GPW: The U.S. Postal Service, Morgan Processing and Distribution Center

March 28, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Since 1995 the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has been honored with more than 75 major environmental awards, including 40 White House Closing the Circle awards for environmental stewardship, and the 2009 Climate Change Champion of the Year Award for efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.   Consistently looking for ways to reduce their environmental impact,  last  July the USPS opened its first greenroof facility atop the seven-story Morgan Processing and Distribution Center  (P&DC) in midtown Manhattan, one of the largest mail processing facilities in the country at 2.2 million sf.   Part of a larger facility modernization scope, construction of the project began in September 2008 and was completed less than a year later in July, 2009, and on budget.   At the opening ceremony, Sam Pulcrano, Vice President of Sustainability said:

“Not only does it provide employees with a beautiful, serene outdoor environment, the green roof will help us meet our goal to reduce energy usage 30 percent by 2015.”

Currently the largest in New York City, the 2.5 acre living roof also serves as a park of sorts for employees who have access to the eco-friendly recreational space.   For example, planters and benches of the dense tropical hardwood Brazilian ipe wood, certified sustainable by the Forest Stewardship Council, provide areas for relaxation and require no sealants or staining – which in turn reduces VOC’s from entering the atmosphere and the stormwater system.   High Solar Reflectance Index (SRI) value concrete utility pavers and roof ballast aggregate  were used,  and the light poles and bollards meet cutoff standards for light pollution.   In addition to providing a spectacular panoramic view of midtown Manhattan and the northern New Jersey shore, the Morgan P&DC greenroof is expected to  reduce the amount of stormwater runoff by as much as 75% in summer and 40% in winter, and is projected to save the Postal Service $30,000 yearly on heating and cooling costs.

Built in 1933,  the Morgan P&DC was designated a historical landmark in 1986.   When the previous 109,000 sf roof needed replacing, engineers deemed the structural loading capacity strong enough to support the additional weight of the growing medium and vegetation needed for  a greenroof, so the USPS decided upon a pilot project.   J.P. Patti Company, a TectaAmerica company, was contracted to re-roof the Morgan Building.   During construction only about 15,000 sf needed to be removed and replaced, and nearly 90% of the original roof was recycled and reused on the roof.   The new roof system consists of a Sika Sarnafil ® 80 mil membrane and gypsum roof board over several layers of extruded polystyrene insulation.   Materials were loose laid over the existing roofing and selected roof areas were covered.  J.P. Patti blew the engineered soil  up to  a height of 95 feet and across  the 300 foot-wide roof area.   The original 176 copper column caps, now green due to natural oxidation, continue to define Morgan as a historic building among the grasses and sedums.   The new roof is expected to last at least 50 years.

The firm  in charge of  the design of the new  safe and sustainable rooftop with the  beautifil swaying native Calamagrostis, trees,  and other vegetation is Elizabeth Kennedy Landscape Architects (EKLA), a multidisciplinary firm, who was brought in as the greenroof  designer in 2007.   In July of last year, Damian Holmes of World Landscape Architect  interviewed Elizabeth J. Kennedy, Principal of EKLA, about the Morgan Processing facility.   EKLA and junior landscape architect Sigal Ben-Shmuel, who served as  project technical coordinator for the greenroof, were responsible for the rooftop layout,  media and plant selections, and planting plan.   The EKLA team also worked closely with  the engineering firm, URS Corporation,  to adhere to strict budget limits.  Elizabeth stressed their  goal in keeping the  “concept to a simple, elegant solution that could be completed on time and within budget without sacrificing the essentials of good design.”

