The Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) is known for leading the charge in solving all types of transportation problems. Over the last few years, TTI has developed a reputation as an environmentally conscious organization — and not just through its “green” research.
In 2005, the agency implemented its Energy Management and Conservation Plan, which guides the Institute toward making environmentally sound decisions as it grows.
“While we have always considered environmental management and sustainability when faced with decisions, the plan provided a platform to maximize our environmental efforts,” explains TTI Director of Facilities, Safety and Support Services Holly Crenshaw. “TTI is committed to good stewardship in all areas, and that certainly includes environmental management and sustainability.”
This commitment has led to a few more key efforts that highlight TTI‘s dedication to being an environmentally aware organization.
State Headquarters Research Building
The construction of TTI‘s new building has brought much excitement and anticipation. It represents many accomplishments but also exemplifies TTI‘s commitment to the environment. TTI will pursue a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification for the building. If certification is granted, TTI will be one of the first in The Texas A&M University System to receive the certification.
An enhanced energy management system, building design, construction materials and practices (such as landfill avoidance), and recycled materials are key components in the design/construction phases. A covered bike rack, showers and strategic use of windows are all building features with environmental motivations.
“Some of our employees ride bikes to work, so offering a covered bike rack, showers and locker rooms supports and encourages their using alternate forms of transportation,” says Crenshaw. “These features just make sense; they provide environmental benefits and offer our employees the necessary facilities to support those transportation modes, or, simply, to take a run after work.”
Regarding design, the only windows on the west side provide natural light for a stairwell and corridors. Approval was granted from the university’s Architectural Design Review Board for the windows on the south side to have a slight grey tint that will help reduce heat transfer. There is also less glass exposure on the south side.
In addition to the window layout, all walls in the building are insulated. Besides improving noise reduction, insulating interior walls helps reduce heat transfer and makes buildings more energy efficient. Ultimately, every aspect of this building was designed with energy management and sustainability in mind.
“The building architects, BRW Architects, and their LEED professional staff designed an outstanding facility that encompasses LEED requirements and occupant comfort,” states Crenshaw. “The general contractor, Vaughn Construction, carefully followed the LEED requirements and ensured compliance through all of their processes.”
Green Housekeeping Plan
Another aspect of the headquarters building is the green housekeeping plan. Executing this plan required deliberate attention to detail in the earliest planning stages of design because all materials, furnishings and cleaning products used in the building had to be certified Green Seal products.
Crenshaw asked Texas A&M’s Custodial Services to collaborate on a committee and revamp products, processes and training to support implementing a green housekeeping plan. If this is successful, the building should be the first in the A&M System to have a LEED green housekeeping plan.
A Toyota Camry Hybrid has been introduced to the TTI vehicle fleet. The response has been positive as users enjoy the car, and the 41 mpg during in-town use has been rewarding as well.
“While this hybrid represents TTI‘s environmental concern, we monitor the fuel efficiency of every vehicle in our fleet,” says Crenshaw. “Fuel efficiency is always considered along with functionality requirements when we make purchasing decisions.”
Efforts Will Continue
TTI‘s efforts toward sustainability and environmental practices will continue. Currently, Crenshaw, who has been appointed to Texas A&M’s Sustainability and Environmental Management Council, is serving as chair for the university’s recycling task force and is looking into an enhanced recycling program that would go above and beyond what is now in place. “While the TTI Facilities, Safety and Support Services Program will facilitate the recycling plans, participation by all employees will ensure success,” notes Crenshaw.
“It is the responsibility of everyone to be good stewards of what they have, and we are proud to be an organization that cares for the environment. We aim to do things better, and cleaner, too,” explains TTI Director Dennis Christiansen. “TTI continues to pursue excellence and innovation in every aspect of our work.”