Way Station


Frederick, MD


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Building type
Special needs housing
Building type
Health care
Floor Area (ft2)
Floor Area (m2)
Date of Occupancy/ Completion
Annual Water Use (gal/ft2)
Annual Water Use (L/m2)
Annual Purchased Energy (kBtu/ft2)
Annual Purchased Energy (MJ/m2)
Total Project Cost (land excluded)($US)
Certifications & Awards
Project Team
  • Owner: Way Station Inc.


The directors and staff of Way Station think of their building as a "clubhouse" — a place where "members" with long-term mental illnesses voluntarily come for clinical treatment and rehabilitation, and to take advantage of opportunities to work and socialize with other members and staff. The building is located in the heart of the Frederick Historic District, and is designed to complement the neighborhood. It is organized around a central light court with a large garden where the primary building circulation occurs.

**This building was originally imported from the U.S. Department of Energy Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Building Technologies Database (http://eere.buildinggreen.com/overview.cfm?projectid=214) on 2009-06-06. Please confirm that the import was successful, login, and remove this message. Help make the Green Building Brain better.**


  • Location: Frederick, MD
  • Building type(s): Special needs housing, Health care
  • New construction
  • 30,000 sq. feet (2,790 sq. meters)
  • Project scope: 2-story building
  • Completed February 1991

The directors and staff of Way Station think of their building as a "clubhouse" — a place where "members" with long-term mental illnesses voluntarily come for clinical treatment and rehabilitation, and to take advantage of opportunities to work and socialize with other members and staff. The building is located in the heart of the Frederick Historic District, and is designed to complement the neighborhood. It is organized around a central light court with a large garden where the primary building circulation occurs.

Environmental Aspects

Way Station put an emphasis on health promotion techniques in the design of their facility. Holistic health features include: natural lighting, non-toxic materials and products, frequent air exchange, organic shapes, textures and plant materials, handicap accessibility, and an open space design to assist those with special impairments.

In addition, concern for public health prompted Way Station to pursue ecologically sound and environmentally sustainable architecture. Way Station uses about one third the energy of conventional buildings due to its climate responsive building design, natural lighting, high-performance windows, and very efficient mechanical and electrical systems. To achieve minimum energy requirements cost-effectively, the design team began by conducting "sensitivity" analyses using computer-generated simulations. They found that daylighting and passive solar heating would have the greatest effect on lowering energy consumption. The resulting design not only reduces energy costs, but creates an open, warm, therapeutic environment.

Owner & Occupancy

  • Owned and occupied by Way Station, Inc., Corporation, nonprofit

Building Programs

Indoor Spaces: Conference, Office, Lobby/reception, Greenhouse, Medical treatment


Design charrette, Simulation, Glazing, Passive solar, HVAC, Lighting control and daylight harvesting, Durability, Benign materials, Connection to outdoors, Daylighting

Team & Process

Through the design process, the architect convened a series of design charrettes, including all of the key members of the design team, as well as Way Station's staff and members. These highly focused and intense working sessions ensured consensus on design goals and that no aspect of the building was designed in isolation from any other.

Construction techniques employed common practice and materials, but applied them in special ways to meet the design goals. Unique building technology, an extremely tight construction site, rock blasting, archeological excavations, and an extensive stormwater management system added significantly to the challenge of constructing the building.

Callas Contractors, Inc. Contractor Hagerstown, MD [http://www.callascontractors.com/](http://www.callascontractors.com/)
Clanton Engineering, Inc. Lighting designer Boulder, CO [http://www.clantonassociates.com](http://www.clantonassociates.com)
Engineering Economics, Inc. Mechanical and Electrical Engineer Golden, CO [http://www.eeiengineers.com](http://www.eeiengineers.com)
[Gregory Franta, FAIA](learnmore.cfm?ProjectID=214) ENSAR Group Architect Boulder, CO [http://www.ensargroup.com/](http://www.ensargroup.com/)
Facility Design Group, Inc. Civil engineer Frederick, MD
JVA, Inc. Structural engineer Boulder, CO [http://www.jvajva.com/](http://www.jvajva.com/)
Treeland Nursery Landscape architect Frederick, MD

Bringing you a prosperous future where energy is clean, abundant, reliable, and affordableBringing you a prosperous future where energy is clean, abundant, reliable, and affordable

Site Description

Rock blasting, archeological excavations, and an extensive stormwater system added to the challenge of building on an extremely tight construction site.

The exterior landscaping was designed to mature into a natural setting providing a pedestrian park for members, staff, and neighbors. Plant species and colors were selected to provide a variety and require low maintenance.

Water Conservation and Use

Water Use

  • Siting Analysis

    • Hire a landscape architect to help with siting of buildings and infrastructure


By incorporating daylighting, passive solar heating, and energy efficiency, ENSAR Group reduced the Way Station's need for conventional energy by about two-thirds over a computer-generated reference case.

Computer simulations allowed the designers to look at the effects that variations in energy design components would have on the building's energy performance. They learned that the use of daylighting and passive solar heating would have the greatest impact in reducing energy consumption.

