Galveston Bay Foundation’s new headquarters and Skanska’s role as Living Building Challenge advisors
In Kemah, Texas, our Skanska Integrated Solutions (SIS) team is serving as Living Building Challenge (LBC) advisors and project managers for The Gessner Center—the future headquarters for the conservation nonprofit Galveston Bay Foundation (GBF).
This building is designed to be net-zero positive for energy and water use with the intention of meeting LBC 4.0 Petal requirements. Once this facility opens, it will be one of few office buildings in Texas to meet these requirements.
Overseeing the project, our SIS team is helping the owner through the process of constructing a Living Building Challenge certified facility on this 30-acre bayfront site.
They’re providing material selection and coordinating activities between Kirksey Architects, CMTA MEP, Duplantis Design Group Civil, Pinnacle Structural Engineers, TBG Partners Landscape and the construction manager Satterfield & Pontikes.
Our SIS team has worked on several LBC projects across the country, including the Brock Environmental Center in Virginia Beach, Virginia, the Interpretive Center at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama, and the Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design in Atlanta, Georgia.
There are a variety of lessons learned and best practices that our team is leveraging from other projects they’ve consulted on to influence this project.
“Building a project team that will foster a teamwork mentality is critical to successfully meet the challenges that come up while designing and building an LBC building,” said Megan O’Connell, project manager – SIS.
Preconstruction is an important aspect in every construction project, but even more so for an LBC building.
“Gathering red list documentation can derail the schedule if it’s not factored into the procurement and submittal schedule. Though my experience, I can now identify the materials and systems which we will spend much more time in gathering the necessary LBC documentation,” said Megan. “This helps the project teams prepare subcontractors and begin the submittal process early enough that this documentation can be approved along with product data and shop drawing submittals.”
Kicking off the project meeting with a biophilia charette
In proper fashion, the project kickoff meetings were held at a nearby yacht club. The biophilia charette began at the site at sunrise, so all attendees could take in nature, then moved to the nearby yacht club for the remainder of the meeting. These biophilia charettes were led by our SIS team and attended by all major stakeholders.
“During the first meeting, our team discussed what the Living Building Challenge is and what the goals were for the project. The second meeting, we started developing ideas and connecting all stakeholder goals,” explained Curtis Elswick, SVP, regional executive – SIS.
Connecting the community with the Bay
The current GBF office has no water access and is located far from the Bay. It also lacks meeting and education space for on-site programs, and its size and configuration limit growth.
“GBF has been temporarily operating out of a maintenance warehouse for the past two years. Their goal is to make their new campus a destination where people of all ages can connect with the Bay and appreciate the benefits of a healthy bay system,” explained Chuck Kelley, senior program manager – SIS.
The new headquarters will provide workspace for more than 30 employees, as well as classrooms, a laboratory, meeting rooms, exhibit spaces and more.
Moreover, the new campus property will be a model for habitat restoration, conservation and wetland preservation.
The 30-acre site serves as a showcase for GBF’s programs to protect Galveston Bay. The site will recreate all five of the Texas Gulf Coast ecosystems. These ecosystems will serve the organization’s mission by cleaning runoff, re-introducing native species and vegetation, and protecting the shoreline with new marsh grass and oyster beds.
Achieving LBC certification through re-use and education
To receive Living Building Challenge Petal certification, the facility must meet three of the seven Petal requirements—Place, Water, Energy, Health & Happiness, Materials, Equity and Beauty. One of the three Petals achieved must be Water, Energy or Materials.
To accomplish this, the new headquarters will feature a variety of sustainable features, including:
- Net zero water by using waterless composting toilets and low-flow fixtures
- Rainwater cisterns and a series of bioswales and natural ponds for storm water management
- Net zero energy with an array of photovoltaic panels to be sized for 100,000 kWh/year
- Natural ventilation due to the building orientation that capitalizes on views of the bay
- Ground source geothermal heat pumps
“Currently, there are few buildings in Texas that have been LBC Petal certified. All LBC projects influence others pursuing LBC. GBF’s new headquarters will showcase resilient design strategies in a humid climate and in a location prone to large storm events,” said Megan.