New LEED Gold Justice Facility Set to Open in NC

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The recent trend in construction is to “go green” and now the first LEED Gold justice facility in the Eastern United States is set to open in Wentworth, N.C. Moseley Architects and its Charlotte, N.C., office designed the 175,400-square-foot Judicial Center in Wentworth to meet LEED Gold standards.

The $37.8 million facility features a 300-bed detention center that houses both minimum and maximum-security detainees along with state-of-the-art court facilities and offices for the county’s law enforcement officials.

The project’s general contractor, Roanoke, Va.-based Branch & Associates, Inc. helped to develop the justice facility to meet LEED Gold standards with energy-efficient HVAC systems, lighting, and building envelope strategies. The installations are expected to reduce energy expenditures by 28 percent or $94,000 a year. Rainwater cisterns were also installed and expected to save 600,000 gallons of water annually.

“I think the further along we got the more we could see how the project would benefit from high performance design strategies and how pursuing certification was a good investment of taxpayer dollars,” said Dan Mace, a vice president with Moseley Architects and the managing principal on the project.

“Our approach to LEED certification relied upon a wide array of team members in order to improve the design, construction, and operations of the facility in a cost-effective manner. The whole team should be proud of the collaboration, which carried the project from an initial goal of LEED Certified to the actual achievement of LEED Gold,” said John Nichol, Moseley Architects’ sustainability coordinator.

Moseley Architects are not new to green design methods. The company has worked on 36 other LEED certified projects and 48 LEED registered projects and brought their experience and expertise to help design the justice facility. The company has offices around the country including an office in Charlotte, N.C., which has designed the justice center.

“I’ve worked on a LEED Silver project before, so I understand how hard this team worked to successfully target LEED Gold for our center. Not only will this facility save the county operational costs in the long run, but we are leading by example,” said Mace.

Moseley Architects have worked on other correctional projects in the past including the design of the first LEED certified correctional institution in the United States, Butner FCI in Butner, N.C., as well as designing the LEED Silver Navy Joint Regional Correctional Facility.

Special considerations are always taken into account when designing a facility with high security and special accommodations. Seeing how the project is a costly venture for the county — designers from Moseley Architects said the energy and water savings of the facility are projected to recapture the county’s entire investment in LEED strategies in only five years.

The new centers’ commitment to green building and sustainability also includes preferred parking for carpool and low-emitting vehicles, outdoor air delivery monitoring systems to ensure an adequate supply of fresh air to each building zone, individual lighting controls that enhance occupant comfort and reduce energy consumption, and environmentally-friendly housekeeping and pest management programs.

The design team also faced some challenges throughout the project — including making sure the public constituency was well-informed of the design decisions and budget prior to construction, considering the tough economic times. The team set up a number of public forums where they sought input from residents in the area.

The overall feedback on the green design of the facility has been extremely positive. The facility’s emphasis on being a truly “green building” did not compromise aesthetics — but insisted on improving them.

The building features natural lighting and high quality, low-emitting interior finishes and provides sustainable design without looking overtly different from any other facility of its class. The HVAC and lighting systems were similarly selected for high efficiency, improved durability and low maintenance.

“We are in the center of the county and serve as a hub of county services so I commend the Commissioners for their vision in guarding out environment and natural resources and at the same time, providing us with a facility to utilize technology to better serve our citizens, said Rebecca B. Cipriani, Rockingham County Register of Deeds.

“From a 1907 courthouse using manual processes, typewriters and microfilm; to today’s high-tech “green courthouse” with wireless internet so customers can use their iPads; it’s exciting to be part of this exciting time in history,” she said.