Wednesday, April 21, 2010

HITT Hits a Home Run with New Falls Church Facility

They say all that glitters isn’t gold. Sometimes it’s silver, and that’s the goal for Falls Church, Va.-based HITT Contracting Inc.

Seven months into its brand new 140,000 s.f. facility at 2900 Fairview Park Drive (HITT occupies 2 1/2 floors of the four-story building), the 73-year-old company with annual revenue of more than $900 million and 700 employees in five cities has just finished the LEED certification commissioning process, with Silver a viable prize.

Occupying only 6 percent of a 17-acre Fairview Park campus, reduced site disturbance was one of many objectives on HITT’s relocation agenda. The company was compelled to move from five disjointed buildings in another part of Falls Church due to a consistent growth pattern. But housing approximately 400 Falls Church-based employees and showcasing its business weren’t the only goals that HITT, with 47 green building projects in various stages of development or completion, wanted to meet. Working closely with owner/developers Fairview Property Investments, LLC and Rushmark Properties, LLC, along with Noritake Architects and interior designer Susan Stine, principal of Red Team Strategies, HITT chose to become a beacon of green construction in its own right.

“From the beginning we took the approach from a LEED perspective that we want to do things that make sense,” said Kim Pexton, HITT’s Director of Sustainable Construction, a LEED-accredited professional (AP) since 2001 and former 5-year member of the local U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) national capital region board. “But we don’t want to fit a square peg in a round hole. If there are particular credits and design requirements behind those credits that don’t make sense for us and our facility and our beliefs, we said we’re not going to do it. …We just wanted to do what we felt was right,” she affirmed.

To that end, and with the responsibility of maintaining its vast, gently sloping campus, HITT worked with landscape architects Rhodeside & Harwell, Inc. to institute rain gardens as part of a storm water management system (gardens for this purpose are not a LEED requirement). Utilizing a native and drought-tolerant planting scheme requiring no permanent irrigation system (LEED compliant, if one elects to have a garden, when pursuing water efficiency credits), the rain gardens treat runoff from the upper half of the parking lot. Without these gardens, untreated water would flow directly into the site’s storm water management ponds.

Two storm water management ponds - one large and considered primary - receive rainwater diverted through the gardens from other places on the property, some channeled by strategically placed regionally-imported boulders (rather than unattractive culverts and drainpipes), with suspended solids and phosphates settling into the ponds. The water then goes back into the watershed. To enlighten visitors about the way it works, with green education part of the LEED accreditation process, a series of recycled signs made of resin and metal with a VOC-free printing process punctuate the site.

Roots and Reflective Materials

Stine, who first designed the company’s headquarters 17 years ago, recalled that W.A. HITT Decorating Co. started as a tiny, family run business during the Great Depression. Co-founder and matriarch Myrtle Hitt, who Stine knew personally, worked and handwrote checks until a week before she died at the age of 90. Current Chairman Russell Hitt, Warren (W.A.) and Myrtle’s son, is credited with growing the business into a world class interior contractor. Though the mantle has been passed to Co-presidents James Millar and grandson Brett Hitt, Russell – with a proclivity for the word “howdy” and a legendary perfectionism that included taking a hammer to a wall of which he didn’t approve – reportedly still gets to work at 4 a.m. each day, crossing HITT’s light reflective outdoor concrete surfaces or “impervious paving.” According to Pexton, these surfaces, as opposed to blacktop, reduce the heat island effect. She noted they also have a white reflective membrane on the roof instead of a traditional black roof, which reduces roof temperatures by 30 degrees. “It has a huge impact on interior spaces and your overall demand for cooling,” she explained.

The building’s interior includes an aptly named “Redskins room” replete with leather recliners and a 50-inch flat screen TV. Other entities include a training room for ongoing classes, café for breakfast and lunch, coffee bar, reprographics shop, dry cleaning drop-off and pick-up point, hair salon (by appointment), and a 5,180 s.f. warehouse for building materials with protective plywood walls recycled from its former headquarters. Estimated to use 46 percent less water than the previous building, plumbing fixtures are dual flush with waterless urinals in the men’s rooms. Pexton said HITT met the LEED innovative wastewater technology requirement, which is to reduce sewerage conveyance by 50 percent. A ladies room across from the company’s fitness center boasts a steam shower and also a wheelchair accessible/no threshold shower, with fitness center floors made of recycled rubber. Sweeping glass doors open from the center of the gym provide access to a walking/bike path.

See and Be Seen

According to Stine, HITT’s lighting system uses T5 technology. Ninety-seven percent is motion sensor-triggered, including office task lighting, with metal halide systems in open work areas to cut down on wattage. Overhead lighting is reduced by about half from the old building, attributed in part to 25-30 percent more glass in the new facility. From most points in the building, employees have great views to the outside and a lot of natural light coming in. In fact, two of the facility’s three reclaimed White Oak staircases are glassed in and by their nature motivate employees to use them instead of elevators - a large part of the design statement and criteria, Stine said.

With visibility key in every sense of the word, in its continuing pursuit of business HITT liberally uses interior glass to display its bid room – the company’s nerve center – to clients and other guests, as well as in its recruitment strategy. James Landefeld, senior vice president of major projects, explained that the bid room’s 16 equally-spaced hanging microphones have replaced the relic spider phones in most conference rooms' middle of the table, allowing up to 32 seated staff to simultaneously participate in conference calls with subcontractor prospects. The room is also equipped for video conferencing, which according to Landefeld will come in handy for long distance meetings as HITT embarks on a $62 million Tier III data center for the Denver Federal Center. While placed outside the bid room for all-company access, a computer operated "Bid Board" that is displayed on a 65" monitor has replaced the traditional white board in terms of efficiency.

With 3,000 projects on its dance card each year and a campus designed to facilitate business into the future, HITT remains committed to life in its present environment. Casting an eye to the very distant future, however, the building was conceptualized to accommodate multi-tenants with minimal incursion into its current design, yet another hallmark of its sustainability.


Unknown on Apr 22, 2010, 2:42:00 PM said...

Good to see such an attractive and well thought out space highlighted in this newsletter!

Anonymous said...

I been in the new Hitt offices and the space works wonderfully, the public areas are impressive indepth and finish, the departmental work areas are well defined, and the environment speaks well of the emphaisis on quality which the owners/builders represented by their workmanship.

Yoko Gallishaw, Noritake Associates on Apr 23, 2010, 3:13:00 PM said...

As the design architect, I am delighted to see the building receive such a wonderful review. This project was a true team effort and it was an honor to have had the opportunity to help shape this.

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