, urinals and lavatories were replaced with low-flow fixtures.

Alise O'Brien Photography

For the electrical system, NOVUS set up a contract to purchase off-site renewable energy through its local electrical company. Three percent of the building’s electricity comes from the 35-kilowatt, 5,000-square-foot (465-m2) array of photovoltaic panels installed on the roof. To cut down on electricity usage, they exchanged all of the outdated, inefficient fluorescent light fixtures with new, more efficient models.

The original, 1994 building was designed with mediocre attention to sustainability, in particular with regard to the lighting and HVAC systems. Now, 15 years later, the NOVUS International headquarters has achieved LEED Platinum certification. Enthusiastic about their green facility and about their successful journey to update their offices and research laboratories, Vondruska re­iterates the NOVUS inspiration to invest in green: “We realize that what we do today affects future generations, so we have obligations to look out for their environment as well.”

Stephanie Aurora Lewis writes about architecture and sustainability from Columbus, Ohio.

Materials and Sources

Roof-mounted photovoltaic panels:

Suntech, San Francisco,

Plumbing fixtures:

Kohler, Kohler, Wis.,, and Sloan Valve, Franklin Park, Ill.,

Wheatboard cabinetry:

Environ Biocomposites, Mankato, Minn.,

Bamboo flooring:

Smith & Fong Plyboo, San Francisco,

Linoleum flooring:

Armstrong, Lancaster, Pa.,

Exterior screen wall:

3form, Salt Lake City,


Solatube International, Vista, Calif.,

Recycled-content ceilings:


Bamboo doors:

Marshfield DoorSystems, Marshfield, Wis.,

Glazing systems:

Viracon, Owatonna, Minn.,

Curtain wall systems:

Kawneer North America, Norcross, Ga.,

HVAC equipment:

McQuay International, Minneapolis,

Recycled-content metal skin panels:

Alcoa, Washington, D.C.,

High-reflectance roofing materials:

GAF Materials Corp., Wayne, N.J.,

Electrical power distribution equipment:

Eaton Corp., Cleveland,

Light systems and controls:

Cooper Lighting, Peachtree City, Ga.,

Recycled-content structural steel:

Vulcraft, Alpharetta, Ga.,

Exterior wood materials:

Mount Storm Forest Products, Windsor, Calif.,

Low-VOC paint:

Sherwin-Williams, Cleveland,

Recycled-content drywall:

USG, Chicago,, and CertainTeed, Valley Forge, Pa.,

Salvaged access flooring:

Tate Access Floors, Jessup, Md.,

Fitness center recycled rubber flooring:

ECOsurfaces, Lancaster, Pa.,

Recycled-content countertops:

PanelTech International Paperstone, Hoquiam, Wis.,, and Icestone, Brooklyn, N.Y.,

Reception desk:

Alkemi, Cabin John, Md.,, and 3form

Lab contertops:

Trespa, Poway, Calif.,

Green Team

Design/Build and Project Manager: Clayco, St. Louis,

Architect: Forum Studio, St. Louis,

Structural Engineer: Alper Audi, St. Louis,

Civil Engineer: Stock & Associates Consulting Engineers, St. Louis,

Landscape Architect: Loomis Associates, Chesterfield, Mo., (636) 519-8668