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The 222,000-sq-ft Research Support Facility building in Golden, designed to be a model for sustainable, high-performance building design, will provide DOE-owned work space for administrative staff who currently occupy leased space in the nearby Denver West Office Park. (Rendering courtesy of RNL)


The infrastructure site surrounding the 222,000-sq-ft Research Support Facility, currently under construction at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, was one of five Colorado sites selected to participate in the nation’s first rating system for green landscape design, construction and maintenance.

The Dept. of Energy’s RSF joins The Visitor and Research Center at Mesa Verde National Park; Moss Rock Place, a small home in Boulder rehabbed with a goal of net-zero energy use; Staley Neighborhood Park in Fort Collins; and the Mancos Public Library; as Colorado sites selected to participate in the pilot program. A total of 150 projects from 34 states as well as Canada, Iceland and Spain were selected.

The Sustainable Sites Initiative is an interdisciplinary partnership led by the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin and the U.S. Botanic Garden to transform land development and management practices with the nation's first voluntary rating system for sustainable landscapes, with or without buildings.

The RSF was selected based on its many environmentally friendly elements. These sustainable practices include improving stormwater quality and reducing runoff through the application of porous pavement technologies; the creation of habitat and open space and the reduction of water demand through the use of native and adapted plant materials. Also important is the reduction of energy and resource consumption through the use of recycled and regional materials.

NREL’s new building was designed by RNL of Denver and is being built by Haselden Construction of Centennial. The 32-acre site was developed to demonstrate DOE’s commitment to sound environmental management that serves as an example to others and supports NREL’s sustainability mission. Like the other pilot projects, the site will test the point system for achieving different levels of site sustainability based on a 250-point scale, and the performance benchmarks associated with specific credits within the Guidelines and Performance Benchmarks 2009.

The site’s other sustainability features include an integrated campus shuttle network and extensive bike rack stations, widespread use of cooler reflective pavements, onsite energy creation and the innovative use of onsite materials for retaining walls.

SITES will use feedback from this and the other selected projects during the pilot phase, which runs through June 2012, to revise the final rating system and reference guide by early 2013. The U.S. Green Building Council, a stakeholder in the Sustainable Sites Initiative, anticipates incorporating the guidelines and performance benchmarks into future iterations of its LEED rating system.