Even if LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance (LEED-EBOM) certification is not in the plans this year, greening can begin on almost any property today — with incremental steps based on many of the best practices laid out in the rating system. First steps do not require large capital expenditures. They may be as modest as putting a recycling program in place or as ambitious as changing the corporate culture.
Transwestern has taken the latter approach, working with senior leadership internally as well as in buildings it manages to establish a culture of sustainability. Not all of those buildings will get LEED-EBOM certification soon, or even in the foreseeable future, but the company wants to "drive LEED practices wherever we possibly can," says Al Skodowski, senior vice president and director of LEED and sustainability.
Transwestern has borrowed concepts from the U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) Portfolio Program (still in the pilot stage) to create its own STEPS program. Under the program, a building owner and management team can select from more than 30 green practices or procedures for existing buildings. The measures cover such items as plumbing, pest management and cleaning products.
"STEPS allows all of our buildings to participate in a LEED-type program without necessarily having the immediate goal of certification," Skodowski says. Every building managed by Transwestern will be able to use STEPS, which was officially launched in January of this year.
USGBC's Portfolio Program allows firms with many buildings to register them together and certify them over time. "The program allows you to move larger groups of buildings into certification," says Skodowski. Transwestern has been involved with the USGBC pilot for three years. Some buildings will eventually be certified under the LEED-EBOM rating system. With the STEPS program, building owners can spread costs over time and earn points as they go.
National Geographic has also seen the benefits of taking an enterprise-wide approach to sustainability, says Bob Cline, vice president, general services. National Geographic's two-building complex encompasses a city block and, in 2003, became the first office building complex in the country to achieve LEED-EB certification, at the Silver level.
Since then, National Geographic has used a green steering committee to make sustainability a corporate priority and, as a result, has "raised the consciousness of everyone in the organization," says Cline. For example, the initial recycling rate was 32 percent. It has since increased to 58 percent. In 2009, the National Geographic complex improved to Gold certification, thanks in part to the steering committee's efforts. "If we had to do one thing over, it would be having the steering committee in place earlier on," says Cline. "Don't keep your effort within your facility department. Expand it out to the entire corporation, so you are looking at purchasing practices and getting the whole organization involved." Green efforts have paid off in more ways than one at National Geographic. Frank Candore, chief engineer and project administrator for National Geographic's LEED program, says they are now saving $515,000 annually in utilities, compared to costs before the first certification, and have seen the price of waste disposal drop from $65,000 to $15,000.
One big advantage of taking a holistic look at sustainability is that such an approach can help guide capital investments to maximize environmental benefits. "From an organizational perceptive, the LEED program acts as a master plan for facility operation," Cline says. Suppose an organization needs to replace a roof. Instead of simply replacing it with another roof of the same type, facility managers can use the project to install a reflective or vegetative roof to improve the environmental performance of the building.
SL Green Realty Corp. used a $72 million capital program to redevelop 100 Park, a 36-story, 825,000-square-foot building in New York City. The organization achieved its LEED-EBOM certification goal when it received Silver in 2009.
One improvement at 100 Park was the installation of vegetative roofs on 14 rooftops on the building, says Edward Piccinich, executive vice president for SL Green. Like many buildings in Manhattan, 100 Park is designed with setbacks to provide more natural light and better views of the sky at street level. The green roofs on 100 Park absorb rainfall instead of letting it go directly into the sewer system. That's important in New York City, where the sewer system sometimes overflows.
Efforts to green an existing building need not be capital-intensive, says Piccinich. He points to steps like recycling, using green cleaning and paper products, installing Energy Star-rated equipment, and purchasing locally sourced, sustainable and green materials, such as paint and carpet with low VOC emissions.
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