Innovative equipment for high-use areas include sawdust-composite dividers, countertops embedded with recycled glass, waterless urinals, and low-flow toilets and lavatories.
Timothy Hursley Innovative equipment for high-use areas include sawdust-composite dividers, countertops embedded with recycled glass, waterless urinals, and low-flow toilets and lavatories.

Great ideas are rarely hatched whole. Once they are tested and refined, however, they can spread quickly by contagion. Anyone at Heifer International, a nonprofit organization that has used a “ripple-effect” approach to fight hunger and poverty for more than 60 years, likely will agree. Heifer International gives needy families a cow, goat or other animal; teaches them environmentally sound husbandry; and asks them to pass the gift of knowledge and their animal’s offspring to others. From its first shipment of 17 cows to Puerto Rico in 1944 until now, Heifer International has helped more than 48 million people in 125 countries become more self-reliant. In recent years, the organization’s success has led its Little Rock, Ark., operations to double in size. As Heifer International outgrew the building it owned, it began leasing space in other locations around the city. This prompted the organization to hire Little Rock-based Polk Stanley Rowland Curzon Porter Architects Ltd. to complete a space analysis. The study indicated Heifer International could consolidate its 250-plus employees to a new office structure while keeping its facility costs roughly the same.

“Constructing our own building made sense from a number of perspectives,” says Erik Swindle, Heifer International’s director of facilities management. “We have more control over energy costs and can use our building as an educational tool for demonstrating sustainability.”

Timothy Hursley

BEGINNING BOLDLY Heifer International’s decision to redevelop one of the largest brownfields in Arkansas presented formidable challenges and rare opportunities. The organization shares property lines with the William J. Clinton Presidential Library & Museum on its 22 acres (9 hectares) between downtown Little Rock and the Arkansas River. And like its neighbor, Heifer International’s headquarters sought LEED certification from the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Green Building Council. Heifer International achieved Platinum. (To read about the William J. Clinton Presidential Library & Museum, which achieved Silver LEED certification, see eco-structure’s January/February 2006 issue, page 16.)

“We believe sustainable design steps backward and forward,” says Reese Rowland, AIA, project designer and a partner at Polk Stanley. “We researched what the site had been before anyone built on it and learned small wetlands once existed near the river.”

Reconstructing wetlands made practical and philosophical sense. Sixty percent of the site had been paved to serve a railway switching station and diesel truck yard and contributed to regular flooding. Removing hardscape materials, resculpting the site and planting native species remedied flooding. Using wetlands as “nature’s kidneys” to capture and clean water on-site also enabled Heifer International to demonstrate effective water management, a critical characteristic of its sustainable agricultural programs, while showing how an industrial wasteland could be revitalized to achieve symbiosis between people and nature.

Everything from the site that could be salvaged, sold or recycled was. Steel was sent to a nearby factory to be recycled. Existing buildings were leveled, and volunteers knocked mortar off bricks so they could be reused as pavers. Contaminated soil was removed, and concrete was crushed for fill. In all, 97 percent of existing materials were recycled.


Heifer International’s “pass the gift” philosophy inspired the design team. A central commons represents the impact point of a gift with buildings, landscaping and parking placed in circular realms that radiate outward, similar to how Heifer International’s programs generate concentric rings of influence.

“We intentionally blurred borders,” Rowland explains. Heifer International’s landscaping opens up to and is positioned alongside the Clinton library’s park. Paths from that property and the city extend through Heifer International’s site. Land bridges connect to city streets and transit stops. Employees easily can bike or walk to work.

The journey across this formerly blighted site is now quite pleasant. Water no longer runs onto surrounding properties. Rather, it passes through porous parking and pathway surfaces or is captured and filtered by plants in wetlands and bioswales and channeled into a 2-acre (0.81-hectare) lake. Combined, the wetlands and lake can hold 4 million gallons (15 million L) of water.

Timothy Hursley

BLENDING BEAUTY AND FUNCTIONALITY The project team began design by reviewing photos of Heifer International’s structures from around the world. “Heifer builds for function and simplicity,” Rowland says. “We tried to express these qualities with beauty, honesty and basic materials.”

For example, Rowland selected a standard water tower, a familiar icon for towns throughout the U.S., wrapped it with a cantilevered stair and enclosed it in glass to create a focal point for the campus and punctuate the importance of this precious resource. Graywater from sinks and drinking fountains, rainwater from the roof, and condensate from the cooling towers is collected in the water tower and filtered twice before being recycled into the cooling or heating systems or used to flush toilets.

To support Heifer International’s educational goals, the architects consciously chose unique products and innovative equipment for high-use areas. For example, bathrooms feature sawdust-composite dividers, countertops embedded with recycled glass, waterless urinals, and low-flow toilets and lavatories.

Other major building components artfully blend beauty and functionality. Four-story-high steel trees lighten the building’s appearance while supporting its roof and providing a vertical route for electrical and mechanical systems. Because the payback period for a photovoltaic system exceeded Heifer International’s seven- to 10-year limit for sustainable features, the architects designed the angle of the roof to optimize performance of solar panels in the future.

Computer models also showed that using operable windows throughout the building was infeasible.

“Arkansas’ climate compares unfavorably with equatorial Africa,” White says. “When it’s hot it’s also humid and oppressive.”

