Leading the LEED Pack

LEED, San Francisco, Bay Area, Boston Properties, USGBC, Silicon Valley, Integral Group, CBRE, Kilroy Realty, commercial real estate
Kilroy’s 333 Brannan Project in San Francisco

California has the most LEED projects by far.


By David Goll

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he green movement has taken root mostly in the so-called “blue” states. San Francisco ranked second in the nationwide 2014 Green Building Adoption Index, barely eclipsed by Minneapolis-St. Paul in the annual survey conducted by CBRE Group Inc.

Cities were scored by the percentage of commercial space certified by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program of the U.S. Green Building Council. San Francisco has 39.2 percent of its commercial space LEED certified. Other Bay Area cities on the list included 12th-ranked Walnut Creek with 20.1 percent and San Jose in 18th place with 17.5 percent.

[pullquote_right]”California is head and shoulders above the rest of the country, leading the pack on sustainability issues,” said Daniel Murtaugh, corporate director of engineering in the San Francisco office of Boston Properties Inc.[/pullquote_right]The Boston-based real estate investment trust owns, manages or has developed more than 46 million square feet of Class-A office space in the Bay Area, Boston, New York and Washington, D.C.

“We are codifying best practices on both the state and major city level. The social climate has been present in California for many years to protect natural resources, so the fundamental foundation is in place to encourage the conservation of energy and water. And the current drought, of course, has only heightened our sensitivity to saving water,” added Murtaugh.

San Francisco took the lead six years ago with its adoption of green building codes, two years before the California Legislature passed the statewide CALGreen requirements. California, in turn, is the only state in the nation with such a standard.

All new San Francisco buildings of any size, as well as renovations to existing structures exceeding 25,000 square feet, must include water and energy conservation measures and use of environmentally friendly materials. San Francisco requires all existing municipal buildings where more than 5,000 square feet is being upgraded to achieve LEED Silver certification. Toxic construction materials are banned, as are certain types of wood, in new construction as well as renovations of city structures.

According to the USGBC, California ended in a tie with New York for fifth place last year in the per capita square footage of building space it built or converted to LEED standards. Illinois finished first. But, because of its size, California’s sheer numbers dwarfed other states. California recorded 595 projects that were LEED certified during 2013, encompassing more than 73 million square feet of space. The next closest, New York, recorded 259 projects and nearly 38 million square feet.

In San Francisco, Boston Properties’ showcase sustainable building projects include the 27-story 535 Mission building and the 61-story Salesforce Tower at 415 Mission St. Green features will include photo cell sensors to lower artificial lighting during daytime hours, light-colored “cool” roofs to reflect heat, and capture of rainwater to use for landscape irrigation.

One of Boston Properties’ most visible green renovations has been at the 4.8 million-square-foot Embarcadero Center office and retail complex, built between 1972 and 1982. Murtaugh said his company is also busy upgrading to LEED status other existing buildings it owns in the Bay Area, including a seven-story, 150,000-square-foot building at 2440 W. El Camino Real in Mountain View—a mid-rise structure more typical of office campus-filled Silicon Valley.

San Francisco, the Bay Area and California are leading the green pack because the environmental ethic has translated into political action to support and even require green building standards, said David Kaneda, San Jose-based managing principal of the Integral Group Inc., a global sustainable building design firm. Kaneda spent several days in Washington, D.C., in September as part of a subcommittee of the federal General Services Administration devising sustainable building targets for government buildings. His subcommittee’s recommendation that half of all federal building space nationwide become net zero by 2030 was accepted by the larger GSA Green Building Advisory Committee, and is now under consideration by top GSA officials. Not to be outdone, Kaneda said, California officials hope to reach that same goal in space operated by the state government by 2025.

Efforts to promote green building measures still face stiff hurdles throughout the Bay Area. There are no fewer than 80 jurisdictions with their own building codes, said Ron Fong, a member of the Silicon Valley committee of the USGBC’s Northern California chapter. The Bay Area also has a hodgepodge of smaller water districts. But market forces are harder to resist.

“The main advantage [of going green] is market competitiveness,” Murtaugh said. “Clients in places like San Francisco are concerned with business return on investment, but also providing leadership in sustainability. It’s critically important to them.”

For example, installing green energy features like sensors to limit lighting and heating and air conditioning can slice a tenant’s energy bill by 18 to 25 percent.

Sara Neff, vice president of sustainability for Kilroy Realty Corp., said her company’s West Coast tenants demand buildings with sustainable features. The Los Angeles-based real estate investment trust operates 13.2 million square feet from San Diego to Seattle.

“Unless you’re including those features, you’re not building a product people want. Our tenants know their employees care about sustainability. Because they want top-notch employees, they care about it, too. This is true in technology, biotechnology, entertainment media and start-ups, too,” Neff said.

West Coast Commercial Real Estate News