Vol. 1, Issue 7
new corporate campus nestled in the Sangre de Cristo mountains of Santa Fe, N.M., has seen its share of blood, sweat and tears in coming to fruition. But energy savings at the enchanting home of Thornburg Investment Management
may prove to be worth the not-so-enchanting expenditure of human energy required to get it built.
The 102,000-sq.-ft. (9,476-sq.-m.) campus, designed to accommodate 400 employees of two separate Thornburg companies, opened in February 2009, and is expected to earn the New Mexico Sustainable Building Tax Credit. Designed by Mexico City–based architect Ricardo Legorreta and brought into being by Albuquerque-based architecture and construction firms Dekker/Perich/Sabatini (D/P/S) and Klinger Constructors, it has been called the most sustainable building in the state, using 47 percent less energy and 43 percent less water than a typical office building. Ninety percent of construction waste was recycled during the project’s 18 months of development, from July 2007 to January 2009.
The Thornburg campus project team paid significant attention to sun-shading measures, including vertical fins in window openings.
photo by Robert Reck Photography
“Noteworthy interior features include a highly efficient underfloor air delivery system, sensor-controlled T5 lighting, operable windows, low-emitting materials and extensive controlled daylighting,” said the company in an October press release marking the complex’s LEED-Gold certification.
Two separate and independent firms — Thornburg Investment Management and TMST (formerly known as Thornburg Mortgage) — occupied the space initially. That’s now changed, as the mortgage business filed for bankruptcy. The three-building campus now is home to approximately 220 employees – though another 250 task chairs are on standby.
According to a LEED case study on the project prepared by the architecture firm, sustainability was an important part of Thornburg Founder and Chairman Garrett Thornburg’s vision for the campus, “but LEED certification was not formally discussed until after the schematic design was complete.” The team viewed the 14-acre (5.6-hectare) site as “both a challenge and an opportunity.” On the one hand were gorgeous views. On the other was finding space for parking while abiding by city height restrictions.
Parking areas ended up contributing their fair share to the LEED score, using “stabilized pervious pavement,” aka gravel over a ring-and-grid substructure, and an underground cistern to direct water back toward the area aquifer.
Credits Where They’re Due
A combination of strategies, including daylighting and innovative air-flow systems, should help the Thornburg campus use 40 percent less energy than a baseline building.
photo by Robert Reck Photography
But the challenges to this project went far beyond design and construction. Originally unveiled in 2003, the project plan met resistance from neighbors who objected to the proposed building’s scale after initially expressing support of Garrett Thornburg’s vision. Eight lawsuits ensued, with the project eventually gaining a permit after a New Mexico Supreme Court ruling.
In the meantime, in addition to the legal fees incurred, the company had to confront significant rises in material prices and construction costs — so much so that Thornburg went to the City of Santa Fe to request an industrial revenue bond (IRB), which was granted.
“I was working with the state, and helped make that happen,” says Fabian Trujillo, who then served as business development team leader for New Mexico Economic Development, before coming to Santa Fe himself in January 2008 as director of Santa Fe Economic Development.
Ground finally was broken for the project in late 2007. By mid-summer 2008 the project’s estimated cost had risen from the mid-30s to approximately $45 million. The final tally came in somewhere between $50 million and $55 million.
In addition to helping develop the incentive package and an impact analysis report for the project, Trujillo says he used his experience with IRBs to assist Thornburg with the requisite information.
Thornburg had its share of experience already. In addition to putting together bond financing three decades ago as CFO at New York’s Urban Development Corp., Thornburg and his small team worked to securitize IRBs at his original startup firm in Santa Fe in the 1980s. According to published reports, years ago, Thornburg considered moving to such locations as southern California, Denver or back east to Connecticut because of the relatively anti-business culture the firm encountered in Santa Fe, but a combination of personal connections and comparatively low overhead helped cement his attachment to the city.
Trujillo says Santa Fe’s populace has a different take on development projects from that of the overwhelmingly supportive residents in more rural New Mexico communities such as Farmington and Clovis where he had helped put together IRBs in the past. At the same time, he says, Santa Fe likes to help entrepreneurial businesses grow from within, and has the state’s highest ratio of startup businesses per capita.
Trujillo says he also delivered a presentation at one of a number of committee meetings the project had to pass through before it could come before the city council.
“I felt that was very cumbersome,” says Trujillo. So one of the first things he pushed for in his new position was streamlining that process, a task that was completed by July 2008. “We did it because of that project,” he says.
White Light, Clear Air
Among the project’s special requirements were measures to deal with early-morning and late-afternoon sun, as Thornburg staff occupy the space for longer-than-normal hours in order to facilitate response to international markets. Normal office hours are 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mountain Time.
Overall, the campus should use 40 percent less energy than a baseline building, and thus should be on track to earn the ENERGY STAR rating as utility bills come in. Roof measures include R-30 insulation, a reflective membrane and gardens, and walls incorporate design elements such as vertical fins and overhangs in order to allow daylight while controlling glare and heat. HVAC strategies include low fan use, adjustable floor diffusers and evaporative cooling.
“All such measures have been integrated into a design that still maximizes user delight: “Due to the extensive glazing and openness of the floor plan, 82 percent of occupied spaces have high levels of natural daylighting, and 97 percent of occupied spaces have views to the outdoors,” said the case study.
The Thornburg campus is designed to accommodate 400 people, with 97 percent of occupied space having a view to the outdoors.
photo by Robert Reck Photography
That said, the original and ambitious goal of completely eliminating internal window shades was hard to stick to, as some glare spots arose in certain areas during certain hours at certain times of the year.
David Ford, CFM, LEED-AP, is facilities manager for Thornburg. He says mechanical shades have been installed in some locations to reduce that rare glare. He says it’s still too early to pin energy savings numbers to the new three-building complex, but there has been “a definite drop” in the electric bill even after just two months of the firm’s normal operations.
“With all the windows, there is so much brightness that people are not used to that, having been in a closed environment previously,” he says, adding that the superlative views out those windows certainly can offset problems arising from the extra light.
Ford says the construction cost alone came to approximately $39 million, with only three percent in change orders off the original contract. He notes the low noise and high efficiency that come with the raised-floor HVAC system, which allows air to rise up through the breathing zone and reduces the need for variable air volume (VAV) boxes. In addition, all air handlers, pumps and motors are on variable frequency drives. These HVAC measures will constitute most of the company’s energy savings.
“We have operable windows, and four stages of cooling, so we’re not on refrigerated air all day long. During the day, we can go from outside air to indirect to direct to chilled-water cooling. During all of those times, we have little green lights that let people know it’s okay to open their windows for outside air, again enhancing indoor air quality.”
In addition, the average square feet per person has grown considerably from the comparatively dark quarters Thornburg used to lease in downtown Santa Fe. “It’s just a new environment for most folks,” says Ford, “a serious upgrade on a magnitude of probably 1,000 percent. There are figures that show the environment can increase production anywhere from 16 to 19 percent. I think overall everybody’s quite pleased.”
That includes city officials looking to diversify the area economy.
“Thornburg is the type of company that fits the Santa Fe economic development plan,” says Trujillo, noting the innovative nature of his city’s work force, which is equally savvy about technology and the arts. “It’s green, with high-wage jobs, and knowledge-base-type workers who really help this community. Even with Thornburg’s downsizing, we are very happy to have them in the community, and we believe in the future they’re going to recover and get stronger than they are today.”
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