Colorado Health Foundation Goes Gold

The Colorado Health Foundation (TCHF) is setting a gold standard for health-conscious design, achieving two top environmental certifications with its new corporate headquarters, a three-story, 50,000-square-foot commercial office building in Denver.

The International WELL Building Institute awarded WELL Certified Gold to the TCHF headquarters—a first for a project in Colorado. The facility also earned Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) v4 Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

TCHF, a non-profit organization that supports efforts to increase access to quality health care and encourage healthy lifestyle choices, wanted to create a facility that unites practical and economical office and event spaces with a natural and sustainable environment. In doing so, TCHF set out to create the healthiest office building in the state.

The $16 million building, designed by Davis Partnership Architects and opened in December 2017, reflects the organization’s mission of improving health and health care.

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©2018 FRANK OOMS

The design of The Colorado Health Foundation’s corporate headquarters in Denver reflects its mission of improving health for Colorado citizens.

Bringing Nature

WSP USA played a key role in creating a desirable environment for the headquarters and securing the Gold certifications, providing mechanical-electrical-plumbing (MEP) and fire protection engineering and sustainability services, including energy modeling, daylighting modeling, fundamental and enhanced commissioning, PV LCCA analysis, comprehensive sustainability and health-related design assistance and certification coordination for the LEED-New Construction and WELL Building certifications.

“An emphasis was placed on bringing nature into the building,” said Mark Montgomery, MEP principal-in-charge for WSP. “The new headquarters provides presentation and event spaces that complement the message TCHF is trying to convey, bringing nature, natural light, healthy food, and physical health options into the building for visitors and occupants.”

“It was important to TCHF that their building support well-being, underlining their dedication to healthy living and healthy communities,” added WSP’s Josh Radoff, who led the sustainable and health consulting for the project. “They were really dedicated to promoting health and wellness concepts at all levels, from daylighting to natural ventilation, and central staircases to living walls.”

The building lobby features a 40-foot-tall green wall, a water feature, and a significant amount of indoor planters throughout the building. Art and vegetation, along with connection to daylight, natural sounds, and diversity of space types can be found throughout the building.

“We were tasked with creating a comprehensive healthy building framework for TCHF,” says Radoff. “Our work included developing a strategy that encompassed everything from active design, biophilia, construction materials, and ongoing operations, to support that goal.”

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©2018 FRANK OOMS

A central spiral stairway encourages occupants to take a healthier walk up the stairs to the second and third floors to get some exercise along the way.

Work-Life Balance

To promote physical activity, an architectural staircase makes taking the stairs the default option, without too much cajoling. An indoor bike storage room allows building occupants to safely store their bicycles, and a fitness center on the third floor promotes on-site exercise. The location is also ideal for cycling, access to transit, and walkability.

Various amenities and work settings are available throughout the building. The interior layout is designed to support interaction and collaboration but also provides quiet area for focused work.

The café in the building also provides a selection of healthy food, to reinforce the central concept of well-being. To promote work-life balance, the lights turn off at a specific time every night, which also has energy-saving benefits.

“The building is targeting 35 percent energy use reduction from ASHRAE 90.1-2010,” said Radoff.

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©2018 FRANK OOMS

The first floor lobby of the new Colorado Health Foundation headquarters.

A Healthy Image

The MEP system is designed to be highly efficient, thus reducing the building’s impact on the electrical grid.

“Daylight effectiveness was an important factor in determining the building footprint,” Montgomery said. “The U-shape design of the building allows for shallow floors, so that all spaces have access to daylighting. The lighting controls system allows for nearly all lights to be turned off during sunny days.”

The mechanical systems achieve a high level of energy efficiency by using a variable refrigerant flow system to move heat from hot areas of the building to cold areas without the use of compressors. A variable volume, 100-percent outside air delivery system with energy recovery uses carbon dioxide sensors throughout the building to deliver only as much air as needed to each space, based on the current occupant load.

“WSP performed energy modeling to help select the highest-performing mechanical systems, including elements such as using the garage exhaust fans to supplement air movement across the variable refrigerant flow condensers, and using the thermal mass of the underground garage to benefit the ambient temperatures,” Montgomery said.

“MEP systems are commonly viewed as a part of the building that architects want to hide,” he added. “But for this building, the owner understood the benefit of the MEP system design and how an efficient system can support their mission, not fight against it. This building truly reflects the aggressive, unique goals laid out by the owner and the healthy image it wanted.”

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©2018 FRANK OOMS

The new headquarters brings nature, natural light, healthy food and physical health options together for visitors and occupants.

Efficient Blueprint

As a first-time building owner, TCHF had a vision for its new home, but sought guidance from a team that was able to help explain the options available to reach the client’s operating goals.

“We were brought in very early in the design process and were able to help guide the team on an efficient footprint to maximize the amount of daylighting the building would be able to achieve,” Radoff said. “We were able to work with the client to create a description of what it means to have a ‘healthy’ building. Those discussions led to an emphasis on lighting and temperature control for individual occupants.”

Radoff believes this project will serve as a model for future clients who share TCHF’s healthy environment goals.

“Some of its unique design features, such as using the exhaust fans to supplement condenser air movement, using the garage exhaust to pre-condition the condenser ambient air, and the ability to integrate the roof drain system into a piece of art are all concepts that can be used in future projects,” he said. “Once the building comes on-line, we are excited to see real-time energy results and compare them to design models.”

Radoff said it was rewarding to work with a client that was willing to deviate from “safe” industry-standard designs.

“The owner encouraged the design team to think outside the box,” Radoff said. “Having a building in our portfolio that meets aggressive LEED and WELL Standard goals under a modest budget is a great way for our future clients to see that efficiency doesn’t have to be directly tied to runaway costs.”

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