HDR-designed NIST Precision Measurement Laboratory (PML) Achieves LEED Gold

(February 8, 2013)—Opened in the spring of 2012, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Precision Measurement Lab (PML) on the Boulder, Colorado campus, now gleams gold—LEED® Gold certified—by the U.S. Green Building Council, less than nine months later. The 297,000 square-foot, environmentally-friendly and advanced laboratory building tightly controls environmental conditions to enable cutting-edge research with lasers, atomic clocks, and nanotechnology, and also has facilities for mico-and nanofabrication of custom devices.

Designed by HDR, including all of the specialized engineering required, the building design incorporated strict LEED standards. Whiting-Turner Construction Co. provided fit-up construction and the shell was constructed by Construction Services, Inc.

Environmental stability is absolutely essential for the PML, with the HVAC systems needing to achieve not only the stated criteria for temperature control, ventilation exhaust and air cleanliness, but must also be flexible, easily operated and maintained, while meeting budget considerations. The green thinking carried over to construction, using an indoor air quality plan to ensure construction pollutants did not contaminate the building. Once finished, it was flushed out with 100% outdoor air to minimize any remaining contaminates, prior to anyone occupying the space.

HDR's Sustainable Design Project Manager for the PML project Mark Meaders, says,   "Sustainable design and construction was very important to NIST and HDR throughout the project process. We're happy that all team members–NIST, Whiting-Turner and Construction Cost Services, PML, and HDR worked very well together to complete a great sustainable building that can be an example for all."

With the 2012 Nobel Prize winner for Physics  working in the lab, goals are lofty and the standards high, with researchers tackling such diverse projects as treating contaminated water with ultraviolet rays, which will help improve the safety of the nation's drinking water, and  one of NIST's best-known experiments, NIST-F1, the U.S. civilian standard atomic clock, along with potential new technologies, such as a newly patented idea for a 'lab on a chip' showing how physicians could perform instant chemical analysis of blood samples that could be stored for long periods on micro-chips.

As Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST Director Patrick Gallagher explains,   "This laboratory is at the heart of making sure that NIST Boulder has the capabilities it needs to carry out its critical mission," Gallagher said. "The work that's done here is central to the role of NIST. The work done here on atomic clocks, on voltage standards, on quantum computing, on detectors—this is the essence of NIST's role to define and implement a system of measurement to the benefit of the United States."

Sustainable features include:

  • Open Space: Over seven acres of green space is provided on site–exceeding the City of Boulder's requirements by more than 112%.
  • Tree Transplant: NIST transplanted 12 Ponderosa Pine and Douglas Fir trees for the construction of the building, to help preserve the beauty of the site.
  • Total Energy Use: Designed to use less than 111,000 MBtu per year, a 34% savings compared to the baseline of over 167,000 MBtu per year.
  • Building Materials: 32% of the materials used on the project are comprised of recycled content; over 20% comes from regional sources (within 500 miles), including steel, concrete, and cement; and over 50% of the wood used on the project is certified and harvested sustainably.
  • Water Reduction: Local vegetation reduces erosion and can be naturally irrigated by the Anderson Ditch running alongside the building. In addition, the building is estimated to reduce erosion by over 40% using low-flow fixtures.
  • Air Quality: Sustainable materials such as carpeting and flooring are sustainable and release minimal chemicals and gasses; in addition low odor adhesives, sealants, and paints were used, along with composite woods that do not contain added urea-formaldehyde.
  • Green Parking: To reduce automobile use and air pollution related to it, 22 parking spaces are included for fuel-efficient vehicles and 22 parking spaces are set aside for carpool use.
  • Convenient Biking site: Storage for 28 bicycles and four shower/changing areas within the building.
  • Energy Efficiency: Efficient systems allow PML to save significant amounts of energy compared to existing building standards. By using techniques such as spray foam insulation– wall insulation efficiency was doubled. Efficient lighting features reduce lighting energy use by 47%. Variable speed chillers reduce the energy needed to cool the building by 44%.

With this most recent LEED Gold certification, HDR has 20 LEED Gold projects in its portfolio.