AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Projects

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Great River Energy Headquarters

In this photograph the reflection of a wind turbine in the building's glazing is visible.
Photo credit: Don F. Wong


  • Location: Maple Grove, MN
  • Climate Region: 6A: Cold - Humid
  • Building type(s): Commercial office
  • New construction
  • 166,000 ft2 (15,400 m2)
  • Project scope: 4-story building
  • Suburban setting
  • Completed March 2008
  • Rating: U.S. Green Building Council LEED-NC, v.2.2--Level: Platinum (56 points)

Great River Energy (GRE) is a not-for-profit, member-owned electric utility cooperative. As Minnesota's second-largest electric wholesale supplier, GRE generates and transmits electricity to 28 distribution cooperatives serving more than 620,000 residential, commercial, and industrial customers.

GRE's headquarters is housed in a 166,000 square foot, four-story office building with a concrete frame and glass curtain walls. The headquarters anchors Elm Creek Boulevard, a major thoroughfare in suburban Maple Grove, Minnesota, and overlooks Arbor Lake, a man-made lake resulting from gravel excavation. The site was designed to link GRE with Main Street, Arbor Lakes Retail District, and a metro-wide transit terminal, completing Maple Grove's community masterplan, which was created in the late 1990's.

The 12.5-acre site is designed to accommodate expansion of an additional 120,000 square feet. A future parking deck will fit within the surface lot without reducing green space, increasing runoff, or reducing existing bioswale capacity.

GRE's new office environment was designed to showcase workplace productivity, energy-efficient technologies, and a collaborative culture within the most electric-energy-efficient building in the state. GRE strives to demonstrate energy-efficient technologies that can be transferred to their customers and reduce future demand for fossil fuel-based electric generation.

This project was chosen as an AIA Committee on the Environment Top Ten Green Project for 2009. It was submitted by Perkins + Will in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Additional project team members are listed on the "Process" screen.

Environmental Aspects

GRE envisioned its new headquarters office building as a model of electric-efficient building solutions that could be adopted by electric co-op members across the state. Their principal goal was to reduce the demand for large, coal-fired generating plants and to meet new demand with wind power or other renewable energy sources.

A variety of building design strategies emerged, including: creating quality space rather than quantity of space; optimizing collaborative work areas; daylighting all work zones using narrow atria; reducing the CO2 footprint of the concrete; and demonstrating leading-edge applications of simple technologies. A few of these examples include using a remanufactured, commercial-scale, urban wind turbine and combining a water-source heat pump with low-velocity under-floor thermal displacement ventilation.

The combination of energy-efficiency with on-site renewable energy and modest amounts of grid-supplied green power reduces GRE's fossil fuel use by 75% and cuts CO2 emissions by 60%, meeting the 2015 goals of the 2030 Challenge. The project achieved these goals while providing abundant daylight and views to the exterior, exceptional indoor air quality, and a quality work environment within a reasonable budget—demonstrating that green design can be efficient, affordable, comfortable and healthy.

Owner & Occupancy

  • Owned by Great River Energy
  • Typically occupied by 425 people, 50 hours per person per week; and 150 visitors per week, 2 hours per visitor per week


Integrated team, Design charrette, Training, Simulation, Green specifications, Contracting, Commissioning, Performance measurement and verification, Operations and maintenance, Transportation benefits, Open space preservation, Indigenous vegetation, Stormwater management, Water harvesting, Efficient fixtures and appliances, Graywater, Massing and orientation, Insulation levels, Airtightness, HVAC, Lighting control and daylight harvesting, Efficient lighting, On-site renewable electricity, Adaptable design, Durability, Benign materials, Certified wood, C&D waste management, Occupant recycling, Connection to outdoors, Daylighting, Ventilation effectiveness, Thermal comfort, Low-emitting materials, Indoor air quality monitoring

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Last updated: 4/13/2009

Our thanks to the ENERGY STAR program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and to the U.S. Department of Energy, and to BuildingGreen, Inc. for hosting the submission and judging forms.

For more information about the AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Projects, contact AIA/COTE. For help on how to use this Web site, contact .

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