After 28 months of construction, the U.S. General Services Administration rededicated the César E. Chávez Memorial Building in Denver on March 7. The GSA says the goal of the $37-million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act project is to achieve LEED-Silver certification.

Photo by Fred Fuhrmeister, Time Frame Photography
The project created a new state-of-the-art building exterior featuring an aluminum-and-glass curtain wall system that reduces the buildings energy consumption by 30%.

The highlight of the modernization project is a state-of-the-art building exterior consisting of an aluminum-and-glass curtain wall system that reduces the building’s energy consumption by 30% and produces 5% of its energy through onsite renewable-energy technologies. 

Contractor GE Johnson Construction and Tryba Architects implemented a number of sustainable features with the project. For example, the new parking garage features a solar sculpture capable of producing 115 kW hours of renewable energy, offsetting both the building’s energy consumption by 5% and reducing domestic hot water grid energy by 30%. The project also made good use of locally available materials, such as Yule marble, recycled steel, and terrazzo made from 50% recycled beer bottles from local breweries. Eighty-three percent of construction waste was diverted from landfills.

The César E. Chávez Memorial Building is located in a developed urban area within the Denver city limits known as the Golden Triangle. What once was an overlooked building now takes advantage of integrating a pedestrian-friendly and realigned Fox Street, landscaping, public art and a hardscaped entry plaza. The result is that the Chavez Building no longer sits in isolation at the end of the block but rather serves as a gateway building into Denver’s Civic and Justice Center and the Golden Triangle neighborhood.

Working with the city of Denver, local neighborhood groups, and the local arts community, GSA will have an “art park” in front of the building entry area giving the agency the opportunity to further connect the space to this emerging art district. This art will be displayed in a highly visible parcel of land in front of the building, displaying a sculpture by Mexican artist Sebastian, entitled “In Three Movements.”  

“Sustainable design is vital to GSA’s mission of providing the best value in real estate and delivering a superior workplace for the federal employees,”  said Susan Damour, GSA Rocky Mountain regional administrator. “High-performing sustainable buildings not only reduce the government’s environmental footprint, but also make good business sense. This is a win-win as this modernization has also turned a previously overlooked building into a beautiful structure that complements Denver’s architecture.”

The area of building efficiency affords tremendous opportunities for both economic growth and reduced environmental impacts. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, buildings across the United States account for 36% of total energy use and 65% of electricity consumption.

The 180,000-sq-ft office building is home to five federal agencies, which consist of approximately 290 workers. GSA awarded the contract to a design-build team led by GE Johnson Construction on March 23, 2010.