Green group touts its mission in HQ project:

February 11, 2008

The Fountain Square property that Keep Indianapolis Beautiful Inc. has purchased to house its headquarters is undergoing a massive renovation that will transform it from abandoned derelict to an environmental showpiece.

In the process, the not-for-profit environmental group is hoping to set a green example for other developments and draw attention to its mission.

KIB bought the building at the corner of Fletcher and Shelby streets for $410,000 in October from the Southeast Development Neighborhood Corp. A $1.3 million redevelopment that began in January should be finished by June.

A slew of energy-efficient elements will be incorporated into the existing structure, including a 10,000-gallon cistern that will capture rainwater.

The project will transform a property in which a remediation is necessary to remove contaminants. A two-story wood structure on the grounds that has been razed once housed a service station and dry cleaner. Traces of petroleum and the dry-cleaning solvent perchlorethylene, classified as a hazardous air pollutant, have been found in the soil. KIB is applying for grants from the Indiana Brownfields Program to give the grounds a clean bill of health.

So far, the 32-year-old organization dedicated to beautifying the city has raised $1.1 million to complete the refurbishment. An anonymous donor contributed $350,000 in 2006, prompting KIB's search for a new headquarters.

"Hopefully, we're setting an example and practicing in the way we believe so many other companies could practice," KIB President David Forsell said. "Could you imagine the impact if others began thinking in these terms for development?"

KIB will occupy 18,000 square feet-7,000 square feet in office space and 11,000 square feet in warehouse space-in a 25,000-square-foot building that was once home to janitorial supply company Roger Popp Inc. The remaining 7,000 square feet will be leased to another tenant.

The organization is seeking certification for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design status from the U.S. Green Building Council and could be the first local not-for-profit to receive the honor. Better known as LEED, the designation is a benchmark for building and operating environmentally friendly buildings.

Indianapolis-based design firm Ratio Architects Inc. and general contractor Shiel Sexton Co. Inc. are among several companies donating their services.

Eight buildings in Indiana are LEEDcertified; Ratio Architects has been involved in four. Roughly two dozen more are registered and awaiting certification.


Visitors to the building will be greeted by what's known as a decorative, metalmesh "green screen" that connects to the facade and ultimately will by covered by plant and ivy growth. The screen will be 22 feet high and 32 feet wide.

At the front of the building as well, at the northeast corner, will be the cistern that measures 12 feet wide and 14 feet tall. Rainwater will enter internal drains in the rubber reflective roof and will be piped through the building into the holding tank. Some of the water that typically would enter the storm sewers instead will be recycled for use on trees and plants on the grounds and temporarily stored at the headquarters.

"In some ways, it looks like a big oil drum," Dustin Eggink, an architectural graduate at Ratio, said of the cistern. "It's being used as a design feature."

A white, rubber roof, made of materials donated by Firestone Building Products, will be reflective and reduce energy usage and costs.

Forsell would have preferred a "green" roof covered with vegetation, but the structure won't support one. Researchers say green roofs can last two to three times as long as conventional roofs, decrease noise, boost air quality, reduce heat islands, lower cooling and heating costs, and absorb or slow down storm-water runoff.

Other outdoor elements include a wind turbine and parking lot made of pervious pavement.

Indianapolis Power & Light Co. is donating $25,000 toward the purchase and installation of the turbine that could stand 50 feet tall and supply a small percentage of the building's power needs, Forsell said. KIB is seeking approval from the city for the turbine, which will be enclosed and won't be the type that resembles a windmill.

The pervious parking lot is immune to puddles because water runs through the pavement, reducing storm-water runoff. The existing concrete lot will be crushed and recycled. The wood from the structure that already has been demolished was ground into mulch.

Inside, perhaps the most striking feature will be a central atrium that will capture natural sunlight from an opening in the roof. Glass walls will surround the 15-foot-by-20-foot space to create a courtyard, of sorts, with natural vegetation.

Cork flooring in the conference room will use a renewable resource, and the used or recycled furniture will save natural resources, Forsell said. Other elements include non-toxic paints, occupancy sensor-activated lighting, and energy-efficient bulbs and appliances.

Neighborhood 'catalyst'

Going green can be more expensive, initially. Purchasing items needed to meet LEED guidelines likely will increase project costs 10 percent to 15 percent, Forsell said. The tangible benefit is that costs eventually will be recovered through energy savings.

Forsell is optimistic KIB's investment in the neighborhood will trigger a mix of light-commercial and residential development along Shelby Street to create a corridor into Fountain Square. SEND, which sold the building to KIB, already has invested $35 million in investment projects by buying and rehabbing dilapidated properties in the area. KIB's project is a bit unusual, however.

"This is a neighborhood with a pretty strong industrial past, so there are a lot of environmental issues in the neighborhood, period," SEND President Mark Stewart said. "So this idea of a LEED development is a great catalyst to turn the perception of the neighborhood around."

KIB currently leases office space at 445 N. Pennsylvania St. and stores supplies, equipment, mulch, stone, trees and plants at three locations throughout the city.

The new warehouse space will allow it to consolidate operations, increasing efficiency and reducing transportation costs.

KIB, an affiliate of national group Keep America Beautiful, has 28 employees, half of whom are full-time, and operates on a $2.7 million budget.
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