Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired Earns Gold

The newly renovated Virginia Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Vision Impaired (VRCBVI) Administration and Activities Building has earned Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Gold Certification with the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI).  This accomplishment reflects the Department of Blind and Vision Impaired (DBVI) agency’s first LEED certified project.

The VRCBVI works to empower the blind, vision-impaired, and deaf-blind citizens of the Commonwealth. Built in 1970, the Administration and Activities Building located on the VRCBVI’s campus in Richmond, Virginia houses the center’s administrative and business offices and features training spaces for teaching skills to help individuals adapt to living without sight and teaching people with partial blindness how to most effectively use their remaining sight.

Looking towards the future, the agency wanted to improve the aging building and antiquated technology systems, upgrade the facility to be Americans with Disability Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) compliant, and minimize the “special features” typically associated with the vision impaired.  The message of the renovation was to arrive at a “building for sighted people.”  As such, Moseley Architects worked with representatives of the VRCBVI, the DBVI, and design partners KEI Architects, Dennis Kowal Architects, and John Dickinson & Partners to create a design that encompassed the center’s values and did not exclusively focus on what can be seen.  The team carefully considered echoes, smells, and proportions in shaping the facility and how they might make an impression on staff and visitors. Additionally the renovated facility offers a new large, central skylit atrium that channels light, warmth, and openness into interior classrooms and offices.

Moseley Architects worked with the VRCBVI to incorporate sustainable and high-performance design and construction strategies that were critical to achieving LEED certification.  The renovation provided the opportunity to abate hazardous building materials including asbestos and lead-based paint.  The aging and leaky roof was replaced with a standing seam metal system coated with a highly-reflective solar paint to reduce heat gain to the building caused by the heat island effect.   The underutilized courtyard was transformed into a large atrium with an insulated translucent skylight.  Interior classrooms and offices borrow light through transoms, while perimeter spaces receive ample daylight through windows with glare control treatments.  Three electric vehicle charging stations were added to promote use of low-emitting and fuel-efficient vehicles.

Carrie Webster, Moseley Architects’ Sustainability Coordinator, reflected on the project’s ambitious goals. 

“Virginia standards require LEED Silver certification for large projects; however this team really got into the spirit and became committed to exceeding those goals and making this building truly a model of sustainability.  The occupants will enjoy the much improved indoor environment, and the agency will be able to realize a return on their investment through the significant energy and water savings.”

Carrie Webster, Moseley Architects’ Sustainability Coordinator

Energy reduction strategies included designing highly-efficient mechanical and lighting systems and upgrading the building envelope.   All heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning equipment and associated controls were removed and replaced with a new variable system with energy recovery technology. The deteriorated single-pane window units were replaced with double-pane, thermally insulated units with low-emissivity coating to reduce solar heat gain.  The existing metal halide site lights were upgraded to new light-emitting diode (LED) fixtures which will offer a significant energy savings and extended lamp life.  These upgrades were modeled to reduce energy use by at least 15 percent compared to the existing, pre-renovated building.  Low-flow plumbing fixtures were installed, which will reduce water consumption by 30 percent and are predicted to save approximately 34,000 gallons of water per year. Kenbridge Construction, the general contractor, was able to salvage and recycle 87 percent of all construction and demolition debris, use regionally-manufactured building materials containing recycled content, and select wood materials harvested from sustainably-managed forests.  Additionally, indoor air quality was protected through strict construction practices, and use of low-emitting building materials and furniture.  The VRCBVI is continuing with this effort by implementing a plan to use green cleaning products and equipment.

Dr. Richard Fisher with the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Services cited the cooperation among the team as a major factor to the project’s success. 

“The CBVI, Moseley Architects, Kenbridge Construction, and their subcontractors were focused on our project goals and worked together towards LEED certification.  The leadership provided by Carrie Webster throughout the project in working with the entire team is best measured by the project exceeding our initial goal of LEED Silver and instead earning LEED Gold.”

Dr. Richard Fisher, Virginia Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Services