Opus Delivers Sustainable, Energy Efficient Headquarters to the EPA

For years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Region 8 Headquarters located in downtown Denver was dispersed between 23 floors in two separate towers. The building’s public underground parking and adjacent street parking presented a security risk, and the building’s outdated character did not reinforce the EPA’s core mission to protect human health and the environment.

EPA Region 8 needed a new headquarters building that would place its nearly 900 staff members in one secure location and reflect the unique mission of the EPA by serving as an example of environmental stewardship, efficiency and functionality.

The General Services Administration (GSA) and the EPA requested the latest in sustainable construction and design and energy and water efficiency, mandated a minimum LEED Silver rating and required that the new building support the redevelopment of a historic part of downtown Denver.

Through a competitive selection process, GSA selected the Opus team to design and construct a new EPA Region 8 Headquarters building in Denver’s Lower Downtown (LoDo).

Implementing its design-build construction approach, the Opus team’s design for the EPA Region 8 Headquarters included a 292,000-square-foot LEED Gold-rated building with the first green vegetated roof in downtown Denver.

Designed and Built on Budget Within 24 Months

The site selected for the new facility was an urban brownfield site in LoDo, across from the nexus of public transportation for the region. Unlike the postal annex building that was located on the site previously, the EPA building’s design fits into, strengthens and enhances the quality of the historic LoDo neighborhood.

EPA’s welcoming eight-story atrium makes a strong visual connection to the proposed public plaza  in front of the adjacent Union Station, while reflecting the dignity, permanence and purpose of the EPA.

Matching the EPA’s environmental mission, Opus stepped up to the challenge to deliver a number of additional sustainable construction elements.

  • Stormwater Management: The 20,000-square-foot green roof serves as the sole stormwater management method, eliminating the need for detention tanks and filtration vaults.
  • Healthy-Air Working Environment: Low-volatile-organic-compound emitting materials, including corn-based fabrics, wheat board and recycled glass, were used in the frame, interior surfaces and workspaces. Opus imported an unfinished bamboo flooring and wall material that was finished on-site with a formaldehyde-free, flame-retardant finish to meet fire code and EPA requirements.
  • Utilizing Daylight: The eight-story atrium maximizes daylight to save energy and increase flexibility for activities conducted there. Daylight is brought in from a single stepped skylight and bounced as far as possible into the atrium using nine large, white sails that hang from the top of the atrium.
  • Climate Responsive Design: Analysis of local climate conditions and the local street grid orientation led to the development of a “double-L” concept that addresses solar orientation and local wind patterns to optimize energy efficiency.
  • Energy Efficiency: External shading devices, Energy Star® HVAC equipment, occupancy sensors and occupant-controlled, under-floor air distribution reduce energy requirements.

The construction of a Region 8 Headquarters facility allowed EPA employees to move from an outdated, overcrowded two-building complex to a state-of-the-art office space that offers optimum comfort through occupant-controlled, under-floor air distribution, outdoor views, a healthy-air environment and the latest advances in ergonomic furniture and workspaces uniquely suited to support the mission of the EPA.