Unitil’s Seacoast Operations Center has caught the eye of the N.H. Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, which recently toured the Exeter facility to get a first-hand look at the many features that helped the building become the first in New Hampshire to earn WELL certification for its commitment to the health and well-being of the people inside.
Members of the N.H. Chapter and other guests, including representatives from companies involved in the building project, attended the event that highlighted key elements of the design and construction of the 54,000-square-foot regional facility, which opened in 2020 and is located at 30 Energy Way.
The visit followed the recent announcement that the building has received a WELL Certified Gold designation through a third-party verification of its adherence to the highest standards of health and wellness, including air quality, water quality, access to healthy food, mental health support, and other features. The WELL healthy building certification program is a performance-based system for measuring, certifying, and monitoring building features that can affect human health and well-being.
The building also holds LEED certification -- the world’s most widely used green building rating system.
“We all know that our surroundings can have a big impact on our health, safety and well-being. With those factors in mind, and our continued commitment to achieving our corporate sustainability goals, we’re pleased that with the help of our project partners we were able to create a building that’s been praised by the U.S. Green Building Council and could really serve as a model for future construction,” said Unitil External Affairs Manager Alec O’Meara. “When we built this facility, we wanted to ensure that we were providing a place where our employees would have a sense of belonging and feel connected and valued when they show up for work each day. We believe we accomplished that goal, which is supported by these dual certifications.”
Unitil is the only utility company in New England with a WELL Certified building.
Those on hand for the event included Unitil’s New Hampshire-based design and construction partners, including PROCON, LLC, the designer and construction manager; Stibler Associates, LLC, which provided space planning and interior design services; Resilient Buildings Group, which supported Unitil’s WELL and LEED Certification process; and GDS Associates, Inc., the building commissioning agent who also used energy simulation modeling to support the sustainable design process.
“Achieving both LEED and WELL Certifications is a landmark accomplishment by the Unitil project team. Their work provides a roadmap for future sustainable design and construction in the state,” said Mike Coty, co-chair of the N.H. Chapter of the USGBC.
The energy efficient building was designed with innovative features and technologies to promote the health and wellness of its occupants, including clean air and water systems, natural light, and access to outdoor spaces and a nearby trail network. Some LEED and WELL features include a system that collects stormwater from the roof to wash vehicles in the wash bay; a high-performance building envelope with 4-inch insulated metal wall panels (R-30) and R-41 insulation; use of biophilic design, including a living wall; EV charging stations in the building for fleet vehicles and outside for employees; vending with nutritional information available at point of purchase.
Following the recent tour, a panel discussion was held to answer questions and provide more insight into the certification process that could be helpful for other businesses exploring options for creating healthier and more sustainable buildings. Panelists included Sara Sankowich, Unitil's Director of Sustainability and Shared Services; Jason Kearns, Senior Fleet and Facilities Coordinator at Unitil who oversees the Exeter facility; Michael Lawrence, an associate principal at PROCON; Genella McDonald, president of Stibler Associates, LLC; Laura Samoisette of Resilient Buildings Group, who served as project administrator for both WELL and LEED certifications; and Jeremy Blanchard, Senior Project Manager at GDS Associates, Inc.
Front Photo: Sara Sankowich, Unitil's Director of Sustainability and Shared Services, and Jason Kearns, Senior Fleet and Facilities Coordinator at Unitil, display the plaques presented in recognition of the Seacoast Operations Center's WELL and LEED certifications.
Top Photo: Signs highlighting sustainable features are located throughout Unitil's Seacoast Operations Center in Exeter.