We are living our values. Our organization knows firsthand the real impacts of energy development since our members live over the surface of coal and oil and gas. We need to change our direction away from old technology that is inefficient and contributes to global warming pollution. We want to show folks how they can create a change.
— Mark Fix
Rancher on the Tongue River south of Miles City and
former Chair of Northern Plains Resource Council
Lummi-carved totem pole at Northern Plains
After a 1,300 mile journey from the coast of Washington, a beautiful 22-foot cedar totem pole carved by the Lummi Nation for members of the Northern Cheyenne was was dedicated at Northern Plains’ Home on the Range in Billings on Jan. 22, 2016.
The totem pole, which bears animals and symbols important to the Cheyenne, is a sign of solidarity for Native American treaty rights and against coal exports. It provides a place where Native and non-Native peoples can come together to share a common vision to protect the Earth.
Northern Plains will host the totem pole until it finds a permanent home on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation.
In 2003, Northern Plains and the Western Organization of Resource Councils decided to create a permanent home by purchasing and renovating an existing building. The goal was to express the organizations’ commitment to energy conservation and community values. They purchased a vacant, concrete block building constructed in 1940 as a grocery store. Working with High Plains Architects and Hardy Construction Company, they managed to transform an uninsulated, largely windowless building — widely considered one of the most blighted properties in Billings, Montana — into a demonstration of “green” building strategies and technologies.
LIGHTING: In most buildings, lighting uses as much as 30% of the total energy used. For Home on the Range, emphasis was placed on daylighting. Three sets of clerestories, north-facing windows on the roof, allow daylight into the middle of the building. New windows with light shelves on inner and outer walls reduce glare and distribute daylight throughout the interior. When combined with 60 photovoltaic solar panels on the roof, the building uses only 35% as much electricity as a building of the same size built to 2006 code.
INSULATION: The building is wrapped in four inches of rigid foam insulation and covered with fiberboard. Additional insulation on the roof, windows, and sub-floor reduce heat loss. Overall, the building uses one-fifth the energy of a similar-sized building.
HEATING & COOLING: Radiant heating circulates hot water through tubes in the concrete floor, warming the concrete and other objects in the room, which eliminates drafts. The evaporative cooling system moves warm air across a wet surface, cooling the air as the water evaporates. This type of cooling uses only 25% as much energy as conventional air conditioning. Solar hot water is used for hot water needs. On-site renewable energy from a 9.9kW photovoltaic system on the roof provides 37% of the annual energy needed for the building.
WATER CONSERVATION: The combination of a waterless urinal and micro-flush composting toilets reduce water use by 50%, while landscaping featuring native and water-wise vegetation significantly reduces irrigation demand in the semi-arid climate.
SPARKLING PARKING LOT: The “glass” parking lot consists of plastic mat system that uses recycled glass cullet as the top layer. The permeable system allows storm water to soak into the ground instead of going into city storm sewers.
RECYCLED MATERIALS: Approximately 92% of the construction and demolition waste was diverted from the landfill through the recycling of everything from concrete blocks to the horse-hair insulation that was used in the former grocery store freezers. Innovative recycled materials were used throughout the building. Sunflower seed hulls became countertops and desktops, and wheat board was used for kitchen cupboards and in desks. To reduce energy use and support local businesses, materials were purchased from businesses within a 500-mile radius whenever possible.
Many volunteers and staff devoted hours and days to refurbishing century-old doors from a building in downtown Billings, wood molding from the old freezer walls, adding new paint, and moving office equipment to prepare Home on the Range for occupancy in 2005.
LEED CERTIFICATION: In 2007, Home on the Range was the 44th building in the United States, and the first in Montana, to be awarded LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum level, the highest award given by the U.S. Green Building Council. The project continues to capture the imagination of the many people who tour the building and gardens. But the biggest story of the project was the reinvention of a derelict building into a significant demonstration of green building.
Employees are encouraged to bike, walk, carpool, or ride take public transportation to work. Bike racks and showers are provided along with a full-service kitchen for employee use. Extra vacation time is earned by using alternative modes of transportation.
Tours of Home on the Range
Groups and individuals are encouraged to tour Home on the Range and see the present and future of “green building. We ask that you call (406) 248-1154 a week ahead of time so that we can be sure someone is available to take you on a tour. Tours are free and last anywhere from a half hour to an hour.
Meeting Room Rentals
Our conference rooms are available for rent by the day or half-day depending on availability. Click here for more information.
Awards and Recognition
- LEED Platinum award from U.S. Green Building Council (2007)
- Billings Bright and Beautiful (2004, 2007)
- Montana State University’s Eco-Star Award (2006)
- Energy Star award from the federal EPA (2007)
- Featured in the Sonoran Institute’s Building from the Best of the Northern Rockies.
- American Institute of Architects Seattle Committee on the Environment, “What Makes It Green” Award (2008)
- Architect: Randy Hafer, High Plains Architects, P.C.
- Civil Engineer: Matt Waite, Engineering Inc.
- Commissioning Agent: Ron Pecarina, Energy & Sustainable Design Consultants
- Contractor: JD Broadbent, Hardy Construction
- Interior Designer: Beau Mossman, Bechtle Slade, P.C.
- Landscape Architect: Linda Iverson, Linda Iverson Landscape Design
- LEED Consultant: Ed Gulick, High Plains Architects, P.C.
- Mechanical Engineer: Art Fust, Energy A.D.
- Owners: Northern Plains Resource Council and Western Organization of Resource Councils
- Structural Engineer: Wes Krivonen, Krivonen Associates
- Project Size: 9,786 square feet
- Total Project Cost: $1,403,400 ($143/sq. ft.)
For more information, please call Northern Plains at (406) 248-1154 or visit Home on the Range, 220 South 27th Street in Billings, to see environmental design in action.