Katie Hegarty

Sponsored article: USGBC Colorado partner Saunders Construction, Inc. shares how they're building out the new Colorado Health Foundation to LEED standards.

Saunders Construction, based in Denver, Colorado, is the region’s leader in sustainable construction, with 43 completed projects that have achieved LEED® certification—four of which have achieved LEED Platinum. One of their current projects is the build-out of the new headquarters for The Colorado Health Foundation, an organization that provides resources to ensure healthy living, health coverage and health care in Colorado and that works to make Colorado the healthiest state in the nation.

The vision of the new headquarters is to exemplify The Colorado Health Foundation’s ideals and vision in a replicable way, showing future project teams that a healthy and sustainable building is within their reach. Leading the construction related healthy and sustainable features of the project is Saunders Construction’s Sustainability Manager Alyssa Schear and Project Manager Katie Hegarty. Currently, we are tracking 77 points to achieve LEED Gold and 27 Optimizations for WELL Gold status into its design and special features. These features and certifications hold the team accountable in ensuring the health and wellness of the building’s inhabitants and constructors.

The new building features “health-positive” design and development standards that aim to improve the health of both staff and visitors. The three-story building, with approximately 32,500 square feet, offers direct access to outdoor areas via rooftop decks and gardens. The design by Davis Partnership was crafted with specific project guiding principles and health-positive building metrics in mind, including natural ventilation and daylight. Instead of forced air, it features an energy-efficient VRF (Variable Refrigerant Flow) system and access to operable windows that provide greater occupant comfort, all while reducing overall carbon emissions.

One of the main concepts used by the design team was biophilia, which suggests that there is an instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems and that by incorporating nature into our daily life, humans function at a higher level. As such, this building brings the outdoors in, starting with a floor-to-ceiling living wall visible upon entry that is home to hundreds of plants and transitions seamlessly into a large ground floor water feature.

The team will erect over 100 feet of permanent planters throughout the interior of the building, and the large windows invite sunlight into the space. In addition to the operable windows, large doors will provide fresh air and access to a large central patio for fitness classes and on-site yoga. The building has its own on-site gym to promote health and wellness for its employees, as well as an active garden.

Employees are expected to have a healthy work-life balance, and the building is designed to promote this lifestyle. Lights turn off at a certain time each day, and there are quiet rooms for nursing mothers, a break room that comes equipped with labeled healthy food products and water fountains throughout.

Moreover, Saunders took its commitment to this cause one step further, creating a challenge for the construction field crews to “Walk Around the World.” All of the crew members were given a pedometer to keep track of their progress—and to date, the team has already taken 35 million steps to combat the health problems that often plague the construction industry.

Another way the Colorado Health Foundation building is minimizing impact to the environment is the consideration of the building materials Saunders is using. LEED v4 encourages the use of building products from manufacturers that produce an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD), where manufacturers quantify their environmental impact in a standardized way, and Health Product Declarations (HPD), which are similar to nutrition labels for building materials, where manufacturers disclose the contents, emissions and health information of their products. We are tracking the incorporation of 32 EPD products and 20 HPD products to date.

Saunders is one of this region’s leaders in sustainable construction. To keep abreast of current trends, standards and certifications, Saunders is a member of USGBC. The company employs over 60 LEED APs and starts working on the construction portion of high-performance buildings long before ground is broken. Through their extensive sustainable construction experience, they have learned that it is critical to be involved early in planning in order to meet sustainability goals. In addition, they pledge to implement long-term strategies toward employing a zero waste stream process, significantly reducing water use and carbon output, continuing and expanding efforts in philanthropy and expanding the breadth of ethical business practices.