Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Color Your World: Existing Buildings Can Be Reborn Green through Environmentally Friendly Changes That Boost the Bottom Line

Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Color Your World: Existing Buildings Can Be Reborn Green through Environmentally Friendly Changes That Boost the Bottom Line

Article excerpt

Talk of the green building movement pervades the media and most discussions of new construction. But what about the 45 million existing U.S. office buildings? How can owners and managers "green" a property and reap the resulting environmental and economic rewards?

Follow the Leaders

The green industry embraces products and practices that minimize environmental impact. The United States Green Building Council (USGBC), founded in 1992, has established the LEED[TM] (Leader in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, an industry yardstick for green construction and practices. LEED designations certify a building meets varying levels of USGBC-defined criteria. There are many other organizations and publications committed to green practices, but almost all reference LEED at some juncture. A building does not need to be LEED-certified to be green however. Many notable projects, such as the Gap, Inc., campus in San Bruno, Calif., with its astounding energy efficiency and planted organic roof, are not. In cases of existing buildings, owners and managers can apply green concepts and practices, regardless of whether they are seeking certification.

Take the Green Path

Energy and Atmosphere

According to USGBC guidelines, energy and atmosphere efficiency account for the lion's share of green enhancement.

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Bill Leddy of Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects said: "Energy consumption is typically the easiest to address, first through closer monitoring of lights, computers and equipment--possibly with timed switches to ensure after hours shut-off. Second, lights and lighting controls can be changed to high-efficiency fluorescent fixtures (T-5 lamps with electronic ballasts) with occupancy sensors to control them in lieu of switches."

Other energy-saving strategies include variable air-speed drives that cycle fans on and off, window glazing, white reflective roof membranes and rooftop photovoltaics. Eliminating chlorofluorocarbons from chiller and refrigeration applications assists in ozone protection.

Industry-specific companies can help establish and maintain green environments. Johnson Controls will benchmark energy efficiency across a portfolio using Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards. In 2001, the EPA awarded Johnson Controls its Energy Star[R] Partner of the Year designation.

Sustainable Sites

Green advocates speak of "sitting lightly on the land." Operational practices that minimize impact on a site include reducing water run-off, providing rideshare pools and lowering the heat island effect generated from land development.

At the Gap, Inc.'s campus, the organic rooftop hosts a slew of indigenous California grasses. Typically, run-off water would travel directly to San Francisco Bay, picking up toxins, without any opportunity to dissipate into the soil. Instead, the Gap's planted roof absorbs the average 30-inch annual rainfall with minimal run-off. Green roofs also insulate well and reduce heat island effects. Another green tactic is to plant vines against a building to reduce sun reflection.

Indoor Environmental Quality

Green housekeeping, daylighting and environmentally friendly products are all components of indoor environmental quality. Because of their ongoing nature, building operations can contribute greatly to green strategies.

Craig Sheehy, CPM, of Thomas Properties Group in Sacramento, Calif., manages the 950,000-square foot California EPA Headquarters Building, a LEED EB gold-level recipient. (For more, see "Famous Properties," p. 12) Sheehy made operational changes, such as switching janitorial services to day-time and early evening hours, and saved an estimated $100,000 per year in reduced energy costs. In addition, Sheehy said janitorial complaints have been reduced by 70 percent. At roughly $50 roughly per call, that's a substantial savings. The labor reallocation also reduced janitorial staff turnover due to the more family-friendly hours. …

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