November 13, 2008
LEED for Existing Buildings helps owners compete in tough market
While the LEED for Existing Buildings (EB) program isn’t up and running yet in Canada, green-conscious building owners here can pursue a certification through the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) version of LEED EB.
Oxford Properties did just that recently, making it the first real estate development and management firm to receive a LEED EB certification for a multi-tenant building in Canada. The building is King Tower, one of three towers that comprise Metro Centre in downtown Toronto. A few other buildings in Canada are LEED EB certified but they are single-tenant occupancies.
Why did Oxford think it necessary to go through a two-year overhaul of a building constructed in the last decade?
“LEED for Existing Buildings can help differentiate a building owner in an existing building market and allow them to stay competitive with new building stock,” says Barbara Ciesla, co-leader of the sustainable design group of HOK Canada’s Toronto office.
HOK led the King Tower project which started in 2006 and was completed earlier this year.
LEED EB deals primarily with changes to a building’s operations and management systems, rather than physical renovations.
Building owners and operators thoroughly evaluate maintenance and operations and make improvements that maximize operational efficiency and minimize environmental impact.
The level of the certification — in Oxford’s case LEED Silver — is based on how many LEED credits (points) the building achieves.
Constructed in 1991, King Tower is a 15-storey, 472,000-square-foot office building.
The first step for the HOK team was to complete a building audit and make an assessment of practical improvements.
Meetings were held with the engineering consultant, waste-management and haulage companies and janitorial contractors to help determine changes required.
Some operations and maintenance policies were revamped and building automated systems were fine tuned to meet sustainable criteria, says Ciesla.
Among the improvements, replacing T12 light fixtures with less-energy intensive T8 lights was one of the priorities.
Another key change was piping in cold water from 83 metres below the surface of Lake Ontario to use in the building’s heat exchange system for cooling.
The Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) hopes to launch its version of the U.S. LEED EB program soon, possibly this fall.
In the meantime, it encourages building owners to seek certification through the U.S. version.
Major developers such as Oxford Properties, Colliers and Cadillac Fairview are pushing for the Canadian launch of the program because they see its merits.
Among those merits is the marketing advantage an enviro-friendly building provides (green is a big selling point for major tenants these days).
Having a greener building also increases the value of the property and improves its energy efficiency.
Building owners can take different roads to achieve a LEED EB.
“There is no one way of making a building sustainable but there is almost always a solution that can be cost effective,” explains Don Crichton, vice-president and practice leader of the workplace solutions division of HOK Canada.
In the next few years, as pressures from tenants mount and the green movement grows, he says more building owners will have to get on board to protect their marketing advantage.
“I think we’ll start to see them learning from each other so they are all doing the right thing.”
Ciesla says building owners who underestimate the importance of sustainable design might find themselves losing tenants in years to come.
“I’ve heard that in New York City if you are not building a LEED certified building, you are not considered a Class A building. The standards have changed and if you have an existing building to remain competitive this (LEED EB) is a way to do that.”
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