The Minnesota-based Ottertail Operations Center is attractive on the outside but, like my mother always says, it’s not what’s on the outside that’s important, it’s what’s on the inside that matters. This multifunctional facility is not only a beautiful building, but it’s also sustainable through and through — a rarity in rural areas such as this.

Located in Ottertail, about an hour-and-a-half southeast of Fargo, ND, the building functions as both the emergency operations center and a centrally located command post for the Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Department. The building’s green design is courtesy of Shultz & Associates, Ltd., an award-winning Fargo-based architectural firm. Part of their corporate goal is to create spaces that preserve the environment. The building has won a number of awards and is LEED Silver certified. LEED, also known as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is an internationally recognized green-building certification system. Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in March 2000, LEED provides building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green-building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions. And, according to the USGBC, LEED-certified projects cost less to operate and maintain, are energy and water efficient, have higher lease-up rates than conventional buildings in their markets and contribute to occupant health and productivity. The operations center is the first LEED facility in Otter Tail and surrounding counties. Here a few of the building’s green features:
  • Precast concrete sandwich panels provide the main structure for the building shell. They provide a combination of high R-factor and thermal mass (insulation), minimizing energy demand, especially during cold winters, which is important in this area of the country.
  • Recycled and waste stream materials were used whenever possible, including fly ash in all the concrete. Fly ash is a byproduct of coal-fired electric-generating plants. Using it offers environmental advantages by keeping the material out of the waste stream, conserving virgin materials while reducing the energy used to process them and reducing pollution.
  • Almost all of the waste stream makes use of native plants. According to Stewardship Garden, some of the benefits of native plants are that they don’t require fertilizers while needing fewer pesticides and less water than lawns.
Other facility features include automatic light dimming, low-water-usage plumbing fixtures, controlled harvesting of daylight and designated convenient parking stalls for pool/van parking in order to encourage carpooling and ride sharing. All materials were chosen to meet low VOC emission standards. With such a successful project to point to in the northern Minnesota region, it’s reasonable to assume more green buildings will follow in less densely populated areas.