The primary source of passive solar heating in the Way Station is the 1028-square-foot working greenhouse. Its vertical windows are glazed with clear, thermal pane glass to allowing maximum solar gain in the winter. For the sloped glazing, clear, double-pane obscured glass is used to allow an adequate amount of light transmission, but reduce direct solar gain when sun angles are high. The greenhouse also houses solar tanks for preheating water.

In addition to the greenhouse, south-facing windows add to the building's direct solar heating gain. In the summer, when the sun angle is high, exterior light shelves shade these windows, helping to keep the building cool. High-performance insulating glass also helps to balance the need for daylighting with the need to avoid solar gain at times when it would add to the cooling load.

The largest cooling load in most commercial buildings is created by heat from electric lights. Because of the Way Station's use of daylighting, the facility uses about a quarter of the typical electric lighting and the heat gain from lighting is dramatically less.

The designers chose a central variable air volume (VAV) system for heating, ventilating, and air conditioning. High-efficiency gas-fired boilers are used for space heating, and, when cooling is called for, fans draw in ventilation air and circulate it through a central cold-water chiller before delivering it to the building. A heat recovery system on the chiller is used to preheat domestic water.

At times of peak demand, the chiller is assisted by a cool storage system that continuously makes and stores ice, using electricity mostly at off-peak times. Both this innovative cooling storage system and the building's reduced cooling load allowed the mechanical engineers to downsize the cooling equipment from the normally-required 100 tons to a 40-ton system.


Materials & Resources

Maintenance requirements, durability, and expected service life were important criteria in choosing materials for the Way Station. Non-toxic materials were also used whenever practical.

  • High-Performance Insulating Glass

Indoor Environment

The Way Station was very interested in creating a healthy environment for their members. It was important to the staff that the interior spaces encourage open communication and frequent interaction, and that the building foster a sense of community, personal well-being, and harmony with nature.

The staff specifically requested a greenhouse for the therapeutic value of working with plants. Trees also grow in the building's atrium, which is lit by two south-facing roof monitors that run almost the entire length of the building, and deflect and diffuse natural sunlight. Exterior windows and interior glass walls adjacent to the atrium bring natural light into the offices and activity spaces.

On the second story, small roof monitors admit additional sunlight from overhead. Skylights in upper level work spaces are outfitted with daylight tracking systems powered by photovoltaics. These systems consist of reflective surfaces that change angle to follow the sun throughout the day, reflecting more sunlight into a room for more time during the day.

Interior and exterior lightshelves diffuse the sunlight and reflect it deep into the building, while eliminating much of the glare that would otherwise occur near the windows.

The building's daylighting design and electric lighting system are thoroughly integrated to achieve maximum lighting quality and energy efficiency. Lighting controls sense the amount of natural light and either dim or raise the electric lights to provide optimal lighting. Most areas are illuminated with indirect lighting from pendant mounted fluorescent luminaires combined with direct task lighting. High-frequency ballasts eliminate noise and flicker. The lamps were selected for accurate color rendering and compatibility with daylight.

Most interior colors are light to produce a bright interior environment that complements the daylighting concepts. Non-toxic materials were used whenever practical, and a complete and extensive flushing of the building with fresh air was conducted after the finishes and furnishings were installed to improve the indoor air quality.

  • Visual Comfort and The Building Envelope

    • Use skylights and/or clerestories for daylighting
    • Incorporate light shelves on the south facade
    • Choose interior and exterior glazing to maximize daylight transmission

  • Visual Comfort and Interior Design

    • Install large interior windows to allow for the transmission of daylight

    • Locate floor openings under skylights to increase daylight penetration

    • Select only white to midrange finishes to maximize reflectance of light

  • Visual Comfort and Light Sources

    • Use electronic ballasts with fluorescent lighting
    • Provide illumination sensors


  • AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Projects in 1997

Lessons Learned

The Way Station project shows that it is entirely possible to design affordable commercial buildings that rely on solar energy and energy efficiency to greatly reduce the environmental impact of energy use. It also shows that designers can create buildings that contribute to both environmental and personal well-being.

Learn More

  • Web sites

  • Others

    • Article: Passive Solar: Let the Sun Shine In
      Publication: Energy Ideas Vol. 1, No.3/4 (Spring/Summer 1996)
      This article about passive solar design includes Way Station as a case study. http://www.gpp.org/energy_ideas/EI.0296/EI.0296.03.html

    • Brochure: Way Station: A New Era of Mental Health
      This brochure, produced by Way Station, Inc., describes the design and construction process. (PDF 6.00 MB) Download Acrobat Reader

    • Article: Way Station: A mental health provider uses passive solar energy to improve the well-being of its "members" and the environment Editors: Miller, Burke
      Publication: Buildings for a Sustainable America: Case Studies ISBN: 0895533049
      This chapter on Way Station gives a thorough description of the design and construction process, and provides specifics about the building's energy savings.

*Primary Contact* Gregory Franta, FAIA ENSAR Group Architect P.O. Box 267 Boulder, CO  80306-0267 303-449-5226 [http://www.ensargroup.com/](http://www.ensargroup.com/)