A rarely-visited portion of the NIEHS campus in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, was the scene of the April 15 groundbreaking for a new warehouse. Scheduled for completion in 2017, the building is designed to generate as much or more power than it uses, which is referred to as net zero energy, and will provide an added measure of security.
About three dozen people gathered for the event, including NIEHS leadership and staff, National Institutes of Health (NIH) leadership, local dignitaries, and representatives from the architectural and contracting firms that designed and will be building the warehouse.
With warehouse operations separate from the rest of the campus, the facility will meet stringent security guidelines for federal buildings. And the building will be the first net zero facility for the entire Department of Health and Human Services.
Goals achieved through teamwork
“Today’s groundbreaking is really a team celebration, recognizing the hard work and partnership of many, many individuals from across NIH and the department, and it couldn’t have been done without our designers and builders,” said Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., director of NIEHS and the National Toxicology Program.
The new warehouse, located on a remote, controlled part of the campus, will increase security on the main part of the campus. “This secure warehouse will allow us to route commercial delivery vehicles away from the majority of the institute’s population, research activities, child care center, and critical campus infrastructure,” Birnbaum said, noting that the site will be equipped with a vehicle inspection station.
The planning team set high standards for sustainable building and operations. “It is targeted to be a LEED Platinum facility, the highest sustainability rating provided by the U.S. Green Building Council,” Birnbaum told the group.
Meritorious and in keeping with NIEHS mission
Dan Wheeland, director of the NIH Office of Research Facilities (ORF) in Bethesda, Maryland, was on hand to mark the occasion. “In tough budgetary times, only the most meritorious projects survive the scrutiny that is involved,” he said of the approval and funding process. Wheeland mentioned elements that contributed to the success of the building approval.
- Improving security.
- Reducing operating costs.
- Consolidating operations closer to the customer.
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
“This is not just a project per se,” Wheeland said. “It’s emblematic of what we’re trying to do across the Department of Health and Human Services, and it’s exactly consistent with the NIEHS mission.”
Other speakers at the event included Durham Mayor Pro Tempore Cora Cole-McFadden, who represented Durham Mayor Bill Bell, and Congressman David Price, D-N.C., whose district includes NIEHS. Senator Richard Burr, R-N.C., was represented by staff member Betty Jo Shepheard.
Price echoed Wheeland’s observation on the good fit with the NIEHS mission. “It means that you are not only promoting environmental research and environmental stewardship, but it means that you are actually demonstrating it by the example that you set,” he said.
The LEED status has not yet been determined. The U.S. Green Building Council evaluates new buildings a year after construction, so that operational data, such as energy use and power generation, may be assessed, according to Debi Del Corral, space management specialist and facilities liaison in the NIEHS Office of Management, and one of the lead planners of both the building and the event.
Attendees noted that the attention to detail and remarkable achievements of the building planners even extended to the beautiful weather the day offered.