Bay Area’s Green Skyline

Bay Area, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Oakland, East Bay, LEED, green buildings, One Market Plaza, Embarcadero Center, 101 California

Embarcadero Center San Francisco real estate The Registry All Rights Reserved

A list of Bay Area’s LEED certified structures reveals the region’s office stalwarts.


By Robert Celaschi

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he U.S. Green Building Council has bestowed its two highest ratings—Platinum and Gold—on 350 Bay Area structures in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. Even just counting the buildings larger than 50,000 square feet and with owners willing to make LEED certification public produces a list of 127.

Yes, the identities of some LEED buildings are kept secret, though not by the USGBC.

[contextly_sidebar id=”SbPhhHQLkwOr4nq2BXO4AtXgjmwnGB1s”]”Confidential status is entirely up to each project team,” said spokesman Jacob Kriss. “There are any number of reasons why a project might choose to be confidential. In some instances, it may have to do with not wanting their competitors to know what they’re up to.”

For instance, there’s a confidential 1.4-million-square foot LEED Gold project in San Ramon. It may be only a coincidence that Chevron Corp. happens to have the most well known 1.4 million square feet in San Ramon. After all, 16 other projects in Bishop Ranch also earned Platinum or Gold certification.

The list also doesn’t include a pair of buildings that have been pre-certified before completion. One is the 61-story Salesforce Tower, scheduled to open in 2017 and named for the company that is leasing about half of the total 1.4 million square feet. Salesforce Tower is already pre-certified Platinum. Each floor will draw in outside air, while special glass and sunshades will adjust to allow light in but controlling solar heat gain.

Also pre-certified is 535 Mission St. The 27-story office tower already has a Gold designation for the core and shell, and developer Boston Properties is aiming for Platinum for the finished product.

The largest existing entry on the list is One Market Plaza at 1.86 million square feet. It’s really a complex of three buildings in San Francisco’s financial district adjacent to the Embarcadero, the thoroughfare that spans the city’s waterfront. The oldest of the three is the 11-story Landmark, built in 1916 for the Southern Pacific Railroad, and occupied as its headquarters until 1998. The other two are the 42-story Spear Tower and the 27-story Steuart Tower, both built in 1976. Together the three earned LEED Gold certification.

One of its green initiatives is a commingled recycling and composting program that management claims can divert 75 percent or more of the building’s waste stream. Actual performance depends on tenant participation, of course. In addition to that, One Market Plaza also works with Green Citizen Inc. to recycle electronics for free, including computers, scanners, printers, copiers and cell phones.

Google has recently signed up for 250,000 square feet in the Spear Tower, and Visa has taken 111,000 square feet in the Steuart Tower where it built an executive office and client showcase center.

The property is also known for its One Market Restaurant, named by the Gayot Guide as one of the top 10 American restaurants in the United States.

The PG&E headquarters building at 245 Market St. takes the No. 2 spot among existing buildings at 1.58 million square feet, and also with a Gold rating. This address is another combination of properties, built from the 1920s through the early 1970s: a 32-story office tower, a 16-story historic office building, a 500-space parking garage and a computer operations center.

About 5,000 PG&E employees and contractors work there.

The original headquarters building earned LEED Gold in 2007, the first building in the National Register of Historic Places to do so. When that certification expired in 2012, the company submitted the entire complex for certification.

Development company Hines revamped the headquarters while making sure it still qualified for the National Register of Historic Places, enabling PG&E to recover 20 percent of the project costs through a federal rehabilitation tax credit.

In addition to LEED certification, the complex has an Energy Star Certified rating of 92, meaning it’s in the 92nd percentile of energy efficiency in all U.S. buildings.

The largest existing Platinum building on the list is 101 California St. Its score of 94 points in 2011 was the highest ever awarded in the Existing Building category at the time. The 1.46 million-square-foot building was then 29 years old.

Hines developed the 42-story tower and still manages it. The company claims 101 California is 42 percent more energy efficient than the average U.S. office building. It’s a popular building for tenants in financial services and insurance; some of its tenants include Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, Deutsche Bank Alex Brown, trading firm Susquehanna International Group and Beazley Insurance Services.

Individually, Embarcadero Center One, Two, Three and Four rank Nos. 6, 8, 10 and 11 on the list by size. Viewed collectively, however, they’d top the list at a combined 3.32 million square feet. The quartet of buildings went up between 1971 and 1981 and reach between 30 to 45 stories. This is another effort by Boston Properties, which has been pushing to make older buildings more energy efficient.

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