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Picture this, you’re in the middle of your morning jog and you notice a sign announcing the construction of a sanitation facility to be built right in your own neighborhood! Immediately, you have a reaction of disgust.

Residents of TriBeCa in Manhattan had a very different reaction once a new sanitation facility opened in their neighborhood - they welcomed it with open arms.

In December 2015, New York City cut the ribbon on a 425,000-square-foot, multi-story Department of Sanitation building that accommodates more than 150 sanitation vehicles and houses a central fueling station, truck wash, repair shop and offices. But the structure isn’t what typically comes to mind when you think of sanitation facilities – it’s one of the best examples of modern architecture. City officials, along with Dattner Architects and WXY Architecture, constructed the building with civic design excellence, environmental responsibility and the community in mind.

Designing Public Structures with Sustainability and Visual Appeal

The NYC sanitation facility is a shining example of an evolving trend in public sector building design, one that intentionally addresses issues of sustainability without compromising the attractiveness of structure itself. The LEED certified facility features a 1.5-acre green roof to enhance stormwater retention and thermal performance. The building has a double-skin façade that wraps around the structure, a glass curtain wall, and 2,600 perforated-metal fins that are capable of tracking the sun’s location throughout the day to reduce solar heat-gain and glare. The fins also block views into the facility while still allowing people inside to look out.

The building looks like a modern art painting come to life.

Deepti Hajela, Associated Press

Like New York City, agency officials across the country are intentionally seeking the assistance of architecture and engineering firms who can help them design structures that aren’t only functional, but are also environmentally-friendly and complementary to the landscapes of their respective communities.

public sector sustainable design projects chart

Onvia’s database found that city leaders are laser-focused on environmental design concepts in their solicitations to architecture and engineering firms. 

City and County of San Francisco in California

In July 2015 the city awarded a contract to two consulting firms in a joint venture, Atelier Ten and Urban Fabrick, to aid the Department of the Environment in conducting economic and environmental research and building code analyses. Officials want their on-going support to create green building designs that improve renewable energy, water and stormwater efficiencies, indoor environmental quality and even thoughtful landscaping.

The firms plan to conduct meetings to make for a process that improves the collaboration between various parties, including the community, to come up with best practice standards for integration of sustainable facilities in the city.

Environmental Integrity of Educational Buildings

In addition to city initiatives, Onvia’s database shows that sustainability of educational buildings is another area of increased public sector design investment, particularly for higher education facilities.

Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas

The college wants to get started designing and constructing a new Workforce Development Center on campus. The new center will be 48,000 square feet and come with a $13.2 million construction budget. The project scope mentions that responding vendors will need to include a “benefit analysis of the concepts of sustainability” and that responding vendors “shall apply the principles of the LEED Green Building Rating System” in all areas of the design.

Environmental Focus is a Must for Design Firms That Want to Succeed in the Public Sector

Architecture and engineering firms need to know that public sector officials are intentionally moving away from issuing design contracts for typical non-descript government buildings and want to build attractive structures. Key project decision makers will gravitate towards the RFP responses from firms who have demonstrated their ability to successfully meld sustainability and a modernist concept in their design projects.