Devon Energy Center, when complete, won't be “green” just because of what went into it, but also because of what came out of the ground under it.
Part of the parcel of land now with the address 333 W Sheridan Ave. has a dirty history, one that reflects the changes in the city around it. But most recently, since Devon Energy Corp. acquired it, it's a story of colors: brown, green and gold.
Larry Nichols, executive chairman, told some of the tale as the closing speaker at the Oklahoma Brownfields Conference Wednesday at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel. Part of the city block was “brown” — in need of environmental remediation — because of former uses as a trolley barn, then a kind of “motor hotel,” both of which left contaminated soil and water from fuel leakage.
Selecting a site needing work was worth it for Devon, Nichols said, because the energy company wanted to do its part for Oklahoma City's renaissance. He said more than a few landowners and developers tried to woo Devon to the suburbs.
“I have yet to find a vibrant city that did not have a vibrant downtown. ... If the downtown core goes, the entire city seems to go right with it,” he said. So, for Devon, even with suitors calling, it was “downtown, period,” he said.
Around the turn of the 20th century, the “brown” property was the site of the terminal building, the hub, of the city's trolley system, a time when mass transit was the norm in the urban core.
In the late 1920s or early '30s, the building was converted to a “motor hotel,” not the kind of roadside hotels that popped up to cater to motorists (“motels”), but a hotel for automobiles, where they could be stored during the workday — and serviced. The automobile was coming on strong.
That building came down in the 1950s, and a four-story parking garage went up, with a parking deck also providing fueling and maintenance, and remained until the early 1970s.
Pei's parking legacy
Then came I.M. Pei, architect and urban planner, Urban Renewal and plans for the Galleria, a downtown mall that never materialized — but that cost what is now Devon property some of the city's most resonant retail names: John A. Brown's Department Store, Kerr's Department Store, Katz Drugstore, Warner Theater.
But the “brown” part still remained: an odd, ugly parking deck with would-be support beams, intended to be basement parking for the Pei project.
Nichols said he took special joy in seeing it come down because it was “not only an ugly parking garage, but a reminder of failure.” Under it were three abandoned fuel tanks, an abandoned water well and contaminated soil and water, all of which was removed.
Nichols ticked off a list of accomplishments contributing to Devon Energy Center's effort to gain gold LEED certification — for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design — from the U.S. Green Building Council.
All the material from the parking deck demolition was kept out of landfills.
• 11,200 tons of concrete was recycled and used for erosion control on a lakefront property.
• More than 15,200 tons of concrete went to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation as coarse rock.
• Nearly 500 tons of metal went to recycling centers for miscellaneous use.
• Some 500 light fixtures went to Oklahoma Electrical Supply Co. for reuse.
So far, 93 percent of construction waste has been recycled, a total of 69,026 tons.
• 2,565 tons of concrete.
• 2,485 tons of wood.
• 2,484 tons of metal.
• 1,486 tons of gypsum.
• 6 tons of plastics.
“Green” features are built into building operations.
• District cooling and state-of-the-art energy management technologies maximize efficiency.
• The geometry of the tower and exterior glass fins reduce solar load.
• Energy-efficient light fixtures use minimal energy to operate.
• Light fixtures dim automatically depending on available natural light.
• Sensors dim lights when space is not occupied.
• Raised-floor air distribution increases efficiency and contributes to indoor air quality.
• The tower's geometry and glass walls allow abundant natural light in all areas.