By Mychele Lord
As a green consultant, I always suggest that tenants seek space in ENERGY STAR®-labeled buildings (which means they’re in the top 75th percentile in energy efficiency). This not only saves on utility expenses, but reduces emissions footprints. The next notch up is to lease space in a LEED®-certified building. So, when I leased new office space this month, why didn’t I choose an ENERGY STAR or LEED-certified building?
As real estate surveys show time and again: location, location, location – I chose the building closest to my home. Price was the second consideration (I am a start-up green consultant). The lease is gross, which means that my utility bills are included in the base rent with no operating expense pass-through. So, how have we “gone green” in our new office space? Because the base building does not yet contain the majority of the features required for any form of LEED certification, certifying less than 700 square feet just wasn’t doable. Instead, we took a cafeteria approach to offset the environmental footprint of LORD Green Real Estate Strategies…
- For the first time, I can ride my bike to work. That’s not a big deal in many parts of the country, and it’s an anomaly in Dallas.
- The office is located within one-quarter mile of DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit).
- It took time, shopping local consignment stores, and walking office liquidator warehouses, but, to date, 95 percent (based on cost) of the office furniture is “salvaged.” Granted, it took begging a favor from an expert – my sister-in-law Melissa Grimes at Studio West (www.studiowestid.com), who has much bigger clients than me – to figure out how to creatively space plan second-generation modular furniture and keep our 694-square-foot office from looking like a garage sale. Perhaps our best find was Randy Montgomery at Office Liquidation Center in Dallas. Thanks to Randy, part of our office supplies and equipment, and all the modular furniture, came from the closure of a JP Morgan office in late December. For bigger companies that are expanding and going green, we found several office liquidators in our area that sell pre-owned cubicles for those needing 50 to 5,000 workstations (but they wouldn’t even talk to us). “Reused” is out there – you just need to know where to look.
- The finish-out included some demolition, paint, and carpet. For the first time, the painters used low-VOC paints from Sherwin-Williams. The paint cost almost twice as much as the traditional choice. The carpet, which had no cost premium, was CRI Green Label Plus from Shaw Industries. The low-VOC adhesive used for its installation was cost neutral.
- In an effort to recycle the old carpet, we found a local recycler (www.texascarpetrecycling.com) through the Carpet America Recovery Effort™ (CARE at [www.carpetrecovery.org]). According to the CARE Annual Report, carpet is the No. 2 filler of landfills in the world (I understand that diapers are No. 1). Technology to recycle all types of carpet is not available. In fact, the report indicates that carpet recycling is only a 5-year-old industry, and a mere 3.3 percent of all carpet is being “diverted” from the landfills. While most carpet pads can be recycled, only PVC-backed carpet tile and nylon 6 broadloom carpet products can be truly recycled. Technology will soon allow nylon 6.6 to be fully recycled. “Diversion” is either recycling the carpet products noted here, donating carpet for reuse, or sending it to a cement kiln. What is green about a cement kiln!? Apparently, it’s the lesser of the two evils – a landfill, where it lasts forever, vs. incineration, where we get to breathe it. It will burn cleaner in the cement kiln than traditional incinerators due to much higher temperatures, and incineration of the carpet supplements coal to produce energy.
- The benefit of leasing undesirable spaces is a lower rental rate. By removing a wall of a former storage room, however, we created a larger office area, allowing daylight to penetrate deeper into the space. Paints with a high reflectivity were selected. In the end, we needed fewer light fixtures.
- All the doors, the ceiling grid, and the majority of the ceiling tiles were reused. (Demolition involved about 6 linear feet of sheetrock previously covered with ‘70s-ish wallcovering. While new gypsum board scraps can be recycled or even composted, if it has been painted or covered with an adhesive, off to the landfill it goes.)
- Purchasing all ENERGY STAR-rated office equipment is within my control and will reduce the amount of energy we consume.
- Members of the building management staff are excited about working with us to green the operations and improve the energy efficiency of this 112,000-square-foot, 1965-vintage building.
As you make your own move toward greener pastures, consider that the available supply of ENERGY STAR-labeled buildings is limited. Finding a LEED-certified, multi-tenant building is even more difficult. Fortunately, CoStar Group (the MLS of commercial real estate) now gives ENERGY STAR and LEED-certified buildings first position in searches (like a Google search). The good news for tenants is that the supply of green buildings is rising. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) reports that nearly 3.2 billion square feet of commercial building space are involved with the LEED Green Building Rating System, and, each business day, $464 million worth of construction registers with LEED. And, while there are relatively few certified projects from which to choose today, thousands are on the path to sustainability. At this point, making your own green decisions and helping put buildings on that path are two of the keys to overall sustainability. and make your job easier.