By Hannah Fleck

The space at 1221 Pennsylvania Street was originally the Indianapolis FBI headquarters built in 1968. Guidon purchased the space in 2018 to renovate to be their new headquarters location in Indianapolis. The building was abandoned for many years and is now a transformational project for the Old Northside neighborhood. Guidon Headquarters (Guidon HQ) received the first LEEDv4 Platinum certification in the state of Indiana in October of 2019. The following is a bit about the LEED certification process and the credits that were achieved at Guidon HQ.

When an owner approaches a team with a desire to obtain a LEED certification for their building, the first question to ask is where the building is located. Building location sets the tone for the rest of the project’s certification. The first cache of points is allocated under the category of Location and Transportation. Preliminary research on the property location will indicate how many points the project can receive in this category. For example, at Guidon HQ it was determined there was a nearby bicycle network and providing bike racks and shower rooms could earn these points. Secure bicycle storage and showers encourages employees to incorporate alternative transportation options into their personal lifestyle.

Furthermore, the building is located near local amenities and basic services including the Monon Trail, the cultural trail, downtown public library, and a variety of restaurants. Mass transit stops are located within walking distance of the building. An electric vehicle charging station is also available. Electric vehicles have zero emissions and do not rely on fossil fuels to keep people moving.

The next category to explore is Energy and Atmosphere. The most points are housed here, and it is good practice to start looking at these points early. Engagement by the team and the owner early in the process can set the project up for remarkable success down the road. An owner needs to push their team to deliver a high-performance building that integrates architecture, mechanical engineering, and commissioning. Early conversations between the owner and team members create alignment around aggressive energy goals.

A key goal of Guidon HQ was a very low 28 kbtu/sf/yr EUI (energy use intensity) goal. The team focused on the building envelope, the mechanical systems, and the commissioning process to meet this objective. The Guidon HQ building envelope uses a combination of spray foam and batt insulation.  These +R19 walls introduce continuous insulation that seals the perimeter and keeps costs low.

The team evaluated energy models at the beginning of the process to select an HVAC system. An air cooled Variable Refrigerant Volume (VRV) system was selected, to balance efficiency with first cost. This highly efficient system paired with an Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV) works to reuse all available heating /cooling in the building. Guidon HQ performs 85 percent better than an average office building and 50 percent above ASHARE 90.1 2010 baseline. There is a photovoltaic system which includes 92 panels, providing 32 kW of power. This accounts for 30 percent of the building’s projected energy use over the course of the year. The commissioning process ensured the systems and envelope were working as designed.

Guidon exterior front

The sites team should be engaged early during the LEED Certification process. Building orientation and heat island effect can have dramatic effects on the energy consumption as well. The Sustainable Sites category has points allocated for site design. Guidon HQ was bound by a zero-lot line, making achievement in this category difficult. The project earned exemplary performance in the Heat Island Reduction category. This was achieved using a white TPO membrane roof, small green roof installation, and covered parking.

Engagement by the plumbing engineer is essential to meeting the points in the Water Efficiency category. They set the schedule for the fixtures which can have a big impact on the building’s performance. Owners can be reluctant to incorporate low-flow fixtures into their project for fear of complaints, but there are some good products on the market that perform well and are low flow. 

Guidon HQ uses ultra-low flow toilets (1.1 gallons per flush), waterless urinals, faucet aerators (0.35 gallons per minutes), and low flow shower heads (1.5 gallons per minutes). This results in a total savings of nearly 52,000 gallons per year.

The interiors team will need to get more involved as design progresses to ensure that the Materials and Resource credits are set up for success. Product selection and specification review are equally important to achievement of these credits as the role of the contractor who will purchase and document these products.

At Guidon HQ over 50 percent of the original exterior building surface (exterior brick) was reused. Over 75 percent of the existing structure was reused and the original 1962 terrazzo stair was restored at a fraction of the cost of a new stair. All the materials in the building were carefully selected based on the amount of recycled content, regional content, availability of a product lifecycle analysis, availability of an environmental product declaration, and emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Over 25 percent of the purchased materials in the building by cost have recycled content.

The Indoor Environmental Quality points are an opportunity for the owner to showcase their commitment to the health and well-being of their employees. Early in the design, daylighting was identified as a key project goal.  A lightwell with a vegetated roof turned an unattractive portion of the building into the space with the best light and views. To provide daylight in interior offices, daylight diffusion (Solatubes) was incorporated. Spaces are paired with daylight sensors and dimming to harvest daylight and reduce the overall electric use in the building. Over 50 percent of the regularly occupied space met the requirement for the daylight credit threshold.

Guidon panels

The products used in Guidon HQ were carefully selected and monitored to ensure the best possible indoor environment for building occupants. Adhesives, sealants, paints, and interior finishes have low or no emitted chemicals to improve the indoor air quality and reduces occupant irritation and allergies. Over 75 percent of these products meet strict regulatory requirements.

Finally, the Innovation in Design category is an opportunity for the owner and team to go the distance on credit achievement either through earning exemplary performance in one of the credits or through a custom credit achievement path.

Guidon HQ earned the Biophilic Design Point through a close study of the opportunities presented at the site. These included maximizing park-like views of the neighboring President Benjamin Harrison Site’s lawn to the west of the site. A more urban view can be found at the east side of the building. Collaborative space and a conference room were programmed next to this view shed to maximize the amount of people who can experience the different sides of Indianapolis. To further the celebration of culture in Indianapolis each meeting space is named after a different local neighborhood. These create gathering points that honor our urban culture, an important tenant of biophilic design.

Guidon HQ supports ongoing sustainability efforts of tracking performance and encouraging responsible waste handling including things like composting food waste, recycling, and quarterly durable electronic recycling drives. To learn more about Guidon Design visit www.guidondesign.com.


Hannah Fleck has worked for Guidon since 2014 as a sustainability engineer. At Guidon, she has designed green infrastructure projects and led teams through the LEED certification process. She has been involved with USGBC Indiana for the past 6 years and is the recorder of the Market Leadership Advisory Board and chair of the local Women in Green committee.

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