By Kent Darr


The restoration of the West Des Moines' historic city hall in Valley Junction reached for the gold standard of sustainability, but went a step farther in receiving the highest certification granted by the U.S. Green Building Council.


Under the guidance of Linda Schemmel, a planner for the city of West Des Moines and president of the Iowa chapter of the American Institute of Architects' board of directors, the $1 million renovation included the installation of geothermal wells, photovoltaic panels, extra insulation, new doors and windows, new mechanical and electrical systems, light-emitting diode lamps, a green roof and water-efficient plumbing fixtures.


As a result, and with the help of a change in the Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority's schedule that placed an increasing number of travelers near the historic structure, the project received the building council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification.


The project also included the reuse of some materials. Window sashes
that were refinished are now serving as decorative "ceiling clouds." Large doors that served as an entrance for fire trucks now are interior doors for a classroom.


"It was intended to be demonstration project for what can be done with reconstruction projects," Schemmel said.


Because of the extent of work needed to revive the 108-year-old building, the project received its certification under a category for new construction. It is the first building in the state that resides on the National Register of Historic Places and is LEED Platinum certified.


The historic city hall is the home of the Historic Valley Junction Foundation and a visitor's center.


Funds for the restoration were provided by the foundation, the city of West Des Moines, Iowa Department of Economic Development Main Street Office, Iowa Great Places, I-JOBS, Iowa Office of Energy Independence, State Historical Society of Iowa, and the federal departments of energy and housing and urban development.


The project also has received awards from Preservation Iowa, the Center of Sustainable Communities and Main Street Iowa.