Credit: Sohm Photografx and Kennecott Land Co.

As the green movement has gained momentum and sustainability has become part of the conversation in a growing number of industries, some sectors that once were seen as polluters have come to embrace green practices. For example, throughout its history, the mining industry has been perceived as anything but green. One mining and land development company, however, seeks to challenge this notion with an ongoing mixed-use community development in Utah’s copper country.

At the gateway of this development is the Daybreak Corporate Center, a 175,000-square-foot (16258-m²), multi-tenant, Class-A office building. Opened in September 2008, the center has earned a LEED for New Construction Platinum certification from the Washington-based U.S. Green Building Council. The office is intended to serve as the benchmark on which to base future projects.

Sense of Stewardship

Kennecott Utah Copper, South Jordan, Utah, has been in existence since 1903. For the past 20 years, the company has been owned by London-based international mining group Rio Tinto and is the second-largest copper producer in the U.S. It also is the holder of 93,000 acres (37636 hectares) in Utah; some of the land is used for current mining operations while other sections are adjacent to mines or have been reclaimed and restored after mining use.

Rio Tinto and Kennecott Utah Copper have expressed a commitment to be leaders in environmental performance by demonstrating good management of natural resources and reducing their environmental footprints. After a 20-year, $400 million effort to work with environmental agencies and clean up historic mining waste, Kennecott Utah Copper was removed from the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Priorities list of potential Superfund sites in 2008. That same year, the company also became a founding member of the Los Angeles-based Climate Registry, a voluntary reporting system for greenhouse-gas emissions.

In 2001, Rio Tinto established a division called Kennecott Land Co. with the mission of creating sustainable communities on the company’s non-mining and reclaimed land. The development firm worked with the city of South Jordan to zone 4,126 acres (1670 hectares) of reclaimed land for a mixed-use development. The project is called Daybreak and today is home to more than 2,000 families. “It’s a traditional neighborhood-design community with a focus on sustainable development,” explains Scott Kaufmann, vice president, commercial development for Kennecott Land. “There is entitlement for roughly 20,000 residential units and about 14 million square feet (1.3 million m²) of commercial space.”

“Daybreak was constructed with the focus of being a sustainably developed community,” says Kyle Bennett, media relations specialist for Kennecott Land. “Each home in the development is built to a minimum of [EPA’s] Energy Star standards and we also have worked with builders to construct a series of higher-performing homes that use tankless water heaters, photovoltaic panels and a number of other efficiencies.” These higher-performing homes were built as a demonstration project for the Washington-based U.S. Department of Energy’s Building America program, in which homes must meet a minimum goal of 40 percent whole-house energy savings beneath a benchmark consistent with mid-1990s standard practice as reflected in the Oceanside, Calif.-based Residential Energy Services Network’s Home Energy Rating System technical guidelines.

Better to Best

Rio Tinto occupies approximately three-quarters of the Daybreak Corporate Center, which serves as the headquarters for Kennecott Land, with other tenants filling the rest of the space. In the early stages of design, the project team was aiming for a LEED Silver certification for the building, but as things came together, they realized they were able to do more. “We knew Silver was achievable without a strong burdening of the balance sheet,” Kaufmann recalls. “As we looked at what we wanted from a corporate office building, some of the things that get you to a Gold or Platinum certification are things you’d want to do on a long-term-owned asset anyway. While some things were brought to the table to make the project more sustainable or aesthetically pleasing, there were items in the project itself—whether it was energy efficiency or daylighting—that you’d strive to have with any good project.”

“As a team, we understood the goals of the project and what they meant, but at the same time we wanted to do the very best we could,” says Jim W. Lewis, principal with Salt Lake City-based FFKR Architects. “That was something amazing about this client and contractor; people would say we have to do something for LEED, but in the next breath, they would ask what’s best for the project.”

