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A roof system on a Minnesota building demonstrates energy-saving technology

Since the energy crisis of the '70s, corporate America has worked toward improving the energy efficiency of its buildings. The motivation was simple—any energy savings directly affected the bottom line. As energy-saving measures first were implemented, it became obvious some measures had a higher or faster return than others. Corporations initially implemented measures that were easy to quantify, such as lighting upgrades and additional insulation in roofs and walls that provided a definable return on investment during a definable time period.

More recently, justification for the next generation of energy-saving measures—water efficiency, air quality, sustainable sites and materials—has become tied to a rate of return. Building owners decide whether a rate is acceptable for a given improvement. Often, this rate of return on next-generation energy savings either is slower or more difficult to quantify than traditional energy-saving improvements. Energy analysis (building simulation) and existing project results are tweaked to fit different building profiles and attempt to predict results. With this in mind, we designed a building to document the next generation of energy-saving measures.

The building

The 50,000-square-foot (4645-m²) ERSystems Inc. and Prairie Technologies manufacturing and office facility is in Rockford, Minn. The corporate headquarters building and site were designed to meet the needs of a functioning, fast-growing corporation while mitigating the environmental effects. Although the industrial use of the building and site provided a number of challenges, such as designing around chemical spills, it also offered many opportunities for sustainable design. The structure is unique in the Midwest and demonstrates industrial buildings economically can minimize their environmental effects. The project currently is registered with the U.S. Green Building Council in its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. In February 2005, the building was awarded NRCA's Excellence in Design Award for its innovative roof system design.

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