Schlageter calls the team one “of all the best minds, with everyone participating in what was almost an internal competition. Everybody came up with designs that challenged themselves. Everybody had new ideas, new things.”

A savvy and engaged client was another key to the team’s success.

“NREL did such a good job of explaining,” Randock says. “Yes, they are demanding because they want superior performance by the design team. They gave us feedback, rating us constantly on our performance. A demanding client makes everybody perform to a higher level.”

Path to Sustainability

Even though the RSF building is complete, the project itself isn’t over. One of NREL’s requirements was creation of a manual that could be used to guide future projects.

“Some of it had to be retrospective,” Andary says of the document. “We had to stop at several points and compile things to help us remember everything, but the real effort is yet to come. We have to strip away all the specifics of this project and recognize a process and a plan that could be applied to other projects.”

Schlageter adds: “You have to be able to replicate the process and the building. If it can’t be done twice, it’s a failure. It’s an evolutionary process. The next 50 buildings can take lessons learned from this one.”

Andary maintains that the most compelling lesson of the RSF was also the first: that engineering and performance goals can result in a project that is successful both aesthetically and programmatically. “Engineering-driven and energy-driven design, this is where the industry is going,” he says.

Project Team

Owner: U.S. Dept. of Energy
General Contractor: Haselden Construction
Architect: RNL
Engineers: Stantec Inc., KL&A Inc., Martin/Martin Inc.
Start: July 2009
Finish: June 2010