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General John W. Vessey Readiness Center Receives LEED Gold® Certification

The LEO A DALY-designed project, home to the 34th Infantry Division Red Bulls, is part of ongoing efforts to rehabilitate the Minnesota site after decades of contamination

Gen. John W. Vessey Readiness Center is LEED Gold Certified

We are pleased to announce that the General John W. Vessey Readiness Center in Arden Hills, Minnesota, winner of the Society of American Military Engineers Grand Design Award 2022, has been awarded LEED Gold® certification. The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED® green building program is the preeminent program for the design, construction, maintenance and operations of high-performance green buildings.  

LEO A DALY provided architectural design and mechanical, electrical, and structural engineering for the 500,000-SF facility, which is the new headquarters of the Minnesota Army National Guard 34th Red Bull Infantry Division. Damon Farber provided landscape architecture.

One of the most storied divisions in National Guard history, the Red Bulls have faithfully served their local communities for more than 100 years in response to fire, flood, search and rescue activities, in addition to participating in warfighting efforts when called.

“This project exemplifies, in a very tangible way, LEO A DALY’s commitment to innovative design that is rooted in social and ecological responsibility,” LEO A DALY President Steven Lichtenberger, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP, said. “Our integrated design process helped us to make design decisions that improved the building and site, made sense for the owner, and reduced carbon emissions.” 


Restoring ecological balance 

This project is part of a continuing effort to rehabilitate the site’s rural Minnesota ecosystem after decades of contamination. Formerly the location of the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant, the site was used during World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam conflict to manufacture more than 16.5 billion rounds of small-arms ammunition. It was named a Superfund site in 1983, and in the years since has been the target of extensive environmental investigation and remediation.  

LEO A DALY’s design contributes to these efforts through a master-planning, landscape and architectural approach aimed at protecting biodiversity, improving local waterways and minimizing greenhouse gas emissions.  

With the aid of a National Guard environmental expert, the facility and site features were organized around the habitats and nesting patterns of protected bird species and the Blanding’s turtle, an endangered species. The existing drainage patterns, wetlands, and arrangement of mature forest growth guided the positioning of the building, parking lots, and landscaping. Native plantings surround the facility, mitigating the need for irrigation and maintenance with fuel-powered equipment. Impervious surfaces are offset through natural, onsite infiltration and treatment strategies. 

Architecture in harmony with site 

The design responds to the natural terrain and ecosystems of the Arden Hills Army Training Site. Set within a rolling natural landscape, the building strikes a low, linear presence, disguising its expansive scale. The dark, textured façade recedes into the natural surroundings in a shadow-like manner, background to the textures and colors of the tree canopy it is placed carefully within.  

This reverential theme is juxtaposed with an iconic red array of vertical sunshades, expressing the strength and fortitude of the Red Bulls. In addition to the vertical expression of the sunshades, the black, textured concrete facades are subdivided by soaring slivers of vertical glass, providing striking reflections of the foliage and sky as passive camouflage.    

The interior design focuses on connection, flexibility, and wellness. Anchored by a high volume, two-story (above grade) central common area, occupants maintain a visual connection between floors through a large floor opening at the center of the lobby and views in every direction to the tree canopies surrounding the site.   

“The facility performs naturally as a complex system, working with the climatic realities of the northern location while prioritizing a visual connection for its occupants to the surrounding environment,” said Linn Bjornrud, architect with LEO A DALY. 

Passive and active carbon reduction 

The project minimizes its carbon footprint through an efficient design and renewable energy strategies, which reduce the building’s Energy Use Intensity 87 percent from baseline. The building uses geothermal heat pumps, photovoltaic arrays, and energy-efficient systems, including demand control ventilation, to maximize efficiency.  

26,000-SF of the space is served by an underfloor air distribution system to improve ventilation effectiveness, allowing for reduction of air-conditioning-related energy use. This system was partitioned underfloor to create zones for spaces used regularly and those used only on drill weekends. All DOAS units serving heat pumps and the VAV air handler serving the underfloor space are connected to a geothermal heat pump loop consisting of 240 wells, each 150-feet deep. 

LED lights are used throughout the building, with occupancy and daylighting controls to minimize energy usage. Tubular skylights dappling the roof of the office wing fill the workplace with natural light. On a typical day, no artificial light is needed.

“This readiness center demonstrates the ability to have aggressive sustainability goals while maintaining economical design,” Bjornrud added. “We considered sustainability goals with every design decision and those decisions will pay dividends throughout the life of this building.” 

As construction contractor for the project, Minneapolis-based Stahl Construction played a key role throughout the certification process.