NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

NIEHS Opens Net-Zero Energy Warehouse

Eight people gather to cut ceremonial ribbon
On hand at the ribbon-cutting are (from l) NIEHS executive officer Chris Long, Research Triangle Foundation president and CEO Scott Levitan, Rep. David Price, NIEHS/NTP director Dr. Linda Birnbaum, N.C. department of environmental quality secretary Michael Regan, Durham mayor Dr. Steve Schewel, ORF senior architect Dan Cushing and ORF project engineer Victor Stancil.

Photo:  Steve McCaw

The new environmentally friendly NIEHS warehouse was dedicated recently in a ceremony attended by some two dozen dignitaries and NIEHS staff and watched by many more via webcast. Known as a net-zero energy building because of its ability to produce at least as much energy as it uses, the facility is the only one of its kind in the Department of Health and Human Services. 

“I’m proud that NIEHS can be a leader and a role model for thoughtful, environmentally friendly design,” said NIEHS and National Toxicology Program director Dr. Linda Birnbaum.
“To some people, dedicating a warehouse might not seem too exciting,” said U.S. Rep. David Price, whose district includes NIEHS. “But this is not an ordinary warehouse.”

The warehouse was designed to meet standards for LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Certification involves evaluation of construction practices and operations and should be completed by May. Net-zero certification is a separate process and should be completed within a year. 

warehouse building with louvers
The warehouse features south-facing office space for solar heating. Louvers admit winter light and shade the hot summer sun.

Photo:  Steve McCaw

The new warehouse will help keep pace with the institute’s needs, Birnbaum explained, especially for specialized IT equipment storage. It eliminates the need to continue leasing offsite storage space and can be expanded should more space be needed. 

The remote site, a short distance north of the main campus, once housed temporary offices for NIEHS. “The environmental footsteps began before construction,” NIEHS executive officer Chris Long pointed out. “We recycled almost 400 tons of material, including Freon, and cleared out mercury.” The location provides security advantages, with one access road and no connection to the rest of the campus. 

“Everyone working in this facility has been trained on its features and their role in keeping it net-zero, healthy and green,” Long said. “That includes simple things like turning off computers and printers. Our behavior is really the key to our success.” 

Presenters noted the building’s use of advanced environmental technology and the institute’s leadership by example in protecting health through environmentally sustainable operations. 
“Our commitment to this project goes well beyond just building a new warehouse,” said Long. “We built a sustainable facility that can serve as a model for healthy building in the future.”—John Yewell  

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