Although LEED definitely was on the mind of the design team and developers, ultimately the focus came down to making choices that benefit the long-term operation of the building while meeting the requirements of the budget. “We knew it added dollars to the project to achieve LEED Platinum,” Kaufmann explains. “But in some instances, the things we did to achieve that level are things we’d have done for any building in our portfolio, regardless. If we looked at the added cost of achieving Platinum, it was less than 2 percent.”

One of the ways the team was able to reach that goal was by maximizing the energy efficiency of the building’s mechanical and electrical systems. Lighting sensors reduce energy usage, which in turn reduces operating costs. The center also uses a four-phased cooling system that uses the chiller as the last phase in the cooling process, rather than the first. “Most buildings’ cooling systems use a chiller about eight hours per day; we anticipate using the chiller 100 hours or less per year,” Bennett says.

Site Makes Right

Because the building is completely surrounded by breathtaking views of the Oquirrh and Wasatch mountain ranges, it was something of a no-brainer to make the most of daylighting and the scenery. Daybreak Corporate Center is encircled with 11-foot (3.4-m) windows that flood each floor with daylight and offer views to more than 90 percent of the building’s occupants.

“I can’t take any credit for this; it’s just an amazing site,” Lewis says. “The views out of this building are breathtaking. It’s basically surrounded, 360 degrees, with beautiful scenery. With this view and the available daylight, we decided we were going to do everything to optimize these things and create the greatest space possible for the occupants.”

The daylighting also plays into the overall energy-efficiency strategy of the building. High ceilings and an abundance of windows maximize the use of natural light, and a system of motion-sensor lighting and individual zone controls minimizes the use of artificial lighting in the interior. “We have a design standard that calls for the types of blinds occupants are able to use and the number of demising walls you can have within a space,” Kaufmann says. “In fact, the top two floors are 100 percent open plan around the perimeter, so you don’t have one person’s office with all the light and a bunch of artificial lights in the central core area for the rest of the employees.”

Maximizing occupant health and comfort also led to the use of low-VOC paints, adhesives, sealants and carpeting, as well as the installation of an air system that exceeds the Atlanta-based American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers Inc.’s minimum standards of 10 percent for fresh air changes. Originally, the building’s plan called for an underfloor-air system but budget and other considerations motivated the designers to come up with a different approach. “By using a direct expansion unitary air system we saved almost $2 million and we have comparable energy-modeling statistics,” Kaufmann says. “While not as flexible within the tenant space in terms of individual controls, the system runs very efficiently, especially when broken into zones.”

The HVAC DX system provides 90 percent of the building’s cooling, moving air into and out of the cooling system. It includes fans to supply and remove air from the spaces being conditioned and cooled, as well as humidified or dehumidified. Water filters remove particulates from the supply air space and integrated sensors and controllers monitor building air-quality conditions based on selected parameters, such as temperature, humidity or IAQ requirements. High-performance filters provide particle-holding capacity and lower pressure drop for longer life and cleaner air quality within building spaces.

The center is sited about 1/3 mile (0.5 km) from a station on the area’s TRAX elevated-train system, so employees have easy access to public transportation. The site retains 100 percent of its storm water. The water is filtered and collected in an underground detention basin and then is used for irrigating the site’s water-wise landscaping. “We use greywater for all the landscaping,” Kaufmann says. “We’re not using potable water for irrigation purposes.”

In addition, recycling played a large role in the construction process. More than 95 percent of all construction waste was recycled, and 22 percent of materials used in the project came from recycled sources. Roughly 20 percent of the materials used were purchased from regional suppliers, thus reducing the impact of transportation on the building’s overall construction footprint.

According to Kaufmann, although building green has its challenges, he wouldn’t pursue a commercial or residential development any other way. “There’s the social value from doing this, but I also believe you end up with a better outcome,” he explains. “It’s a unifying driver for your project team. You end up with more creative ideas and solutions and a more engaged team. And without question, you get a more sophisticated result from which everybody benefits.”