e2 Business Program Member Arch Nexus Debuts Headquarters with “Living Building” Designation
Salt Lake City’s e2 Business Program is a free consulting and marketing program for Salt Lake City businesses run out of the Sustainability Department. The program is dedicated to helping Salt Lake’s business community run in a more environmentally and economically sustainable manner. We take pride in recognizing the achievements of our members! If you are interested in joining the program or browsing current members, please visit our e2 Business webpage.
This year, e2 Business Program member Arch Nexus officially moved into their newly renovated office space on Parley’s Way in Salt Lake City. The renovation is particularly exciting as it is an officially registered Living Building Challenge project with the International Living Future Institute—the first project of its kind in Utah.
Arch Nexus’ Salt Lake City headquarters was already one of the greenest buildings in the Intermountain West, with LEED EBOM v3 Platinum Certification achieved in 2014 and renewed in 2019. As the fifth occupant of the nearly eighty-year-old building, Arch Nexus preferred to remodel and reuse rather than build something brand new for their offices.
“The greenest building is the one that has already been built,” says Arch Nexus. However, they felt there was more to be done. “Despite our sustainability success, we found the building was still a net-consumer of energy and didn’t collect rainwater nor did it reuse any of the greywater produced by occupants”. When the pandemic hit and the building became empty, Arch Nexus realized there was an opportunity to remodel—and so the Living Building Challenge came into focus.
As a building certification program and building philosophy, the Living Building Challenge is among the most advanced measures of sustainability in the built environment today. The Challenge is comprised of seven performance categories called Petals: Place, Water, Energy, Health & Happiness, Materials, Equity and Beauty.
Two particular characteristics distinguish the Living Building Challenge from other green building certifications: The first is that the Living Building Challenge can only be completed after demonstrating a full 12 months of performance, whereas other certifications can be granted based on projected future performance (which sometimes is never achieved). The second distinction is that the Living Building Challenge consists of twenty imperatives that must be met before a building can be certified, rather than picking and choosing from several sustainability features to receive credits toward a certification.
Among the most difficult are the requirements that the building attain net positive energy and water use. There is also a long list of “red-list” materials that cannot be used in the construction, including commonly used building materials such as PVC pipes.
The up-front costs can be expensive (10-15% more than a standard project). But as Arch Nexus’ President Kenner Kingston explained in a radio interview with the Wasatch Gazette earlier this year, “it comes with massive operational savings.” When Arch Nexus bought the building, it was consuming $50,000 a year in energy (natural gas and electricity). Over a period of ten years, with various sustainability efforts, they were able to reduce it to $30-$32,000 a year. “After this remodel,” says Kenner, “our energy costs will be zero.” In other words, the remodel will pay for itself.
The newly renovated building went through a number of changes. Solatube skylights reduce the need for electric lighting. All the windows in the building are operable, and when conditions are right for natural ventilation, an LED light switches on in each office space signaling occupants to switch off the HVAC system.
Overall, the building will achieve net positive energy, producing more than it consumes. Living walls and indoor courtyards with foldable windows connect occupants to nature. Rainwater collection and gray water recycling are used for indoor and outdoor irrigation as well as flushing.
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall has already commented on the significance of the project for the Salt Lake Community, especially in terms of addressing air quality. “Arch Nexus SLC will be an extraordinary community asset that serves to both inspire and set a new standard for our community’s health and quality of life.”
Meanwhile, Arch Nexus is hoping that this project will pave the way for other builders to realize that achieving sustainability is well-within reach.
Bravo! Thank you for demonstrating your sustainability leadership, Arch Nexus, and inviting us to learn more.