The building’s east/west orientation and narrow width ensure natural light reaches deep intothe interior spaces. Light shelves, vertical fins, and deep overhangs redirect and diffuse this lightwhile minimizing glare and reducing heat gain.
The building’s east/west orientation and narrow width ensure natural light reaches deep intothe interior spaces. Light shelves, vertical fins, and deep overhangs redirect and diffuse this lightwhile minimizing glare and reducing heat gain.

The architects found other ways to introduce fresh air. Large balconies provide outdoor meeting space in warmer months. There are sliding doors in the cafés. The architects pulled the stairwells out from the building envelope and floated them over water, adding a release vent and fan at the top of these glass enclosures. Fresh air cooled by the water flows through metal insect screens and rises by natural convection. “We made it an event to use the stairs because this is healthy,” Rowland says. The interior design conveys Heifer Inter- national’s belief in equity. Open work stations lining the north side of the building give the majority of employees great views. The building’s east/west orientation and narrow width ensure natural light reaches deep into the interior spaces. Light shelves, vertical fins, and deep overhangs redirect and diffuse this light while minimizing glare and reducing heat gain.

A raised-floor system optimizes comfort and flexibility. Cool air flows upward from individually adjustable floor registers. Its temperature increases as it moves past people and equipment toward return air ducts near the ceiling. When needed, water from high-efficiency boilers flows to finned-tube heating convectors located along the outside walls.

“We give daily tours and people are astounded by how much we are modeling here,” White says. “Every aspect that is beautiful relates to sustainability.”

Timothy Hursley

Heifer International’s dedication to supporting local economies dovetailed with LEED standards for purchasing products within 500 miles (805 km). Structural-steel components contain 90 percent recycled metal and were manufactured three blocks from the site. The aluminum and glass curtainwall system was fabricated across the street. Soy-based foam insulation was developed and manufactured in Arkansas. Timber for the heavy pine roof was harvested from a well-managed forest nearby.

Although Swindle used LEED standards as a reference to establish Heifer International’s sustainable operations and maintenance procedures, he and his staff had to do a lot of research. “Some manufacturers provided the exact information we needed,” he says. “Others replied with statements such as ‘don’t use any harsh cleaners.’” Because the landscaping includes indigenous plants and a wildflower can look like a weed to some people, Heifer International’s custom manuals include photos of both. Its recycling procedures are so effective a single 8-cubic-yard (6-m3) trash receptacle serves its 94,000-square-foot (8733-m2) office building.

Timothy Hursley

MEASURING SUCCESS Savings are especially crucial for a humanitarian organization, such as Heifer International, because each dollar saved can save a life.

“We planned to pay off our new office building in 20 years,” Swindle says. “Now we believe our in half. We use 45 to 48 percent less water, natural gas and electricity than similar, conventionally designed structures built in Arkansas.” Heifer International’s world head- quarters is more than a global symbol for environmental stewardship. It is a hands-on, experiential model that demonstrates how people can work in harmony with nature. Rowland says the best measure for success arrived shortly after Heifer’s employees moved into their new offices. “They sent me photos with notes saying things like ‘these ducks are about 20 feet [6 m] from my window.’”

HEATHER BEAL writes about architecture and sustainability from Edina, Minn.

Polk Stanley Rowland Curzon Porter Architects Ltd.

Green Team

• ARCHITECT / Polk Stanley Rowland Curzon Porter Architects Ltd., Little Rock, Ark.,

• LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT / Larson Burns & Smith Inc., Little Rock, (501) 378-0200


• CIVIL ENGINEER / McClelland Consulting Engineers Inc., Little Rock,

• SUSTAINABILITY CONSULTANT / Elements, Kansas City, Mo.,

• COMMISSIONING AGENTS / TME Inc., Little Rock,, and Miller Management, Little Rock, (501) 690-0208

• GENERAL CONTRACTOR / CDI Contractors LLC, Little Rock,

Polk Stanley Rowland Curzon Porter Architects Ltd.


• EXTERIOR METAL SKIN / Petersen Aluminum Corp., Elk Grove Village, Ill.,


• LOW-E GLASS / Guardian Industries Corp., Auburn Hills, Mich.,

• LIGHTING CONTROLS / Leviton Centura, Huntington Beach, Calif.,

• PAVERS/STONE / Oran McBride Quarry, Batesville, Ark., (870) 793-7285

• RAISED FLOOR SYSTEM / Haworth/SMED, Holland, Mich.,

• THERMAL INSULATION / BioBased Insulation, Rogers, Ark.,

• SOUND INSULATION / Bonded Logic Inc., Chandler, Ariz.,

• URINALS / Falcon Waterfree Technologies, Grand Rapids, Mich.

• TPO ROOF / Genflex Roofing Systems LLC, Indianapolis,

• CARPET / Interface Inc., Atlanta,

• BAMBOO FLOORING / Hanlite Enterprises, Denver,

Polk Stanley Rowland Curzon Porter Architects Ltd.

• PORCELAIN TILE / Crossville Inc., Crossville, Tenn.,

• ENERGY STAR APPLIANCES / KitchenAid, Benton Harbor, Mich.,

• SOLID SURFACING / Avonite Surfaces, Florence, Ky.,

• TOILET PARTITIONS / Yemm & Hart, Marquand, Mo.,

• PLASTIC LAMINATE / Pionite Decorative Surfaces, Auburn, Maine,

• SYSTEMS FURNITURE AND CHAIRS / Steelcase Inc., Grand Rapids,

• FABRIC-WRAPPED PANELS / DesignTex, New York,