Des Moines, Iowa

Located on a six-acre site that was once moldering landfill in Des Moines, a new complex for the Iowa Utilities Board and Office of Consumer Advocate is defying notions about what civic buildings look like, one sunlit, sustainably designed office at a time. This was all part of the two state agencies' plan to become models of energy efficiency and educate the community at large. The Des Moines office of Kansas City, Missouri'based BNIM was hired to accomplish these goals. 'Our general design philosophy is 'resolve, rigor, and restraint,' ' explains project architect Carey Nagle, describing the approach the firm took for this building, which came with a tight budget.

The result of BNIM's judicious strategy is a 44,700-square-foot building comprising two wings joined by a central lobby. The north wing, the larger of the two, contains the offices of the Iowa Utilities Board; the Office of Consumer Advocate occupies the south wing. BNIM designed the building to achieve an energy savings of 60 percent over the region's code baseline requirements and for optimum user comfort: the precast-concrete panels cladding the building are punctuated by large windows that allow daylight in and views out. Long and low, the office building has a quiet aesthetic that is meant to respect the older buildings in the nearby capitol complex, all while presenting a modest face for the agencies. 'We tried to meet the client's needs simply, with sustainable and traditional design,' explains Nagle.

For employees of the utilities board, the benefits are quantifiable: 98 percent of spaces have access to views and daylight, and 100 percent of occupants can get to a manually controlled window to let air in. The building's smart green systems have also made a mark: after two operational years, the annual energy savings amounts to nearly $42,000. At this rate, the utilities board will recoup its investment in these sustainable measures in less than four years. 'And we've heard that the building has greatly facilitated collaboration,' says Nagle. 'Folks don't see themselves as working individually anymore.'

317 6th Avenue 
Des Moines, IA 50309

Completion Date: April 2011

Gross square footage: 44,700 square feet

Total construction cost: $10.1 million


Owner: State of Iowa

317 6th Avenue 
Des Moines, IA 50309

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Principal in Charge: Rod Kruse
Project Architect: Carey Nagle
Project manager: Tom Hilton

Architect of record: BNIM

Interior designer: BNIM

Mechanical engineer: KJWW Engineers
Structural engineer: Charles Saul Engineering
Electrical engineer: KJWW Engineers
Civil engineer: Snyder and Associates
Geotechnical engineer: Team Services

Landscape: BNIM

Lighting: KJWW engineers

General contractor: J .P. Cullen 

Photographer(s): Farshid Assassi, Mike Sinclair

Renderer(s): BNIM

CAD system, project management, or other software used: Revit



Structural system
steel - central western fabricators
epic deck
Vulcraft joists

Exterior cladding:
 -exterior precast with Thermomass system
-VM Zinc, Quart Zinc

Firestone UltraPly TPO

Wausau entrance systems

Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope

Wausau storefront

Metal doors (aluminum framed glass doors):
Wausau entrance systems

Wood doors:
eggers doors

Upswinging doors, other: SkyFold Classic by SkyFold


Pulls:Rockwood, Sargent

Interior finishes
Acoustical ceilings: Hunter Douglas techstyle,

Wall technology's New Dimensions panels

RCS Millwork

Paints and stains:

Solid surfacing: Corian

Special surfacing: Flooring: ground and polished concrete by Retroplate

Floor and wall tile: Dal Tile 1”x1” Keystones (restroom walls)


Office furniture: Herman miller,

Reception furniture: Herman miller,

Chairs: Allsteel

Tables: Bernhardt

Interior ambient lighting: architectural lighting works

Downlights: architectural lighting works
De Ray Lighting

Task lighting: Herman miller,

Dimming System or other lighting controls: Johnson Controls

Elevators/Escalators: Kone Elevator

Hansgrohe faucets, Sloan Faucets, Elkay drinking fountains

Energy management or building automation system: Johnson Controls

Photovoltaic system: Solar World

Other unique products that contribute to sustainability:
Heat pumps by Trane
Geothermal system by A-One Geothermal
Jakob-Inox Greenscreen system

Add any additional building components or special equipment that made a significant contribution to this project:
Site and landscape products: Perficut