Additional  U.S. Postal Service greener facilities strategies include using hybrid electric vehicles and other alternative fuel technologies.   With nearly 220,000 vehicles traveling more than 1.2 billion miles a year in their fleet (the largest civilian fleet in the world), they plan to meet  their goal of reducing fuel usage by 20% over the next five years.   The Postal Service also has expanded its recycling program in New York City to include mixed paper and cardboard, resulting in nearly 400 tons of materials recycled each month.   And last November they unveiled their revamped usps.com/green website, which provides a myriad assortment of useful info to help consumers make environmentally responsible decisions about their mail.   Did you know that the Postal Service is the only mailing and shipping company in America to be Cradle to Cradle™ certified for the environmental and health standards of its packaging?   They state that their packaging supplies are so green, the half billion pieces provided to customers last year prevented more than 15,000 tons of carbon emissions!

Here are some USPS  environmental achievements in 2009:

“¢ Saving $3 million and nearly 100 million kilowatts in an agency-wide energy challenge
“¢ Avoiding $1.05 million in costs via green information technology initiatives
“¢ Helping customers divert 24,000 tons of paper from landfills by recycling in 6,000 Post Office lobbies
“¢ Increasing alternative fuel use 61 percent since 2005
“¢ Using electric, propane and natural gas delivery vehicles and retiring 10,000 non-energy efficient vehicles

Majora Carter, founder of Sustainable South Bronx and now principal of Majora Carter Group, was on hand at the July 22, 2009, dedication ceremony and commented how this roof was not just a roof. “This is going to be the type of education center that teaches people from around the country,”  she said.  And Tom Samra, Vice President of Facilities, reiterated:

“The Postal Service is taking the lead when it comes to making a positive impact on the environment. We’re proud to dedicate our first green roof, and we are pleased to showcase this environmental oasis today in New York City.”

Submitted for LEED certification, the U.S. Postal Service Morgan Processing and Distribution Center  serves as a shining example of federal agency environmental leadership and commitment to green initiatives  in New York and the  rest of the U.S.   Read more about the U.S. Postal Service’s  sustainability efforts in the January 27, 2010 “Statement by Vice President of Sustainability Samuel M. Pulcrano to the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs”  here.

Happy Greening!   ~ Linda V.

 

GPW: Heinz 57 Center/Gimbels Building Restoration

February 27, 2010 at 12:51 am

heinz57-h

Formerly the Gimbel’s Department store, the Heinz 57 Center  in Pittsburgh, PA, is a wonderful example of  urban renewal.  Closed and neglected for about 14 years starting  in the late eighties, the  now restored building has been put to reuse not only in a sustainable, but beautiful  way.   In 1998 architects Burt Hill Kozar Rittlemann Associates (now Burt Hill) were brought on board to redesign the historical but ailing structure.

heinz57-lamagAlong with McKnight Development Partners, the architects incorporated a dramatic 50′ diameter octagonal atrium which runs from the roof down through seven floors.   Suddenly flooded with natural light, the Heinz Corporation was  enticed to occupy the top seven floors for their North American headquarters.   Yet curiously, environmental concerns were not driving factors for  the greenroof then; aesthetics, however, definitely were.

Although the building itself was  surrounded by  a spectacular city panorama featuring  a soaring cathedral  amidst an eclectic mixture of towering skyscrapers,  the views from the lovely floor-to-ceiling windows of the fourteenth-floor  penthouse suite  were less than exciting or acceptable: a hot black rubber roof under an equally unappealing  nine-foot-high  brick parapet wall greeted Heinz occupants.   So the architects decided a pleasing landscape atop the roof would do the trick.

The Heinz 57 Center; Photo Source: The Post-GazetteCompleted in the fall of 2001, the Heinz 57 Center was the first vegetated roof in downtown Pittsburgh,  where executives  enjoy sweeping meadow vistas wrapping their offices and blanketing the thirty-foot-wide terrace.   Four informal seating areas constructed with high-density recycled plastic lumber decking and concrete paving blocks provide informal gathering spots;  by all accounts the colorful corporate roof garden is a hit!

