GRAND FORKS BUSINESS: Looking greener all the timeAE2S, ICON move into high-tech, green building
The glimmering new $7.5 million corporate headquarters of Advanced Engineering and Environmental Services Inc. and the ICON Architectural Group in Grand Forks is an interesting mix of form and function. It features modern design, the latest in technology and a number of green building elements.
The glimmering new $7.5 million corporate headquarters of Advanced Engineering and Environmental Services Inc. and the ICON Architectural Group in Grand Forks is an interesting mix of form and function.
It features modern design, the latest in technology and a number of green building elements. But it was also built with an eye on practicality, maximizing the use of space and flexibility. Restraint was shown to avoid adding unnecessary extras.
“As a pragmatic engineer, my favorite part about green building is when it makes sense,” AE2S CEO Steve Burian said. “I didn’t want to just throw stuff on to check a box. I wanted to do stuff that makes sense.”
The three-story, 43,000-square-foot building just east of South 42nd Street near the Alerus Center and Canad Inns hotel has a geothermal heating and cooling system. Other green building features include energy-efficient glass, motion-sensing lights, waterless urinals and low-flow plumbing fixtures. Reclaimed wood and other recycled and locally produced materials were also used.
A long stormwater retention pond flanked by retaining walls outside is used for irrigation for landscaping at the site, with the rest slowly draining into the city sewer. Clumps of grass grow surrounded by pavers set up to aid drainage in part of the parking lot, another green touch and a nod to much of the water, wastewater and stormwater consulting work performed by AE2S.
“The new building gave us an opportunity to try out some things in our own facility,” said Shawn Gaddie, the operations and project manager for AE2S’ Grand Forks office staff, which moved into the new facility about a month ago. Gaddie said some of the property’s unique features allow the company to show clients how they look and work in a practical application.
ICON and AE2S did most of the design and engineering work on the joint venture. The two firms co-own the land and each own or share different parts of the building, including a 15,000-square-foot underground parking garage and three 2,000-square-foot spaces on the first floor that will be leased out or used for future growth.
Mike Kuntz, ICON’s co-founder, said the building’s design will be submitted for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design approval. He said LEED Gold or Platinum certification will be sought for the project from the U.S. Green Building Council.
But Kuntz said the building’s value goes beyond its sustainable design and energy efficiency.
“We wanted to make sure we weren’t doing ridiculous things just so we could say we were green,” he said. “This isn’t the most expensive building in Grand Forks, but I would argue that it is as nice as any building in the city.”
The project received a step-down tax abatement from the city for the first five years and tax-free bonding assistance.
Room to grow
Both companies had outgrown their former locations and were looking for new corporate headquarters facilities with room to spare.
AE2S, which was founded in 1991 by Burian and President Charlie Vein, had run out of space in its former location on South Washington Street as the company’s corporate staff and Grand Forks office staff ballooned from about 25 total employees six years ago to 53 today.
“We were really to the point where we were using hallway space and corners, and it was getting to the point where it was a little inefficient,” Burian said. “The new location is nicer, it’s much more spacious and it’s more efficient.”
AE2S, which has 11 offices spread throughout North Dakota, Minnesota and Montana, celebrated the addition of its 100th employee last April. Today, there are 145 employees companywide.
ICON, which was founded by Kuntz and Todd Mitzel in 2002, had similarly outgrown its cramped quarters at UND’s Center for Innovation.
“We were bursting at the seams over there,” Kuntz said. “We were in two different suites with no room to expand. The space constraint is gone now, so we can focus on growth.”
Kuntz said the new facility allowed ICON to expand its Grand Forks staff from three to 18 employees. ICON also has a Fargo office and additional employees in Bismarck and Brookings, S.D.
Even though the two companies have moved into the same building and have worked on projects together in the past, they say they will continue to maintain their existing relationship with other clients.
With the exception of the exterior walls and a few permanent interior walls, most of the walls within the building are movable, allowing for greater flexibility.
A month before it moved into the new space, AE2S changed much of the layout of the second and third floors, including moving the library to allow for room for more staff on the second floor, which houses the Grand Forks office.
The second floor also features an outdoor deck next to the AE2S lunchroom and adjacent to a training room that can be used as one large room or partitioned into two rooms.
AE2S’ corporate conference room features large windows overlooking UND’s Ray Richards Golf Course — one of four places in the building equipped with video conferencing technology.
A large LED panel capable of displaying large photos and graphics is also planned for the building’s exterior.
More growth planned
ICON also owns three two-acre lots surrounding the property, one south of the building and two to the west bordering South 42nd Street.
Kuntz said the firm plans to build spec buildings on all three sites within the next three to four years.
He said construction is expected to begin this fall on a multilevel building to the south of the new corporate facility that would mix office and residential space.
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