The Natural Resources Defense Council - Robert Redford Building (NRDC Santa Monica Office)
General Information
Location Santa Monica, CA
Owner The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
Architect Moule & Polyzoides
Engineer   Syska Hennesy Group
Completed   November 2003
Building Use   Commercial Office, Retail, Interpretive Center
Size   15,000 SF
Stories   Three
Cost   $5,100,000 (land excluded) = $340/SF
• Construction was estimated at $253/SF, in the upper end of the $200-275/SF range of “normal” construction costs for the Santa Monica market.
• Design and other soft costs were nearly $87/SF, estimated to be 50-60% higher than for a typical project. Approximately 70% of the additional cost was attributed to the extra time in attaining a LEED Platinum rating.
• Approximately 50-60% of the project’s total costs were attributed to the prevailing cost of land and construction.
• Approximately 20-30% represented the building’s program (type, structure, form, etc.)
• Approximately 10-20% was estimated to be variable in terms of green strategies, and principally reflect the quality or level of finish.
Relevant codes   • California Building Code.
• Uniform Building Code.
• Santa Monica Building Code.
Mixed-Mode System
Mixed-Mode Strategy   An integrated design, incorporating operable windows, skylights, and clerestories, brings fresh air and natural daylight into the working space and offers views of the outdoors. Many spaces rely on natural ventilation exclusively for cooling.
In other areas, high-efficiency air conditioning units provide additional cooling for peak-load conditions. Mechanically cooled air is provided using a displacement ventilation system through floor-level plinths. This can be considered a change-over system because the heating and cooling system turns off when the windows are opened.
Natural Ventilation Details   Every office has transoms and operable windows for natural ventilation. Rooftop moniters use louvers and fans to draw warm air up and exhaust it to the exterior.
HVAC System Details   The air-conditioning system relies on energy-efficient, multi-staged, low-velocity displacement ventilation, focusing cool air where it is needed. The system runs on 100% outside air, and uses non-ozone-depleting HFC refrigerants. For its 15,000 square feet, NRDC installed 15 tons of cooling, compared with a more typical capacity of 25 tons.
The enclosed, private offices provide individual control of heating and cooling plinth diffusers. Rooms that rely on natural ventilation for cooling have heating convectors.
Configuration & Control   A climate control system maintains optimal indoor conditions while minimizing energy use. Carbon dioxide levels are constantly monitored, and occupants have control over their temperature, ventilation, and lighting. In the individual offices, the heating convector (and air-conditioning, when available) is interlocked with the local window and turns off when the nearest window is opened.
Building Design Process
Time Line   1999-2003
Code Conflicts   Many of the building’s innovations challenged the City of Santa Monica during the code compliance stage, and exposed contradictions between the city’s regulations and sustainability goals. As one example, the Plumbing Code prohibited waterless toilets or urinals. A resolution was reached to install waterless urinals with a water supply stubbed out behind the wall should the fixtures fail. The City is now seeking a change to the City Code to allow waterless urinals without an available water supply.
Another example related to the grey water system. California’s gray water ordinance had no provision for rainwater collection, but a solution was negotiated with the County Health Dept, after which the City’s Building and Safety Division agreed to sign off.
The City code allowed only copper piping, and negotiations eventually let to the approval of PVC-free recycled plastic pipe. The City is now reevaluating its Code to consider allowing use of this.
The City’s Zoning Code prohibited PV or solar thermal systems to be visible from the street, which required the NRDC to downsize to a smaller-capacity, horizontally-mounted system. A required safety railing also produced a shadow on the panels, reducing their output. The City is currently reviewing the outdated Code requirements as it plans to promote solar installations city-wide.
Other Design Issues   The process began with an intensive design charrette in late 1999. The original plan to retrofit the entire pre-existing building was determined to be neither cost-effective nor structurally safe. Construction was delayed as result of a drawn-out project approval phase with the City and multiple rounds of value engineering and construction document revisions.
Building Performance
Outdoor Air/Noise   Unknown.
Occupant Satisfaction   In progress.
Actual Energy Data   An advanced EMCS is monitoring the building’s environmental performance, and measures air temperature, humidity, and solar radiation. A touch-screen kiosk display in the building shows graphic representations of real time energy and water savings associated with the efficiency measures. The data can also be viewed on remote terminals outside the facility, and is being used to provide the building management with ongoing measurement and verification of its performance. The NRDC has plans for the data to be analyzed and presented in a final report quantifying the actual energy savings.
Additional Building Features
Sustainable Sites   • Downtown locations allows for the use of public transportation, existing roads and utility lines.
• Showers and bicycle racks encourage employees to bike, walk, or jog to work.
• Outdoor lighting fixtures were designed to avoid light pollution.
• Light-colored roofing, along with shading provided by plants and overhangs, minimizes heat gain, reduces air-conditioning needs, and diminishes the building's contribution to the urban heat-island effect.
