Zions’ new campus raises the bar for sustainable architecture in Utah
Green amenities at the reclaimed Midvale site help the planet, but they also help attract and retain tech talent.
This story is part of the Salt Lake Tribune’s ongoing commitment to identifying solutions to Utah’s biggest challenges through the work of the Innovation Lab.
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Midvale • It’s a building, but it’s really about your people.
This is the message behind Zions Bancorporation state-of-the-art green workplace.
Utah’s largest bank officially cut the ribbon Friday at its 400,000 square foot technology campus, arguably the largest sustainable architecture project in state history.
The LEED-certified Platinum Campus reclaims the former Sharon Steel Mill Superfund site, a brownfield site that had stood vacant for decades, and replaces 11 separate buildings that Zions owned or leased in the Salt Lake Valley, reducing the 15% energy consumption.
There are 2,000 solar panels installed on campus, and that’s all Midvale’s zoning would allow, said Jennifer Smith, Zions’ chief technology and operations officer. “We would have added more if we could.”
As it stands, the panels will generate 75% of the electricity used on campus, eliminating the release of 4.9 million pounds of carbon dioxide per year. The remaining 25% will come from renewable sources for which Zions buys credits, Smith said.
And the 181 electric vehicle charging stations are the most at a single workplace in Utah, all free for company employees.
In a tight job market where workers — especially tech workers — can always find alternate employment, workplaces like the Zions campus are part of employers’ strategies for recruiting and retaining talent.
“It’s really centered around creating an environment that brings out the best in our people and also recognizes how important they are to us,” Smith said. “It’s an environment where they can thrive.”
The project was completed during the pandemic and Zions had to adapt to make its employees feel safe, she said.
“We replace the air in the entire building every 75 minutes. This is something that our employees were concerned about from a COVID perspective. We added it during construction.
The campus is adjacent to the Jordan River promenade and employees can take paths leading to the river. Other amenities include bike lockers, shareable e-bikes, pickleball and basketball courts, and an employee-maintained community garden.
“We are truly grateful to our great people,” Harris Simmons, president and CEO of Zions Bancorporation, the bank’s parent company, told the audience at Friday’s grand opening.
LEED platinum certified means it has the highest level of sustainability granted by the American Green Building Council. “We have one of the lowest carbon usage intensity ratings in the country for a new building,” Smith said.
The ratings are based not only on the efficiency of the building, but also on the durability of the materials used. Even the furniture is made with low emissions. The building is electrically heated and cooled. The only natural gas pipe used on site is for cooking in the cafe, which means the campus adds virtually no pollutants to the valley air basin.
Zions was an early mover in fintech, Simmons noted, including launching the first digital signature platform more than 20 years ago. Since then, “fintech” has come to redefine banking and commerce, and Zions sees this campus as the birthplace of new advancements.
“Zions is a technology company offering financial services,” said Scott Anderson, President and CEO of Zions Bank.
Construction was handled by Gardner Co., and Layton Construction and Okland Construction were the builders. The architects were WRNS Studios and Method Studios.
Tim Fitzpatrick is the renewable energy reporter for the Salt Lake Tribune, a position funded by a grant from Rocky Mountain Power. The Tribune retains full control over editorial decisions independent of Rocky Mountain Power.