Idaho State University's Center for Advanced Energy Studies

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  • Owner: State of Idaho, Idaho State University
  • Location: Idaho Falls, ID
  • Building Type: Office and Laboratory
  • Size: 55,600 SF
  • Completion Date: August 2008
  • Utilities: Idaho Falls Power, Intermountain Gas Company
  • Architect:  GSBS Architect
  • Mechanical Engineer: Colvin Engineering
  • Electrical Engineer: Spectrum Engineers
  • Design-Build Contractor: Big-D Construction
  • Region: Mountain West
  • ICC Zone: 5B


The Center for Advanced Energy Studies (CAES) building is operated by Idaho State University (ISU) and is located on the University Place campus in Idaho Falls.  It is directly adjacent to the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) campus.  The CAES organization is a public-private partnership that comprises the three Idaho public universities, Boise State University, ISU, and the University of Idaho.  The building houses INL researchers and academic research faculty from all three universities.  The space program includes full service research laboratories with offices meeting rooms and other support spaces.  The CAES organization mission states that it “delivers innovative, cost-effective, credible energy research leading to sustainable technology-based economic development.” 

In 2005, Sue Seifert, Commercial Building Energy Efficiency Specialist at the Idaho Office of Energy Resources (OER), received a grant from the US Department of Energy, to conduct a cost and benefit comparison study of designing a LEED building for a major State of Idaho project.  The grant included resources to facilitate two early charrettes, an owner and user visioning charrette and a schematic design charrette that included multiple design and construction disciplines.  The grant also paid for ongoing analysis of the costs and benefits associated with constructing the first LEED building commissioned for a state agency.  OER contracted with Ken Baker of K Energy to help facilitate this process. According to Baker, “This project was unique because it was the first endeavor on the part of an agency or university in Idaho to design and build a LEED building.”  Together, they identified the CAES building, still in the preliminary visioning stage, as the appropriate project through which to carryout this research.  Why the CAES building?  Baker, offered this answer, “It is so important to have a strong leader with decision making authority who is determined to achieve the energy efficiency and LEED goals set out for this project.”  He continued, “Darrel Buffaloe, at ISU, had a strong history of demonstrated leadership for reducing energy use in existing campus facilities and we thought he was the right person to champion the first LEED building completed by the State.”

The initial visioning charrette included all the key stakeholders from the universities, INL, and the Division of Public Works (DPW) and was held in November 2005 prior to selecting a design team.  Several key goals and process expectations emerged from that meeting and these were written into the request for proposals (RFP) for design and construction services.  First, it was determined that a design-build team would be best suited to deliver the project on time and on budget.   Second, the RFP stated that the building must use at least 50% less energy than the current energy code (at the time, the International Energy Conservation Code 2003, similar to ASHRAE 90.1 2001).  Third, the building must achieve, at a minimum, a LEED Silver certification.  “Setting these goals, prior to the RFP was important in order to set the expectations for the design-build team and have concrete terms of success for the project” said Sue Seifert.

The design-build team selected was lead by Big-D Construction, and included GSBS Architects and Colvin Engineering, all out of Salt Lake City, UT.  They had experience working together and had completed several LEED buildings already.  In the spring of 2006, Baker and the University of Idaho Integrated Design Lab (IDL) led a schematic design charrette that included all the key stakeholders as well as the full design team.  Climate responsive design strategies were discussed and an energy programming exercise was conducted and resulted in suggested organization for space types and arrangements with consideration of internal loads, daylighting, and visual and thermal comfort criteria.  One refinement to the previous goals was made, and that was to modify the energy goal from 50% below ASHRAE 90.1 2001 to 35% below ASHRAE 90.1 2004.  “This was a bit of a disappointment, but was agreed to as a reasonable compromise since 90.1 2004 was more stringent than the code in place when the goal was set” said Kevin Van Den Wymelenberg, Director of the IDL. 

Setting these goals resulted in a successful design-build project that earned a LEED Gold certification and was modeled to perform 38% below ASHRAE 90.1 2004.  Without stating these goals explicitly in the visioning charrette it is unlikely that the building would have achieved this level of design performance

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