Tue07222014

Business & Real Estate

An eye for local LEED-ership: Packard Foundation headquarters boasts local flavor, global impact


Photo By: Town Crier file photo
Photo Town Crier File Photo

David and Lucile Packard Foundation officials built an energy-efficient structure at 343 Second St. that aesthetically blends into the surrounding neighborhood in downtown Los Altos.

When officials from The David and Lucile Packard Foundation opened new headquarters in the heart of downtown Los Altos in June, their design aimed to fit local aesthetics, but with world-class ambition. Located at 343 Second St., the building fits neatly into the existing neighborhood while providing an innovative green building example previously unprecedented in town.

Architects designed the building for Net-Zero energy, meaning that the building would provide 100 percent (or more) of the energy it needs to run via solar panels, efficient use of daylight, screens, cooling beams and other features.

“We are so excited about this building,” Susan Packard Orr, chairwoman of the foundation’s board of trustees, said at a June 29 press event. “This building takes us one critical step forward in our mission.”

“We’re getting a chance to walk our talk,” added Carol Larson, CEO of the foundation, which counts renewable energy as a key value.

While foundation leaders wanted a building that would be unique, they also wanted one that could be replicated around the world.

“It was very important to us to set an example,” Larson said.

The basics of the building are estimated to cost $477 per square foot if replicated other places, plus the cost of any tenant improvements. The building is also LEED Platinum certified, making it the largest private commercial building of its kind in the state.

Architectural firm EHDD plans to monitor energy use at the new building for the first 12 months of occupancy.

“Net-Zero is about measurements and actual performance,” said design principal Marc L’Italien. “We’re seeing a paradigm shift from where architects hand over the keys to the building to now monitoring and making sure staff are buying the right equipment and using the technology correctly.”

Los Altos residents will be able to monitor the foundation’s energy consumption at www.packard.org.

Net-Zero isn’t just about reducing energy use. According to Larson and Mike Humphrey, regional manager for DPR Construction, just working in the building will make staff members more mindful of how they live and interact with the environment, through technology like smart panels on the walls, which let employees know when to charge electronics or to open windows.

Local roots, global impact

The Packard Foundation, which began as a small organization in the Packards’ house in Los Altos Hills before moving to the red-roofed building across the street from its new headquarters, helps people all over the world but hasn’t lost sight of its Los Altos roots.

The building, with its Western red cedar walls and architectural copper accents, is striking and distinctive without looking out of place. The new building uses 95 percent of the old buildings that were demolished on its site, and EHDD opted to work within the existing city grid despite the challenges of daylighting and cooling a building facing southwest. Ninety percent of the landscaping uses native plants, eliminating the need for extensive (and expensive) watering and chemical use to sustain plants that generally don’t grow in Los Altos’ climate, while rain gutters on the roof collect water for reuse in the toilets – one of the first commercial buildings in the area to do so.

Inside, work areas are so well lit by natural light that turning on the overhead lights is likely to be a rare occurrence, while triple element windows bumped up the price tag by a few thousand dollars but probably saved the foundation approximately $300,000 in costs of mechanical cooling systems, according to Brad Jacobson, senior associate at EHDD.

Teleconferencing equipment in the meeting rooms should decrease travel costs, while a careful analysis of the staff’s actual transportation needs allowed the foundation to save $8 million on a proposed underground parking garage by building a small parking lot across the street with enough spaces for all the staff members who drive on a regular basis.

One of the best places to view the goals of the building and the foundation is in the upstairs boardroom. A giant window overlooks the central courtyard, where employees can meet, chat and relax, and another huge window faces a rooftop garden and the roof of the old Packard Foundation building.

Another great illustration of the values of the foundation is outside the building entirely – design crews created a network of storm gardens to divert the water that used to flood Second and Main streets during big storms into circuitous paths that keep local plants irrigated and clean some of the sediment from the rainwater before it reaches the storm drains.

“This spectacular building is truly a model of how to be a good neighbor,” said Los Altos Mayor Val Carpenter.

For more information, visit www.packard.org.

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