November 3, 2010 By Chad Vander Veen
The majority of the many windows also open — something sadly missing from most offices. Most windows are computer controlled, but some employees can open at their choosing.
Also, like most office buildings, there are a host of cubicles with a small number of offices reserved for the bigwigs. Yet none of the offices have ceilings. They’re all open on top. The open offices, together with the sloped roof and the vast number of windows make the space feel large and airy — a truly pleasant working environment.
On the west end of the office floor is a wall of windows that offers a grand view. It’s also in the direct line of the setting sun. Late afternoon in Colorado can often be the hottest part of the day. So like a pair of high-end eyeglasses, the windows automatically tint themselves, letting light in and keeping heat out.
Come winter, 800 employees will fill the RSF and the building will be fully staffed. One might wonder whether the solar-heating systems are enough to heat the building on cold winter days. It turns out the RSF also can capture and reuse the heat generated by its data center.
What’s most striking about the RSF is how energy efficiency is being achieved not with Star Trek-style gadgetry, but with thoughtful repurposing of existing materials and techniques. And by all accounts, the cost to construct the RSF is on par with traditional buildings. Baker said the cost of the building ran about $259 per square foot. So if cost, materials and construction are near-equal to that of a traditional building, the real impact of the RSF is not that it can reach net-zero energy consumption but that it shows anyone else can too — a sentiment Baker shared.
“The lasting value of this building is really demonstrated that we can do projects like this today, using today’s materials and today’s techniques at costs that are comparable to today’s commercial buildings,” he said. “Ten years from now, we want people to look back to the Research Support Facility and say this is where the nation’s move toward highly energy-efficient design started. And these are the folks who actually demonstrated it could be done. I’m here to tell you it can be done today with the right approach, with the right mindset and we’re happy to share our story with everyone so [they] can duplicate what we’ve done.”