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A Powerful Tribute

Provo Power leads the community in power savings

Provo Power Top Honors 1
Photo: Lindsay Daniels, Layton Construction

The new Provo Power building in Provo, Utah, pays tribute to the company’s history as the largest municipally owned electric utility in the state, starting in 1940. Also known as “The Energy Department,” Provo Power operates and maintains over 35,000 meters, 380 miles of distribution lines, 48 miles of high-voltage distribution lines and 18 substation transformers.

Nathan Leavitt, AIA, associate principal at VCBO Architecture, Salt Lake City, says the company wanted a progressive work environment for its employees. “Designing a facility that would not only meet their current needs but give them flexibility in the future was critical,” he explains. “A focus on collaborative work environments and multipurpose spaces were important to the owner and the design team. Special attention was given to providing spaces that bring coworkers together. Some of these spaces such as conference rooms have doors, but others are situated within open office environments and are meant for more casual interactions.”

According to Leavitt, the company also recognized the advantages of having a very prominent location in downtown Provo, allowing them to respond quicker. However, he says, the risk was that such an industrial facility would not fit within the urban fabric of the city. “The building’s close position to the street and block corner, along with a careful choice of materials and building massing, helped solve those concerns.”

The hybrid building is made up of a 17,500-square-foot pre-engineered metal building from Nucor Building Systems, Waterloo, Ind., which is used as a maintenance facility for the company’s fleet of service vehicles, along with a 34,900-square-foot structural steel building that houses the company’s administration offices.

The pre-engineered structure is ideal for the garage’s repetitive nature, Leavitt explains. “We realized early on that using a pre-engineered building for the garage would save money and allow Provo Power the ability to put more of their funds into the public face of the building,” he says. “The structural steel building allowed us to provide a more dynamic building massing along the street frontage.

“A great deal of effort went in to blending the two building structures together. By specifying a custom color for the insulated metal panels we were able to match the color of the [Alpolic aluminum composite material (ACM) from Mitsubishi Chemical Composites America Inc., Chesapeake, Va.]. This, along with the use of brick accents, aesthetically tied the two structures together.”

The maintenance building features R-30 rigid insulation and a membrane roof with horizontal, 2-inch-thick insulated metal wall panels from All Weather Insulated Panels, Vacaville, Calif. Used for its economy and simplicity, Leavitt says having a product that provides the entire envelope system, and is both the interior and exterior finish, are attractive features.

Provo Power-Top Honors-2

Photo: Lindsay Daniels, Layton Construction

The LEED Gold-certified facility opened in October 2016 and is home to more than 60 employees. The building offers the best in the latest technology and efficiency, and includes solar panel-covered truck parking canopies and EV car charging stations. “The facility is centrally located in the city, on a Brownfield site, close to mass transit and is oriented on the block for maximum daylighting opportunities,” Leavitt adds. “Under the ACM panels we specified thermally broken fiberglass furring and rock wool insulation, which gives the building a robust envelope. Other features include a VRF mechanical system and LED lighting, which brings the building to well under code-stipulated energy consumption minimums.”

Leavitt says LEED Gold certification was important to the company, and their commitment to energy efficiency was evident from day one. “[Provo Power] feels the need to be a leader in their community, illustrating by example how others can use energy wisely,” he says. “VCBO strives to always give our clients a building that respects the environment, but this owner allowed us to go further than most.”

Provo Power wanted to honor and publicly display its 75-year history, and knowing the public lobby might be the only space some will see, VCBO put a great deal of effort into designing displays for the area, including a time line featuring important moments in the company’s history, which is featured along one side of the lobby. Salvaged architectural elements from the original power plant are also showcased, along with the original precast concrete Provo Power logo, which is displayed prominently above the reception desk. Other artifacts on display include an original generator control panel, historical electrical meters and vintage photographs.

In addition to these displays, Leavitt says architectural cues were taken from the old power plant to inform the new building’s exterior façade, including window openings and the brick itself, which are very reminiscent of the old structure.