IUCN - Europe’s greenest building takes shape

Europe’s greenest building takes shape

25 March 2009 | News story

An update on IUCN’s Global Conservation Centre
According to a United Nations Environment Programme report, 30-40% of all primary energy is used in buildings. Buildings account for a significant amount of gas emissions: up to 40% of global emissions according to a recent study. Over the next 25 years, emissions from buildings are expected to increase faster than in any other sector.

The building sector has considerable potential to influence and implement positive change, to become more efficient in terms of resource use, less environmentally intensive and more profitable. Consumers can win by adhering to new guidelines for insulation and energy consumption resulting in much lower property operating costs. Providing and promoting benchmarks and standards for sustainable buildings is an essential step in moving forward.

Faced with a growing constituency, expanding staff and centralized service requirements, coupled with the desire to cultivate stronger programme partnerships, IUCN decided to transform its headquarters into a Global Conservation Centre. In responding to these needs through the construction of a new headquarters extension, IUCN has made the commitment to both “walk the talk” in implementing the highest standards for its new building and to raise the bar for others in terms of sustainable construction.

After reviewing the world’s sustainable construction standards, IUCN decided to use the Swiss Minergie-P Standards for low energy consumption, the Minergie-Eco standards for Green Construction and Design and the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) point based rating system. The latter – which includes standards for Site Selection, Water Efficiency, Energy & Atmosphere, Materials & Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality and Innovation and Design Process – set the format for IUCN’s design specifications.

IUCN’s LEED objective is Platinum, the highest level possible. To date, there are no LEED Platinum buildings in Switzerland or Europe. There are only 121 Platinum buildings worldwide with eight outside of the United States, so this is a significant target for IUCN to achieve within a very tight budget.

Sponsorship for the building’s primary construction is coming from the Swiss Government with a 50 year interest free loan of CHF 20 million. Holcim has contributed financially in support of a modern ecological conference room to sit on top of the basic structure along with gifts of recycled and new thermal concrete products for the building itself. The MAVA Foundation has contributed funding to ensure that green standards are being met and to cover the costs related to achieving the new standards.

Other partners include Philips for state of the art energy efficient lighting and Kinnarps for sustainable furniture. A grant from the Loterie Romande will ensure an extension of the certified “Natural Garden”. Funding and partners are still being sought for telephony, information technology and energy systems.

Naming rights are still available for the cafeteria, the main conference room, the visitors’ center and the outdoor atrium. Plans are also underway to upgrade the existing building to meet new standards for sustainable renovation and to improve energy usage. Separate funding will be sought for this project.

For the Global Conservation Centre project, IUCN’s first objective was to realize a sustainable work environment that would be viable, comfortable and affordable. A team of architects, engineers, builders and consultants was established early in the project development process to ensure that new techniques and technologies could be incorporated as the design evolved organically. Construction began in June 2008 and completion is planned for early 2010.

Highlights of the green building design include an innovative nano-technology approach to air ventilation using small elements in individual “air boxes” to facilitate fresh air circulation for inhabitants while reducing costs through CO2 sensors in each office. The use of thermal concrete has reduced the need for building insulation whereas the use of recycled concrete has ensured that LEED points for recycled materials could be met while building sustainably. Reclaimed water will be used for flushing toilets and watering the extended natural garden. Eighty five percent or more of energy consumption will come from renewable sources to include heat pumps and photovoltaic panels. At least 75% of the wood will be FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified.

The architects have ensured that building components all serve multiple purposes to reduce the use of material (and cost) while maximizing the buildings energy performance.