NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

NIEHS Breaks Ground for ‘Net Zero Energy’ Warehouse

Wheeland and Birnbaum, wearing white hard hats, smile, holding shovels.
ORF Director Dan Wheeland and NIEHS/NTP director Dr. Linda Birnbaum were on hand for the warehouse groundbreaking.

Photo:  Credit Steve McCaw

A rarely visited portion of the NIEHS campus in Research Triangle Park, N.C., was the scene of the Apr. 15 groundbreaking for a new warehouse. Scheduled for completion in 2017, the building is designed to be net zero energy, which means it will generate as much or more power than it uses. It will be the first net zero facility for the entire Department of Health and Human Services. 

And with warehouse operations separate from the rest of campus, the facility will meet stringent security guidelines for federal buildings.

About three dozen people gathered for the event, including NIEHS and NIH leadership and staff, local dignitaries and representatives from the architectural and contracting firms that designed and will be building the warehouse.

“Today’s groundbreaking is really a team celebration, recognizing the hard work and partnership of many, many individuals from across NIH and the department,” said Dr. Linda Birnbaum, director of NIEHS and the National Toxicology Program.

“This secure warehouse will allow us to route commercial delivery vehicles away from the majority of the institute’s population, research activities, child care center and critical campus infrastructure,” she said, noting that the site will be equipped with a vehicle inspection station.

The planning team set high standards for sustainable building and operations. “It is targeted to be a LEED Platinum facility, the highest sustainability rating provided by the U.S. Green Building Council,” Birnbaum told the group.

Dan Wheeland, director of the NIH Office of Research Facilities, was on hand to mark the occasion. “In tough budgetary times, only the most meritorious projects survive the scrutiny that is involved,” he said of the approval and funding process. According to Wheeland, features of the plant that contributed to its approval included improving security, reducing operating costs, consolidating operations closer to the customer and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“This is not just a project per se,” Wheeland said. “It’s emblematic of what we’re trying to do across the Department of Health and Human Services and it’s exactly consistent with the NIEHS mission.”

Rep. David Price (D-NC), whose district includes NIEHS, was also on hand. He echoed Wheeland’s observation on the good fit with the institute’s mission. “It means that you are not only promoting environmental research and environmental stewardship, you are actually demonstrating it by the example that you set,” he said.

After a year of warehouse operation, the U.S. Green Building Council will evaluate such data as energy use and power generation and assign a LEED rating. Designers targeted platinum status by including a wide variety of features including energy conservation and generation, water efficiency, use of recycled and regionally sourced materials, habitat protection, reduction in light pollution and others.  

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The NIH Record, founded in 1949, is the biweekly newsletter for employees of the National Institutes of Health.

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