Nintendo of America opened the new headquarters of its North American operations in Redmond Thursday — a gleaming, modern facility...

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Nintendo of America opened the new headquarters of its North American operations in Redmond Thursday — a gleaming, modern facility with all kinds of environmentally friendly touches throughout.

The 300,000-square-foot-building, which houses about 650 employees — roughly half the company’s Washington staff — is a low-slung, four-story structure that replaces one of the company’s other three buildings constructed in the early 1980s. It’s on a 10-acre site on the Nintendo campus, just west of State Route 520.

Nintendo President Satoru Iwata flew in from Japan just to celebrate the opening, and talked of the importance and symbolism of the building to his company and to the Redmond community. Gov. Chris Gregoire helped in the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Iwata said the building is unusual because the contractor, Turner Construction of Seattle, modeled “every pipe, wire, duct and beam” by computer beforehand. That allowed workers to shave months off the time to construct it.

The 75,000-square-foot roof is literally green — it’s planted with a low-growing ground cover called sedum. The plants help moderate the temperature inside and absorb rainwater.

Inside, the floors’ central corridors are made of bamboo, considered a “green” material because it grows to maturity quickly. The lights are on motion-detecting sensors and automatically dim when there is an abundance of natural light.

The headquarters is home to all of the company’s high-powered computers that serve Nintendo’s online gaming system and other corporate computer needs. It’s cooled primarily by air from out-of-doors, and that is expected to cut the cost of cooling — a major source of energy consumption for computer servers — by as much as 80 percent.

Most of Nintendo’s games are created in Japan; the Redmond headquarters provides corporate support, including marketing and sales. The company also “localizes” its games in Redmond; that is, it makes sure the jokes will translate well to an American audience.

Redmond Mayor John Marchione was just 17 years old in 1982 when his mother, Doreen, then a member of the Redmond City Council, told him a game company called Nintendo was thinking of relocating to Redmond.

Her teenage son had never heard of it. But then she mentioned Donkey Kong, and the light bulb went on; he’d played the video game at a pizzeria.

“Nintendo gave Redmond its first famous technology company, because at the time Microsoft was in Bellevue,” said Marchione. “It’s been a great fit, because we’re a great community to live in.”

Katherine Long: 206-464-2219 or