Water Efficiency   • Potable water used only when necessary.
• Graywater from showers and sinks is treated and reused for flushing toilets or for watering plants.
• Rainwater is collected, pre-filtered, and integrated into the graywater reuse system.
• Dual-flush toilets, waterless urinals, and a high-efficiency dishwasher help keep water use low.
• Porous paving in the courtyards allows storm water to percolate into the ground instead of running down storm drains.
Energy and Atmosphere   • The building is expected to experience 44% lower utility costs than a comparable building built to meet California's Title 24 energy standards.
• Accounting for energy provided by the photovoltaic system, the savings jump to 55%.
• Light wells, clerestories, and architectural glass provide daylighting.
• Energy use is further reduced by efficient computers and equipment, dimmable electronic ballasts, occupancy and photo sensors, and lighting levels matched to specific tasks.
• Approximately 20% of the building’s electricity is provided by a 7.5 kW grid-connected solar electric array, which produces approximately 37.5 kWh of electricity per day.
• For the remaining energy needs, NRDC purchases renewable energy credits for wind generation. As a result, the office is run on 100% renewable energy.
Materials and Resources   • 98% of the waste generated during construction and demolition was reused or recycled.
• All new wood was FSC certified.
• Salvaged materials and equipment left over from old movie sets were incorporated.
• Materials were selected for low VOC and formaldehyde emissions, and for their high levels of recycled content.
• Floor mats and tiles are made from recycled rubber, countertops are made from recycled glass, and veneer panels are formaldehyde free.
• The building uses bamboo flooring and fiber-cement siding.
• Fast-growing poplar was used for some flooring.
• Energy-efficient, low-mercury lamps were used to minimize mercury emissions.
Indoor Environmental Quality   • Zero- or low-VOC paints, adhesives, and other materials used.
• The building is free of added urea formaldehyde and nearly free of vinyl.
• Areas where harmful substances are present, such as copy rooms, were designed with negative pressure and vent outside the building.
• Carbon dioxide levels are constantly monitored.
• Occupants have control over their temperature, ventilation, and lighting, as well as views to the landscaped outdoors for optimal comfort and productivity.
Project Team
Architect   Moule & Polyzoides Architects and Urbanists
Pasadena, CA
MEP Engineer   Syska Hennesy Group, Los Angeles Office
Los Angeles, CA
Structural Engineer   Nabih Youssef & Associates
Los Angeles, CA
Graywater System Design And Installation   Environmental Planning & Design, LLC
Los Angeles, CA
Equaris Corporation
Afton, MN
Solar Consultant   Solar Design Associates
Harvard, MA
Leed Coordinator   CTG Energetics, Inc.
Irvine, CA
Specifications Consultant   GreenWorks
Los Angeles, CA
Contractor   TG Construction, Inc.
El Segundo, CA
Project Manager   Tishman Construction Corporation of California
Los Angeles, CA
Additional Information
Awards   • U.S. Green Building Council LEED-NC, v2 Platinum (2004).
• 2004 Architectural Award, Los Angeles Business Council.
• 2004 CNU Charter Award.
Sources   • U.S. Department of Energy High Performance Buildings Database
• Greener by Design: NRDC's Santa Monica Office NRDC Web site
• NRDC’s Robert Redford Building: Embodying Sustainable Development. A Report to the Favrot Foundation.
• Who's the Greenest of Them All?: NRDC's New Santa Monica Building May be the Most Eco-Friendly in the U.S. by Griscom, Amanda.
Publication: Grist Magazine (11-25-03).
• A Building So Green, it's Platinum by Hawthorne, Christopher.
Publication: New York Times Vol. 11-13-03.
• California's Environment of Expectations and Schwarzenegger.
Publication: Which Way, L. A.? (11-13-03).
• Group Ordered New Offices Sunny Side Up by Pool, Bob.
Publication: Los Angeles Times (11-13-03).
• Radio interview: Sustainability in Santa Monica, Luxury in Beverly Hills.
Publication: DnA: Design and Architecture (11-18-2003).
• "Superstar Treatment" by Edie Cohen.
Publication: Interior Design magazine June 2004.
• "Building on Green Principles" by Miguel Bustillo.
Publication: Los Angeles Times 26 January 2004.
• "A Building So Green, It's Platinum" by Christopher Hawthorne.
Publication: New York Times 13 November 2003.
• "Group Ordered New Offices Sunny Side Up" by Bob Pool.
Publication: Los Angeles Times 13 November 2003.
• Natural Resources Defense Council Santa Monica Office.
Publication: ArchNewsNow, 03 September 2002.
Contact   Elizabeth Moule
Moule & Polyzoides Architects and Urbanists
Architect (Lead architect)
Pasadena, CA

Rob Bolin
Originally with Syska & Hennessy
Now with Skidmore Owings & Merrill, LLP
Chicago, IL
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