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The Alliance Center: Colorado's Hub for Sustainability

The Alliance for Sustainable Colorado has renovated the 1908 Otero Building at 1536 Wynkoop St. in grand green fashion.

About 75 percent of construction waste was diverted back into the transformed building, with old office doors repurposed as ramps and windows.

The energy, water, and waste systems are ultra-efficient, every light is a master-controlled LED fixture and the building is divided into multiple zones so heating and cooling only takes place when and where it is needed.

Current tenant-partners include Conservation Colorado, BikeDenver, eGo Carshare and the Cottonwood Institute.

WalkDenver is a tenant-partner at the Alliance Center.

Sen. Mark Udall kicked off the building's grand re-opening celebration on Aug. 14.

The Alliance Center in LoDo is at once a century old and brand spanking new. The world's first historic building with two LEED certifications is gunning for a third and envisioned as the center of environmental activism in Colorado.
The Alliance for Sustainable Colorado has renovated the 1908 Otero Building at 1536 Wynkoop St. in grand green fashion.

A decade after the nonprofit first updated it in 2004, the Alliance Center underwent a second renovation that upped the environmental ante even more. It was already the first historic building on Earth to earn LEED certifications (Gold for Existing Buildings and Silver for Commercial Interiors) and the group is now pursuing LEED Platinum for Existing Buildings Operation & Maintenance.

From this vantage point, it looks like they'll get it: The energy, water, and waste systems are ultra-efficient, every light is a master-controlled LED fixture and the building is divided into multiple zones so heating and cooling only takes place when and where it is needed. About 75 percent of construction waste was diverted back into the transformed building, with old office doors repurposed as ramps and windows.

The renovation project was the work of Gensler Architects, Fitzmartin Consulting, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and a number of other companies.


Now that the construction work is done, it's time for a different kind of labor. Alliance Founder and Board President John Powers has a mantra for the place: "We gotta use it."

But more importantly, he says, the new and improved Alliance Center is about bringing people together. "You see the 'All' in Alliance? The mission of this organization is to bring people together."

The building is the "physical manifestation” of the goal, he adds. "We like to think of this as the hub for sustainability in the state."

Collaborative, versatile and welcomingThe energy, water, and waste systems are ultra-efficient, every light is a master-controlled LED fixture and the building is divided into multiple zones so heating and cooling only takes place when and where it is needed.

Tenant-partners at the Alliance Center have to have "some element of sustainability," Powers says, and not be service providers. "They have to have a reason to work with other people," he says -- especially those with an aim of shaping state policy. "We're 18 blocks from the state capitol. We have two-way traffic back and forth."

Asked of his favorite feature on the building, Powers points to glass dividers that can slide to partition the lobby into three rooms. "We have to be versatile -- and we have to be welcoming," he says.

With political polarization on the national level hitting a high-water mark, "People are sick of it," says Powers. "It's our community. We should all work together."

He points to a recent collaboration with a conservative think tank, the Independence Institute. "We co-sponsored a debate on fracking with the Independence Institute," he says. "We can have courageous conversations with civility. People keep looking at areas where they disagree, but all sides agree: We have to be energy-independent, militarily secure and balance the payments."

Beyond civil discussions and nimble partitions, the Alliance Center's versatility comes in the form of four lease levels, ranging from a virtual membership to hot desks to permanent desks and office suites. Nonprofits pay monthly fees of about $200 to $300 for a desk or $800 to $900 for an office; the for-profit rate structure is still being developed.

Services and amenities are largely a la carte, and the facilities include 18 conference rooms, shared printers, indoor bike storage, showers, coffee, event space and a beer and wine bar.

Current tenant-partners include Conservation ColoradoBikeDenvereGo Carshare and the Cottonwood Institute.

WalkDenver Policy and Program Director Jill Locantore touts the flexibility of working at the building. "You can pick and choose what you need," she says.  

Locantore, who works from a desk on the first floor, commends the ideas and work that went into the renovation. "I love the building," she says. "It's fantastic. They did a really nice job bringing in daylight," adding, "Everything is nice -- that's the other nice thing about working in a freshly renovated building."

But she says it's more than a slick new workspace -- it's really about Powers' vision of people working together. "Co-locating with all of these allied and like-minded organizations makes it so easy to collaborate."

WalkDenver is a tenant-partner at the Alliance Center.
More work to do


Referencing Rocky Flats' shift from "bombs to birds and weapons to wildlife," Sen. Mark Udall kicked off the building's grand re-opening celebration on Aug. 14.

In his speech, Udall said that respect for the natural landscape is the state's unifying factor. "That's why we're all Coloradans.  We're now ranked second in our renewable energy goal -- 30 percent. Only California is ahead of us."

But the goal has yet to be met, and the broader job is ongoing. "There's an 11th Commandment in my family: 'Thou shalt protect the environment,'" Udall added. "We have more work to do and this building is a place where we're going to do this work."

Read more articles by Eric Peterson.

Eric is a Denver-based tech writer and guidebook wiz. Contact him here.
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