(Public Employees Retirement Association) Santa Fe, New Mexico

The New Mexico Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) hired the collaborative team of Conron & Woods and Leo A Daly to first assist them in developing an architectural program for the agency, and then guide them through selection of a building site followed by full architectural design services to create a new headquarters building.

The agency serves a population of members from around the state. The new building needed to be in a prominent and convenient location. PERA wanted a professional, secure, and contemporary building, but also wished to reflect something of New Mexico's history. The project was also required to achieve a minimum of LEED Silver certification.

The resulting 32,000 sf design used the image of a yucca plant as its inspiration - a form radiating out from a central core. This is represented by a central courtyard which connects four wings of the building. Between the wings areadditional courtyards, connecting building occupants to daylight and views. The building employs an old regional building method in a contemporary way: massive rammed earth walls present the overall shape of the building, complemented by glass curtain walls and exposed steel structure. The rammed earth walls are exposed on the interior as well as the exterior.

To achieve the desired efficiencies, lights are occupancy-sensing, plumbing is water-conserving, and there is a rainwater harvesting system for irrigation. The building is filled with daylight. Windows are operable. Heating and cooling is controlled in small zones. These features, among others, including the use of local earth for the walls, contributed to the building achieving LEED Gold.

PERA's use program called for a public area which includes the reception area, a Board Room, and several consultation spaces. Beyond this the building is secure and only accessed by staff. It includes a customer service call center, a secure IT complex, and a variety of other groups who serve the members. Conron & Woods provided full interior design services, including all interior finishes, exterior furnishings, interior furniture systems and other office needs, and designed custom desks for the Board and for the reception area. They also worked with vendors and the agency to insure a timely installation of all equipment and furnishings.

PERA had previously sold their well-known property in downtown Santa Fe and had a fixed date to vacate the old building. Achieving a smooth move without interruption to PERA's regular disbursements and other activities was a critical part of the project. The design team worked closely with the Lockwood Construction to insure that the new building was completed and outfitted, and ready for PERA to move exactly as scheduled. The building won a Best Buildings award from the New Mexico Association of General Contractors in 2010.