Sustainable Charlotte Skyscraper Makes History
Duke Energy, one of the nation’s largest electric power companies, selected Balfour Beatty to provide preconstruction and construction services for their move into their 276,936-square-foot office space encompassing twelve floors in the Duke Energy Center. This project encompassed work to Duke Energy’s typical floors as well as executive floors. The corporation transformed the work environment for its employees using “Workplace of the Future” principles, including open and collaborative spaces, the broad use of natural light, and an emphasis on sustainability consistent with Duke Energy’s leadership in environmental stewardship.
The Duke Energy Center is the first and tallest office tower to receive the highest level of certification under the USGBC's LEED for Core and Shell rating system Version 2.0. The building is also the first LEED for Core and Shell commercial office project in the world to require all tenants to pursue a LEED Certification level for Commercial Interiors, as well as the first LEED Core and Shell Platinum project in North Carolina.
During the time of construction, if you had strolled through Balfour Beatty’s Charlotte warehouse, you would have seen the usual supplies, including construction equipment, tools, boxes, and a full-sale Duke Energy office. Balfour Beatty ensured the success of the project’s LEED elements and added value to the quality control process by constructing detailed mock-ups with actual base-building finishes. The design and contractor team spent more than three years testing, evaluating, and measuring every specifiable product in the space.
Balfour Beatty’s Mock-Ups LEED the Way
These mock-ups served as a testing lab for the project, enabling the owner and architect to make design decisions and determine the viability of different approaches, materials, and finishes before implementing them on-site.
The mock-up was a 1,600-square-foot model of a typical floor for Duke Energy’s new headquarters. The model was designed with two of almost everything, such as offices with demountable wall systems and work stations, to compare the quality of service provided.
The mock-up served primarily as a tool to compare furniture, work stations, aesthetics, vendors, and subcontractors. It also provided an opportunity to test out LEED initiatives and work through design challenges. To meet both LEED objectives and base-building requirements and specifications, Duke Energy required custom features such as a unique lighting system with daylight sensors and independent overrides.
“You not only get to examine the products, but also try out vendors and subcontractors, and touch, see, and feel how everything will work,” said Bob Dooley, senior vice president. “During construction, we do it once and get it right, because everything has already been tested.”
To create a more pleasing aesthetic, Duke Energy chose to use a 30-inch ceiling grid system, which posed some challenges with the electrical, sprinkler, and HVAC installation that were designed for the standard 24-inch system. Had these issues not been identified during the mock-up, the contractors would have had the wrong supplies when it came time for installation.
By building a full-scale model with actual base-building finishes, Duke Energy was able to confidently select the finishes for the space, which included the carpet, colors, systems furniture, fabric, and more. Additionally, the mock-ups were used to ensure the mullions dividing the windows would not obstruct the unique view of Charlotte that the Duke Energy Center offers. A full-scale photo taken from the 27th floor was used to reveal what impact the mullions would have on the view.
“After selecting furniture and wall manufacturers, we knew our next step was to fine-tune the actual layout and design,” said Otto Orr, project manager with CB Richard Ellis, the project’s program manager. “To do this, we conducted usability studies with Duke Energy employees. These studies consisted of employees coming into the mock-up and performing preset scripts in both the workstations and offices. By having these same employees perform usability tests, the design team was able to identify what features and benefits most suit the work style of the employee. Our goal was to use this information to enhance and improve the final design.”
The mock-ups for Duke Energy proved to be a powerful tool in minimizing risk and providing a tangible and measurable comparison instrument.
The Duke Energy Center has not only shaped Charlotte’s skyline but also the future of business decisions surrounding sustainability, proving that green building is good business. It is a project that sets the benchmark for developing new and innovative ways to limit consumption and the full integration of sustainable strategies throughout the design and construction processes. It is a statement of conscience. The Duke Energy Center also represents a transformation in the work environment, with a design that emphasizes comfort, engenders creativity, and encourages collaboration.