When the folks at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado were tasked with designing a new building, they couldn't help but take their name and mission quite literally.
Early in the design process, the team at NREL, along with a team of architects and contractors chose to use reclaimed natural gas pipe to hold the floors and walls of the new LEED-platinum Research Support Facilities, slated for completion in Summer of 2010.
The steel natural gas pipe used in the building was purchased from a company that specializes in salvaging gas piping that has been taken out of service. Typically, pipes sold by these salvage retailers come from depleted fields in Texas or Louisiana, but in this case, the gas pipe was never used and was sold by the owners to the reclamation yard. But that doesn't mean they couldn't have used old pipe.
"Recycled steel doesn't go bad," said Philip Macey, project manager for RNL, the design firm for the Research Support Facilities. "You simply can clear the rust off and it's a big resource worldwide."
Not only were architects able to utilize materials that added no new carbon to the atmosphere, the effort to make the new LEED-platinum building created aesthetic benefits that are hard to come by. "Getting round columns in a building is a bit of a dream. Out of 100 buildings, only one other would have honest round steel columns," said Macey.
The building will also use another resource which is abundant right now in Colorado, wood paneling made from mountain pine beetle kill. Beetle-killed wood that also provides 75% of NRELs heat via their new $3.3 million wood-fired boiler.
"There are a lot of recycled and regionally available materials for use in buildings," Macey said. "Once people understand this, they will be surprised at how easy it is to make these choices."
Photos: Pat Corkery/U.S. Department of Energy