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March 7, 2013
Des Moines, Iowa: One of only a handful of century buildings in the country to achieve LEED Platinum, The World Food Prize Hall of Laureates - a beautifully restored historic building - has earned the highest possible rating by the U.S. Green Building Council for leadership in energy efficiency and environmental design, an incredibly difficult feat in a building from 1899.
This project is an example of how existing buildings can be energy efficient while maintaining a National Register of Historic Places listing. Using funding sources from both of these avenues made this project a reality of preserving the past while looking to the future for conservation of energy. The World Food Prize's core mission involves making the most of the world's limited natural resources to feed a growing global population, thus it is important to model sustainability in their new headquarters. The lower energy costs translate into additional programs helping to provide for food around the world.
It is not easy meshing historical restoration with green energy conservation techniques, as the principals are generally in conflict. For example solar panels on most energy efficient buildings are meant to be visible to show that the building is using solar. Yet on this building the panels are required, for historical requirements, to not be seen from any location at grade. The panels are situated on the roof for highest vantage point, but are no taller than the parapet height, so that the character defining elements of the building are not compromised with solar technology. Natural daylight enters deep into the spaces through existing tall windows and reopened original skylights, just as intended when the building opened years ago. The result - a building that is using 69% less energy than a code compliant building.
When faced with sustainable decisions about the built environment, restoration and adaptive reuse of existing facilities is perhaps the most responsible choice we can make. The opportunity to use salvaged and repurposed materials helps to reduce the amount of construction waste from demolition activities, helps preserve the historic context of a community, and helps reduce the demand on new resources. This project is a national model of success for transforming treasured, aging buildings into usable, energy-efficient, technology-friendly facilities.