In September 2014, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana announced the purchase of 14 acres of land east of their current location in downtown Helena, the capitol. Currently housed in two leased buildings, the new building will bring together the entire staff on a site in a growing part of the city. Environmentally, it will allow employees who choose to live in the neighborhood to walk to work unlike the current locations. Secondly, BCBS is devoted to promoting healthy living. The building will provide an in-house fitness center and access to walking trails and a city park. The team intends to achieve the LEED pilot credit by Designing for Active Occupants. Thirdly, indoor environmental quality is a priority for BCBS and the design team. Increased ventilation, taking advantage of excellent outdoor air in Montana, as well as an underfloor air system that gives individuals thermal control was analyzed and funded from beginning of the project.
The most challenging aspects of the project, from a LEED and sustainability perspective, is the location that does not support (to date) alternative transportation. Helena is a community where everyone drives and free parking is readily available on large open areas. Changing this part of the Montana culture is a major challenge. The second is the site. Restoration to native plants and grasses that do not require irrigation or spraying due to invasive, noxious plants (weeds) will be a challenge on this large acreage. Proximity to residential neighborhoods and control by county of spraying will require compromises that do not fit easily within LEED parameters.