Last year I was interviewed by Carmen J. Lee who was writing for h – The Magazine of the Heinz Endowments, reporting how “Pittsburgh roofs are the new fertile turf for environ-mentally sustainable construction projects that aim to dig in and blossom” in her article “Top Soil” (pages 24-31).   The Heinz 57 building was, of course, one of the sites featured and you’ll see I was quoted  with more  of an inspirational bent rather than specific to the project.   Carmen also profiled the local environmental group, 3 Rivers Wet Weather, which is responsible for utilizing $525,000 in federal funding plus a $125,000 Heinz Endowments  grant to sponsor a 2005 project to create more greenroofs here.

Heinz 57 Center; Photo Courtesy of Roofscapes, Inc.

Photo Courtesy Roofscapes, Inc.

In a city with an over-burdened sewer system with frequent overflows, Pittsburgh officials and researchers cite the greenroof project often as a fine example of sustainable redevelopment.   Situated within a pedestrian-friendly mixed-use business district with shops, restaurants and businesses, the Heinz 57 Center is worker friendly as well as eco-friendly, providing their 800+ employees with a variety of alternate forms of transportation.   Although Heinz executives may not have initially specified the extensive greenroof for ecological reasons, they certainly appreciate the many noticeable environmental benefits, such as  the cooling respite from the city canyon and the reduction of stormwater runoff; it’s estimated that the roof retains 55% of  yearly rainfall.

Heinz 57Center; Photo Courtesy of Roofscapes, Inc.

Charlie Miller, P.E., and his company Roofscapes, Inc.  have been responsible for a large number of award-winning greenroof projects, including this one.   His private and public portfolio runs the gamut from municipal to corporate, institutional to retail, and even includes some single-family residences.    Charlie won the 2005 Green Roof Award of Excellence  with the Heinz 57 Center/Gimbels Building Restoration in the Extensive Industrial/Commercial category, and we featured  it in the 2009 Greenroofs of the World Calendar™ by Greenroofs.com for the month of March:Heinz 57 Center in June of 2007, as illustrated in The 2008 Greenroofs of the World Calendar  

Over 18,000 plants were selected by Roofscapes, who used their Type III: Savannah Roofmeadow ® system.   Landscape architect Steven L. Cantor researched this project in depth, and you can read  his extensive case study including complete plant lists on pages 139-142 in the excellent book  Green Roofs in Sustainable Landscape Design,” 2008, available for purchase on Amazon.com.

The Heinz 57 Center; Photo Courtesy of Roofscapes, Inc.Steven  relates how  the Heinz 57 Center plant selection encompassed “32 xeric species from nineteen plant genera, including six North American natives; approximately one-third of the plants are sedums, and the balance  is a range of herbs, meadow grasses, and meadow perennials that provide differences in plant height, texture, and bloom color.”

It’s hard to believe, but the roof is not irrigated and has flourished with minimal maintenance, which includes  twice yearly  weeding and an annual light application of fertilizer.

Pittsburgh has really come along way from its gritty  industrial Steel Town roots, emerging as a  leader in green building.   According to the Green Building Alliance, as of July, 2009 the City of Pittsburgh is home to 39 LEED-certified buildings, ranked eighth in the United States for overall number of projects.  meadowsheinz

About two dozen more eco-friendly  greenroofs are found within metro Pittsburgh; read the May 19, 2009 article  “More city buildings cultivate savings by covering roofs with plants” by Sally Kalson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to learn about additional living roofs in the area.

We only have  a handful  of those references listed, so remember to send us case studies of these other projects so we may share it with all of you in the greenroof community in The Greenroof & Greenwall Projects Database.

Kudos to the designers, corporate leaders and all the stakeholders of this inspiring city-core  Heinz 57 Center  renovation  for their foresight –  environmental, aesthetic, or otherwise –  to successfully integrate a greenroof into the overall design for the benefit of the building’s occupants!

Heinz 57 Center, Courtesy of Roofscapes, Inc.

~ Linda V.