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The new Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge headquarter building in Iowa. Photo by USFWS

The new Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge headquarter building in Iowa. Photo by USFWS.

Regional Engineering LEEDS the Way To Addition Of New
State-of-the-Art Port Louisa NWR Headquarters Building

When it comes to designing and outfitting state-of-the-art energy efficient buildings to lessen our carbon footprint and host our teams of conservation professionals and their guests, the Regional engineers are the “go to” guys.

One example of their mastery in the trade is the recently opened Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters Building and Visitor Center in Iowa. Engineer Todd Criswell lead the charge, which included a team effort by engineers, regional contracting and refuges staff and field staff from the refuge itself.

“The project started on paper back in 2011. We had about $3.1 million available to match to the Port Louisa Refuge’s need for a new headquarters,” said Todd Criswell, Regional Engineer. “As with all projects Engineering supports, we begin from scratch drawing up the scope of services needed from a new facility and proceeding to the complex line drawings that we take out for bid with the help of our Contracting office team.”

After the contract was bid and awarded, drawings started to become real structure on ground, which was officially broken in the Fall of 2012. “A lot of time and hard work went into the project, especially when it came to adding the energy efficiency features to the building that would at least reach Silver LEED certification levels. We were even more pleased that we accumulated enough credits in the features added to go over-and-above that and reach Gold LEED certification,” Criswell said.

From groundbreaking in 2012, to the ribbon cutting ceremony just weeks ago, Criswell continued to perform his vital role which included numerous site visits and keeping a finger on the pulse of the progress being made. “That even includes our role of keeping the construction team motivated, but with the fantastic facility they knew they were completing, motivation stayed high without coaxing,” he said.

Where did all of this effort and true teamwork lead? To the gold standard in LEED certification for the new 5,051-square foot building that included 25KW photovoltaic solar power system, solar water heating, multiple rain gardens, an environmental education room and audiovisual system for guests and students use, and a new trail system.

As noted at the ribbon cutting ceremony by Regional Director Tom Melius, “This project has been a group effort, and I would like to recognize our Engineering and Contracting staff. Specifically Todd Criswell, Drew McDermott and John Stokes. And I’d like to thank Deb Beck and Maggie O’Connell from our regional refuges staff for their excellent oversight of the project.”

“Thanks also to refuge manager Cathy Henry and her staff and the entire refuge Friends Group who have been so supportive of all that goes on at Port Louisa refuge,” Melius added.

Refuge Manager Henry added, “People were very interested, at our open house for the new facility, about the solar panels and the geothermal. You don't see a lot of large solar arrays in our rural area. I think people were may be skeptical at first, but have learned that it is working well and is a benefit from the cost savings we will see over time. It’s a great example to the community of green building and working to save our natural resources from an energy and emissions standpoint.

The level of detail going into a top notch LEED certification was the biggest challenge from the point of putting pen to paper, then shovels to the ground and, finally, a scissors through a ribbon. “I’m proud of this new professional building and the energy efficiency that is already producing in excess of the energy requirements of the new facility,” Criswell said. “This is a replacement to an outdated facility and is a night and day difference.”

Thanks to everyone’s hard work, the public who enjoy Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge has a new conservation facility that is truly a marvel! Engineers like Criswell and their team of professionals are a big part of that success.

By Larry Dean
Regional Office - External Affairs

Last updated: November 4, 2014