The Business Case for Greening Your Facilities

04/25/2007 | By Jerry Yudelson

All over the country, facility managers and corporate real estate executives are making strong commitments to sustainability by acting right at home – greening their own facilities. Consider these examples …

In 2006, Adobe Systems, a software maker in San Jose, CA, achieved LEED-EB Platinum certification for all three buildings at its headquarters. At 1 million square feet of total office space, these three projects represent the largest such effort in the world to date. To demonstrate its commitment to environmental stewardship, an important public issue in Northern California beginning in 2001, Adobe decided to invest $1.1 million over 5 years to turn its three existing towers – ranging in age from 3 years to 10 years, and totaling almost 1 million square feet of space in offices and 940,000 square feet in garage space – into an environmentally friendly campus.

In that 5-year period, Adobe reduced electricity use by 35 percent, natural-gas use by 41 percent, building-water use by 22 percent, and irrigation-water use by 75 percent. Adobe now recycles 85 percent of its solid waste. Through saving energy and buying green power, Adobe reduced pollutant emissions by 26 percent. By the company’s own reckoning, the projects they’ve undertaken have resulted in an overall 114-percent return on investment. Retrofit and upgrade projects include reduced lighting energy use, the addition of motion sensors to turn off lights and HVAC equipment when spaces are unoccupied, installation of variable-speed drives on pumps and fans to match supply to demand real-time metering to reduce electricity bills by avoiding power use during peak periods, upgraded building automation and control systems, and recommissioning of major energy-using systems.

An early LEED-EB Platinum project was the California Environmental Protection Agency headquarters building in Sacramento, CA. Owned and managed by Thomas Properties Group LLC, this 25-story, 950,000-square-foot building completed its certification in 2003 with a series of projects that reduced energy use by 34 percent, diverted 200 tons per year of waste from landfills, and increased the building’s asset value by about $12 million. Total investment was about $500,000, with annual energy and water savings of $610,000. The building received an ENERGY STAR® rating of 96, in the top 4 percent of all energy-efficient operations in the country.

In 2006, the 6-story, 336,000-square-foot, state-owned Department of Education building, also in Sacramento, CA, received a LEED-EB Platinum designation. Completed in 2003, this building had earlier received a LEED-NC Gold certification as a newly constructed project. It is the first major project in the world to receive both designations at this high level. It has an ENERGY STAR rating of 95, with energy use about 40-percent less than required by state code. The building features more than 100 different sustainable solutions to improve energy efficiency, indoor air quality, water conservation, and resource conservation.

The National Geographic Society operates a four-building headquarters complex in Washington, D.C., with buildings ranging in age from 20 to 100 years old. With a $6 million retrofit, the organization added $24 million to the building’s value, receiving a LEED-EB Silver designation in 2003.

The JohnsonDiversey Corp. headquarters in Sturtevant, WI, was certified LEED-EB Gold in 2004. The 3-story, 277,000-square-foot building contains 70-percent offices and 30-percent labs. Built in 1997 with sustainability in mind, it was fairly easy to fine-tune existing systems to receive the LEED-EB designation. With a $74,000 LEED-EB project cost, JohnsonDiversey saved about $90,000 in annual energy costs, reduced water use by more than 2 million gallons, and documented employee recycling rates above 50 percent.

One recent institutional commitment to LEED-EB deserves note: In December 2006, the University of California, Santa Barbara campus, agreed to use LEED-EB to assess 25 buildings over the next 5 years. Jon Cook, acting director of physical facilities, said, “We believe that performance under the LEED system is a key indication that we are achieving our goals” of taking care of the environment and of the health of employees and building occupants.

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