Industries Commercial Real Estate

Best Industrial Project

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PROJECT:
GRTC Transit System , 301 E. Belt Blvd., Richmond

Owner:
GRTC

Contractor:
Howard Shockey & Sons Inc.

Architect:
KEI Architects

Engineer:
Gannett Fleming Inc.


Try running a passenger bus operation out of a terminal originally designed for electric trolleys. That’s what Richmond-based GRTC Transit System was up against for decades until last year’s opening of a new, $38 million headquarters facility. 

Today, instead of operating out of eight separate buildings at its old location in the city’s Fan District, all of the company’s 560 employees in administration, operations and maintenance work out of a 123,000-square-foot structure nationally recognized as one of the best.  “Now we don’t have to expend personnel, time and money to move vehicles around to various properties,” says Stephen McNally, GRTC’s project administrator.

While bus bays and fuel islands may not sound sexy, the sleek design of GRTC’s facility garnered a Best Project of the Year award in 2010 in the industrial category from Mid-Atlantic Construction Magazine.  The annual competition recognizes construction and design excellence in a region that includes Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

The magazine lauded the project team for overcoming site challenges to create a 21st–century home for the 188-bus public transit company. Before GRTC purchased the 12-acre site in 2006, it was littered with debris and metal from demolished buildings. “It was a contaminated site with asbestos, which had to be cleaned up prior to construction and during construction,” said Michael Lee, the project manager for Gannett Fleming, the project’s engineering consultant. 

Plus, the land wasn’t easy to access. It was hemmed in on the rear by a CSX railroad right of way and by businesses on the other sides. “It wasn’t like it was some big, open site … What made it challenging was coming up with a design that met all of their operational requirements within the confines of the site,” says Lee.

Another goal that made the project stand out: The facility is the first public building in Richmond to attain a silver certification under the LEED program (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) of the U.S. Green Building Council. To that end, the design and engineering team came up with a building — a 22,360-square-foot administration area and a 101,266-square-foot maintenance operation — that includes several measures to save energy. 

For instance, the ventilation and heat recovery units on the roof extract heat from the building’s exhaust stream and preheat incoming fresh air to save about 20 percent in heating energy costs.  In the maintenance area, there are 21 bays, providing plenty of space for repairs and washing. A reclamation system recycles water, and a zero-emission paint booth helps eliminate fumes.  Even the roof over the bus washing area is put to use: It serves as an outdoor patio for the bus operators.

McNally marvels that the company has been able to cut its energy usage by nearly 50 percent a year since moving into the building in January 2010. “That’s a savings of about $200,000.”  He also likes to point out that the project was completed six weeks early and came in $1.8 million under budget — an impressive feat even for a company used to running on a schedule. 


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