Caterpillar Visitors Center — Sustainable Inside and Out

The newly built Caterpillar Visitors Center (CVC), located in downtown Peoria, Ill., showcases design and engineering features that center around environmental responsibility. Completed in October of last year, the almost 50,000-square-foot facility spotlights the Caterpillar corporate culture of sustainability, from the design and construction of the soon-to-be LEED Gold certified building, to the 14 exhibits housed inside the three-story facility.

In addition to the displays of equipment (current and historic), the building also houses equipment simulators, a 62-seat theater (inside a 24-foot-tall Cat 797 mining truck), offices, as well as the Caterpillar NASCAR and Cat Merchandise Centers.

“The CVC is a continuation of the Caterpillar commitment to sustainability,” says Kathryn Spitznagle, Caterpillar Visitors Center Manager. “At Caterpillar, manufacturing facilities are sustainable; the products we make are sustainable; the facilities we build are sustainable – sustainability is a long-term commitment for Caterpillar.”

Sustainability ... It Starts from the Ground Up

The sustainable design of the building -- which includes energy-efficient mechanical systems, rainwater irrigation, native plant landscaping, solar power and polished concrete floors – is expected to be awarded LEED Gold certification later this year.

LEED Gold certification was a priority from the initial planning stages of the facility, explains Caterpillar construction manager Vickie Gaynor. “From design, through the 18-month construction period, sustainability was always a consideration on this project.”

Kevin Beal, Construction Manager with River City Construction agrees. River City Construction, Peoria, Ill., was the GC on the project. “From recycled construction material on site [trash/scrap metal/wood/etc.] to the recycled content of the aluminum/stainless-steel metal panels that make up the CVC’s exterior walls, LEED was always in the forefront of our minds.”

Exhibits Speak to Caterpillar Sustainable Commitment

As a visitor to the CVC, you’ll get an insider’s perspective on Caterpillar employees, customers, products and sustainable progress through historic photos, vintage equipment (including a fully restored Model Twenty tractor) and interactive exhibits.

The Power Systems Gallery exhibit, for example, highlights how Caterpillar is focused on helping its customers meet the world’s increased energy needs through a variety of solutions and applications across multiple industries. The exhibit highlights all Power Systems businesses including Industrial Engines and Power Solutions, Railway Solutions, Marine Power Systems, Gas Turbine Technology, Oil and Gas Power Solutions and Global Electric Power Systems.

Another exciting feature to the exhibit allows guests to see and touch the iron that powers the world. For more on the exhibits showcased in the CVC, refer to the interactive illustration in the full article.

Putting on the Finishing Touches

The CVC is currently undergoing commissioning as part of the LEED certification process, explains Beal. 

“Building commissioning is part of the LEED process to check out the mechanical, electrical and plumbing,” he notes. “We’re undergoing that process now and have just the last bit of air balancing to complete so the commissioning team can come in and complete their job.”

While applying for LEED Gold certification requires extra paperwork, both Beal and Gaynor agree that this project was similar to many other construction projects.

“The construction aspect of the CVC was pretty typical,” says Gaynor, “except for the coordination of all the parties required to be in the building at the same time.”

Her tip: Set up meetings with contractors and their subcontractors. “We set up meetings weekly with Caterpillar personnel [who were handling exhibits] and contractors to walk through each phase of each exhibit so we all understood exactly how each exhibit would ultimately work. This helped us all understand what we were building and it allowed us to minimize surprises.”

To read the full story, click here to download the Spring 2013 issue of Sustainable Construction.