Capital Bank Construction Team Focuses on Green

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BEA QUIRK – The Charlotte/Triangle/Triad Construction News

The town of Hope Mills in Cumberland County has become a little greener, thanks to Capital Bank.

But it’s got nothing to do with the color of money. It’s all about sustainability and protecting the environment.

In October, the bank will hold a grand opening to celebrate its first attempt at a LEED-certified branch and one of the first LEED buildings in town.

The branch is also the first LEED project for the architect, Kenneth Noel, owner of Design Build Collaborative, and the general contractor, Gurkin Construction Group. Their offices are located in the same building in Raleigh, and they used a design-build approach to construct the 3,800-square foot branch.

Construction began in March, and it will have a soft opening in September. The bank has previously worked with Noel and Gurkin.

“Capital Bank is focused on the community. What better way to show that than by being focused on the environment?” says Jennifer Benefield, chief administration officer and senior vice president for the Raleigh-based community bank. “We’re in this to do what’s right.”

“The bank is spreading awareness in society that even small buildings can be green,” notes Hemant Sura of Cary-based GreenTech Consulting, who served as the project’s LEED consultant. “The owners, the builders and the architect were all enthusiastic about the green movement and showed a lot of willingness to learn and follow through.”

The most innovative and attention-grabbing aspect of the project is the water reclamation system.  Rain water is collected as it falls on the roof via downspouts. It’s then filtered and piped underground to a four-foot waterfall that gently cascades into a 11’ x 16” pond about a 6 foot deep. The system has over 16,000 gallons of storage capacity.

Not only does it create a place of relaxing beauty on the site, but booster pumps distribute the water to irrigate the 1.27 acres.  That saves about 15,000 gallons of water a month that the bank is not drawing from the town’s resources.

The system was installed by American Aquascapes out of Graham, who mostly serves the residential market.  The Capital Bank project was not just its first commercial system, but also the largest system it has ever installed.  Based on research by Aquascapes’ senior aquatic designer, Michael Wheeley, it’s the largest in the Carolinas.

But the only challenges his crew of six faced were “the sandy soil and working in an eight-foot hole in the summer heat,” he says.

The landscaping features heat-resistant indigenous grass to decrease irrigation needs. (Low flow toilets and faucets inside also cut down on water usage.)

The water reclamation system is just the most visible of an array of features, design elements and construction techniques the bank hopes will give the branch a Silver LEED rating.

One of the more unusual features getting a lot of attention is the use of finely ground denim for insulation. As you’d expect, most of it comes from recycled blue jeans.  To raise awareness of this new insulation material and to serve the community’s needy, the bank is sponsoring a used blue jeans drive in conjunction with the Salvation Army.

“The denim insulation has the same R rating as fiberglass insulation and looks and feels like it without the itching– except it is a light blue color,” Noel explains. “It is treated to control insects and decrease flammability.”

The branch is also generating some of its own electricity – about 4.8 kilowatts with solar cells located on the roof.  The panels cost $27,000, Noel says, and will pay for themselves in five years.

The branch uses less electricity than typical businesses because of the extensive use of daylighting that enables employees to use natural sunlight instead of turning on lamps.

“All the spaces that incorporate daylighting have controls that automatically reduce the light output of the lighting fixtures based on the amount of natural light coming into the building,” explains Paul Szalanski, senior electrical engineer with Crenshaw Consulting Engineers, Raleigh.

In addition to daylighting controls, motion sensors were provided to allow lights to automatically shut off when spaces are unoccupied. “Selection of more efficient light fixtures and careful lighting design allowed us to reduce the power consumption of the lighting fixtures well below energy code allowances,” notes Szalanski.

The HVAC systems were provided with a high level of temperature controls to improve individual occupant comfort levels. In addition, active humidity controls were added to maintain comfort in the space throughout the year.  “Low flow plumbing fixtures were used which allowed us to reduce plumbing water consumption by 40% over standard equipment,” explains Brett Mabe, senior mechanical engineer for Crenshaw Consulting.

Drywall, carpets and tile are made of recycled materials. The flooring in the public areas is made of cork, a rapidly renewable resource.  Low-VOC paint and adhesives have been used. The HVAC system is high efficiency and will be completely flushed before the building is occupied.  Recycling efforts will be revved up. For example, paper has always been shredded; now it will be recycled as well.

During construction, crews worked to reduce the amount of construction waste generated and then recycled what they did create – as well as any other trash.

“It made us more aware of the waste and refuse that is created every day – we’ll certainly be more conscious about that at future job sites,” says James Gurkin, the GC’s project manager. “And we learned how much of it can be recycled.”

Seeking LEED certification on such a small structure in the suburbs can be cost-prohibitive, even with the long-term energy savings. But the Noel-Gurkin team was able to keep the cost at $1.5 million – the same price tag as a typical Capital Branch bank.

“Most of the discussion with Ken Noel and Gurkin Construction centered on reducing waste, “ said structural engineer Brian Moskow, president of Red Engineering & Design, Raleigh. “ We concentrated on not only reducing material waste, but also on avoiding wasted time on details and calculations that would not be used in the end anyway.”

“The design-build method of construction is clearly the best way to ensure a great product for the owner, and the best way to reduce waste on any project, Moskow added. “This was our first LEED project together and it only reinforced the benefits that come from the design-build delivery system.

“LEED certification can be quite costly, and without the design-build process, we would not have been able to do it,” Capital Bank’s Benefield says. “Gurkin did everything they could to come under budget. If they found a way to save money, they did it.”

Noel also believes in the value of the design-build process. “The key is collaboration. You can learn so much that can’t be taught in books or in seminars.

“You don’t just put out a bid,” Noel continues. “You can collaborate with each sub by sitting down with them and having a conversation about pricing. But the owner’s participation is fundamental.”

Capital Bank has been so won over by the LEED process that it plans to incorporate green features in three more branches it is building, including one in Raleigh.  “I’m elated the process (in Hope Mills) came to fruition – it’s a dream come true for me,” Benefield says.

The project will have an impact well beyond Capital Bank.

Observes Noel, “The subs have a new understanding and willingness to present (green) options to those not asking for them.

James Gurkin notes that now that his company has attempted LEED-certified building, it will be able to bid on others in the future. He is planning to pursue LEED professional accreditation.

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