Everything old is new again

A crane lifts the frame of the new solar array/shade structure on Bently headqarters.

A crane lifts the frame of the new solar array/shade structure on Bently headqarters.

The new Bently Enterprises Nevada headquarters on Esmeralda Avenue in downtown Minden exemplifies the company’s commitment to the value of adaptive reuse. “I see no sense in building new structures when we have beautiful historic properties left abandoned,” CEO Chris Bently said of his decision to transform the historic 100 year-old Farmer’s Bank Building built from 1916 to 1918 by H.F. Dangberg, Minden’s founding father. “We need a sense of tradition and worth brought back to our culture. A disposable world just won’t do.”

The structure, which is in the process of becoming LEED Platinum-certified by the U.S. Green Building Council, is the first phase of the planned Heritage District revitalization project, which will include Bently’s Nevada Heritage distillery in the former Minden Flour Milling Company across Highway 395.

Chris Bently is no stranger to repurposing grand old buildings. Sister company Bently Holdings based in San Francisco owns and operates LEED Gold and Energy Star-certified Bently Union Square; offices as well as the LEED Silver-certified Bently Reserve event space; Bently Nob Hill apartments; and an Energy Star-certified office building called Belvedere Place in Marin County.

Bently’s vision guides the company’s approach to construction: “Beauty in design, quality of life, and environmental sustainability,” its website states. Evidence of these principles are everywhere in the new headquarters from the carefully preserved gold leaf ceilings to the solar array structure that acts as an appealing pergola covering the multi-purpose roof deck.

However, the process of reimaging and retrofitting a historic building is fraught with challenges and more expensive than starting from scratch. “It’s a real commitment,” noted Larry Vincent, Bently’s construction manager.

From design to occupancy, the project took 16 months. The disassembly was supervised by a structural engineering team from Ferrari Shields in Carson City, which created an elaborate narrative on how to deconstruct and reconstruct every single piece. “Then we had to shore up what was left to keep it stable during construction,” Vincent said. “Chris (Bently) was very proud that we didn’t disrupt the fabric of the building.” But figuring out how to blend elements like intricate crown moldings with the newly created areas such as the mezzanine level, was a very complex process that took extensive planning and cooperation among the many trades.

Precise logistical organization was critical on each step with all of the stakeholders and skilled workers. Cary Richardson, vice president of business operations at Miles Construction, described the project as a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most. He gave big props to the Town of Minden for facilitating one of the more complicated aspects — allowing adjacent 4th St. to be torn up and used for the massive bore field of 16 six-by-300-foot holes for the ground source heat pump mechanical heating and cooling system. Due to Minden’s high water table, this was deemed the most efficient system for maintaining climate control and is similar to what’s in use at the nearby courthouse.

There were numerous unexpected problems to be solved at every turn. “This building held a lot of secrets,” Richardson said. One was discovering a failed critical support beam in the main lobby that had to be replaced and then figuring out the fix without harming the original gilded ceiling.

But probably the most exceptional test was dealing with the 7,000-pound vault door (which still works) that was transformed into a showpiece conference table in the renovated vault off the lobby. “First we had to remove it without doing damage and store it,” Richardson said. “Fortunately we had assembled the right group of smart and skilled people, because we then had to figure out how to get it back through the front door with all the finishes in place.” How did they do it? Richardson said it’s a trade secret, but they had a lot of assistance from Industrial Logistics in Carson City.

The massive vault door table and many of the other creative ideas for the building evolved from the imagination of designer Daniel Krivens from Nichols Booth Architects in San Francisco. He has worked on other Bently projects since 2006, but this undertaking was particularly gratifying because “the building possessed an important feel; a grandeur in volume, order, historical beauty and timeless details,” he said. “It was exciting to salvage and give new life to so many artifacts — old hardware, doors, columns, the classic teller windows — which he views as “crafts that are the hallmark of our cultural heritage.”

Inspiration for the roof deck, Krivens explained, and the adjoining gathering space/meeting room, came as much from nature as it was intended to address form and function.

A priority was providing visual access to the mountains and surrounding countryside, including the pastures of Bently Ranch. “I wanted a simple space where you could watch a storm coming in, see plants moving in the wind and smell flowers, all while being protected,” he said. The space is a study in juxtaposition, balancing garden planters with a halo ring of skylights and solar tubes to provide natural illumination to interior spaces.

One of the biggest aesthetic, structural and energy efficiency wins, Krivens said are the 120 photo voltaic solar panels that generate 30 KW at their peak. They were chosen for their performance, but also because they allow light into patio and meeting room. “It looks like a magical, invisible frame, but it’s a big power generation machine.“


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