Century-old building, LEED Platinum standards

Miles Construction has been involved in its fair share of historic-renovation projects.

And the Carson City company has worked a time or two on developments designed to win LEED Gold designation for excellence in sustainability.

But to win LEED Platinum designation, the very pinnacle of honors for sustainability, while dealing with the near-daily surprises involved with renovating a 98-year-old building?

“It took a lot of what we call ‘adaptive planning,’” says Cary Richardson, vice president of business operations for Miles Construction.

And then he laughs.

A little.

Workers are pushing hard toward the December finish on a project that convert a 13,000-square-foot building that once was home to Farmers National Bank into the Nevada headquarters offices of Bently Enterprises.

The project is just the first step in an ambitious series of projects by Bently Enterprises. The work is designed to preserve the heritage of downtown Minden while creating new uses for historic buildings.

But getting from here to there takes lot of painstaking work.

Just as one example, Richardson tells the story of the gold-leaf ceiling in the lobby of the former bank building.

Plans by NicholsBooth, a San Francisco-based design architect, and Carson City architect John Copoulos called for the gold-leaf ceiling to be preserved.

But as Miles Construction crews began working, they discovered structural problems with the beam that supported the ceiling.

“How do you replace the beam without taking out the ceiling? Richardson asks.

The answer: A cadre of carpenters with claw hammers set to work, removing the beam bit by bit so that it could be replaced with a strong modern structure.

“We started working at it like a bunch of termites,” Richardson says.

Almost every day of the year-long project provided a surprise.

“Knowing that there are going to be issues and actually finding the issues are two different things,” Richardson says.

For instance, plans called for creation of a mezzanine area on top of the sturdy base provided by the bank’s concrete vault. The vault’s concrete walls, however, proved less stable than anyone had thought.

So structural engineer Paul Ferrari of Reno’s Ferrari Shields & Associates — a guy who spent much of the last year chasing down load paths through the building’s structure — devised a new structure to support the mezzanine.

“There were some aspects of the building in which the original craftsmanship was just amazing,” says Richardson. “And in some places, they had cut corners.”

So the job was challenging on its own.

Then add the desire of Chris Bently, the strong environmentalist who is chief executive officer of Bently Enterprises, to earn LEED Platinum certification. That’s a benchmark so high that it’s reached only by organizations such as Patagonia with its west-Reno distribution center.

“Chris Bently is very focused on doing the right thing for the environment and doing the right thing for the community,” says Richardson.

Innovative mechanical systems play a big role in the renovation project’s bid to win LEED Platinum designation.

Heating and cooling is accomplished through a ground-source system. Sixteen bores, each of them 6 inches in diameter and 300 feet deep, contain concrete-encased pipes that serve as a heat exchanger. The system takes heat from the earth in the winter and returns it in the summer.

A great concept, but the old bank building didn’t have any property to install the bores.

The answer: Fourth Street in downtown Minden was closed for the better part of three months while the ground-source system was installed under the city street.

“I can’t say enough good things about the town and the county,” says Richardson. “We were under tight constraints. But we were working in a small town and reaping the benefits of working in a small town.”

Other environmentally friendly aspects of the project include installation of photovoltaic panels to generate electricity and an innovative “halo” lighting system that will spread natural light through the building’s work areas.

LEED standards called for recycling of 95 percent of the materials from demolition. Much of the former bank building is finding its way into the new office building, which will include marble teller windows and the original crown moldings in addition to the gold-leaf ceiling that was so painstakingly preserved.

And environmentally products such as paint that doesn’t contain volatile organic compounds were used throughout.

Even as the 25 employees of Bently Enterprises begin moving into the Nevada office next month, the company is starting work on the next step in its creation of what’s been dubbed the “Heritage District.”

The Minden Flour Mill Building, a landmark in Minden for more than 100 years, will find new life as the Bently Heritage Estate Distillery.

Through last summer, workers meticulously catalogued more than two dozen pieces of equipment inside the building, took more than 1,000 photos and sought the assistance of an industrial archaeologist who specializes in historic flour mills.

Removal of the equipment began in mid-October, and it will be stored during the renovation work. When the project is completed, some of the equipment will be on display.

Even the demolition of an old gas station that’s part of the Heritage District process reflected the Bently Enterprises interest in sustainable construction.

All metal, concrete and brick from the Cowboy Corner gas station were recycled, using LEED certified methods.


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