The Missoula Technology and Development Center (MTDC) in western Montana isn't only green on the outside (figure 1). The building is designed with sustainability in mind. Agriboard (panels made from ground wheat straw or sunflower husks bound together with formaldehyde-free resin) is used in some of the walls, the balcony railings, and the reception desk. Large laminated beams and columns support the roof on the east wing. These beams and columns are made from small pieces of two-by-six and two-by-eight lumber glued together. They are stronger than comparably-sized solid wood timbers and their use helps preserve old growth stands. The roof is constructed with structural insulated panels. These strong, light panels prevent heat transfer due to thermal bridging.
Figure 2—Clerestory windows (upper left) provide
natural light to the center's second floor. On
clear days, many offices don't require
electric lighting at all.
A ground source cooling system provides natural air conditioning to the building. Cold water pumped from a well outside the building chills the air delivered to each room. The water is then pushed back down a second well, preventing a net loss to the aquifer. Two small, efficient boilers provide heat when the weather gets cold. Each boiler outputs nearly one million British thermal units (BTUs) and can heat the entire building on its own. The boilers alternate the supply of hot water to the air handler, extending the life of each boiler and allowing maintenance workers to shut down one boiler at a time.
Waterless urinals in the men's lavatories at the center save 60,000 gallons of water annually. A specially designed trap in the urinals contains a fluid barrier, which prevents sewer vapors from escaping into the restroom air. Waste liquid sinks through the fluid barrier and overflows into the central tube that runs down to a conventional drain line.
Other sustainable features have been added to the building since its doors opened in 2002. Most rooms in the building have been retrofitted with occupancy sensor switches to turn lights on when someone enters the room and off when no motion has been detected in the room for a set amount of time. The occupancy sensors complement the programmable lights included in the original design that allow the hall lights and other lights in the building to turn on and off automatically. This feature ensures that only security lights are left on when the building is empty.
In 2010, MTDC installed a 50 kilowatt (kW) photovoltaic (PV) system. The PV system is not large enough to meet all the center's energy needs—an average of around 50 to 65 kW on workdays—but it does help to reduce electricity costs considerably and also helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The center's latest addition is a rainwater capture and reuse system (figure 3). The captured water comes from an east roof of the building and is stored in a 1,000-gallon above ground tank. The water is used to irrigate the People's Garden south of the solar array.
The Forest Service has set a goal for a more sustainable future, and MTDC is committed to that goal. The center evaluated advanced power meters for use throughout the Forest Service. These meters are an important part of MTDC's sustainable framework. Two primary meters monitor energy use from the utility provider, while a number of submeters help to isolate major power draws within the building. Flow meters also are used to help monitor natural gas and water consumption. Many green technologies are evaluated and integrated into the center that can then be passed on to Forest Service units and to other agencies within the Federal government.