Apex Clean Energy

ERIN EDGERTON/THE DAILY PROGRESS

Builders Ben McMunn (from left), Mike Castle, Mark Hourigan and Bruce Watenpaugh gather to sign the first wood plank of Apex Clean Energy’s new eight-story office building in downtown Charlottesville on Tuesday.

When your company creates clean energy generation facilities across the country, your new company headquarters building better follow in the same footsteps.

Charlottesville-based Apex Clean Energy, which has helped to develop solar and wind energy farms in Oklahoma, Texas, Illinois and Michigan, is doing just that. The firm is partnering with Riverbend Development, Hourigan Development and architectural firm William McDonough + Partners to build a new 187,000-square-foot, eight-story headquarters at 100 Garrett St., a few blocks from the Downtown Mall.

The building will eschew the concrete-steel-glass construction norm, opting instead for cross-laminated timber beams. The building also will feature 875 solar panels mounted to the roof and canopies and high-efficiency mechanical systems.

The building’s solar panels are expected to generate enough energy each year to offset the company’s power usage, resulting in zero net use, officials said. Using sustainably harvested mass timber will decrease the carbon footprint of the building by an estimated 3,000 metric tons, Apex officials estimate.

“We’re changing the way people think of building materials, the way people think about the use of materials,” Mark Goodwin, Apex president and CEO, said at the company’s official groundbreaking Tuesday. “We’re a Charlottesville company and are committed to being near the Downtown Mall. That was our first commitment. What we’re also about is decarbonizing the grid and we adopted a new core to be sustainable.”

Cross-laminated timber is constructed in a way that’s similar to plywood; wood grains go against each other to add strength to the timbers. The construction is known for its high-efficiency strength and fire-resistance and can be pre-cut and delivered to speed construction.

“It’s already the next big idea in the building industry,” said William McDonough, a former dean of the University of Virginia School of Architecture whose firm William McDonough + Partners designed the building. “We’re doing another large building in the Midwest and one in the Silicon Valley with cross-laminated timber, but Charlottesville will get the first one.”

McDonough said the timber-constructed building will sit atop a multi-level concrete parking structure wthat will provide enough space for the building’s tenants and replacement parking for members of ACAC Fitness & Wellness, who currently use the parking lot on which the building is sited.

The garage also will include electric vehicle charging stations and indoor bicycle storage.

“It was so exciting to talk with people who think this way naturally,” McDonough said of Apex officials and the need for a carbon-neutral footprint. “In our conversations, doing the right thing was the first thing and then doing it the right way came next. It’s important to do the right thing the right way. This is about business, after all.”

Apex will lease 84,000 square feet of the building, equal to the top building’s top three floors, to house offices for its 170 local employees. Currently, the company leases space across three different buildings in Charlottesville.

“When the company began as Greenlight Energy 10 years ago, we were all able to yell across the hall at each other to make sure everyone knew what we were doing and we were on the same page,” Goodwin recalled. “As we’ve grown, we’ve moved into three different buildings in close proximity to the Downtown Mall, but we’re committed to getting back to where we were at the beginning with everyone under one roof.”

The construction process is expected to take about 20 months, with the building opening in mid-2021.

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