LEED by Example

The Register-Guard – July 12, 2009 – By Sherri Buri McDonald –

More local building projects go green by design – certified. 

The number of buildings in the Eugene-Springfield area that meet national LEED benchmarks for green buildings still can be counted on just one hand. But soon it will take all 10 fingers — and even some toes.

Five local buildings have won Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification, but at least a dozen more are in various stages of planning, according to the U.S. Green Building Council Web site.

These projects, in the public and private sector — and across all industries — are gaining popularity for a mix of reasons, construction professionals say.

A big factor is simply awareness. Over the years, more building occupants, developers and consultants have learned about the long-term cost savings and environmental benefits of green buildings and become proficient in meeting rigorous LEED standards.

“We have this public consciousness that (green building) might be a good idea, and we have this tool (LEED) to measure how well are we doing,” said Chris Ramey, associate vice president of campus planning and real estate at the University of Oregon.

“The third (factor) is the professional community is embracing this as almost a baseline at this point,” he said.

Some governments, such as Oregon and the city of Eugene, now require new government buildings to meet LEED benchmarks. In November 2004, Oregon required that new state buildings meet at least silver standards. The state leaves it up to the developer to decide whether to actually spend the time and money to obtain a LEED certificate.

As a result, the UO’s ivory towers have been turning silver in recent years — but without the papers to prove it. New construction on campus must meet LEED silver standards, yet few “user groups,” the committees that guide university building projects, go through the trouble of getting the certificate.

“The particular irony for us as a campus of higher education is that we’re in the business of selling diplomas,” Ramey said. “Yet we’re often not willing to spend the money to get a (green building) diploma, which is a LEED certificate.”

Filing costs can run as high as $25,000 or $50,000, especially in the early years when consultants weren’t as well-versed in green building construction, he said.

“Often times the user groups will look at that and say, ‘Do I spend $25,000 more on a piece of paper, or on more efficient light fixtures?’ ” Ramey said.

The UO’s Lillis Business School complex, which met the silver standards, was the first building in the Eugene- Springfield area to achieve LEED certification.

Two more university projects under construction are pursuing certification.

The $200 million Matthew Knight Arena “is deep into the silver … and just on the cusp of gold” certification, said Kacie Renc, a project executive for JMI Sports, the San Diego firm that’s managing the development of the arena project. It would be among the first LEED-certified sports arenas in the nation, she said.

The proposed 60,000-square-foot Cheryl Ramberg Ford and Allyn Ford Alumni Center, near the planned sports arena on Franklin Boulevard, plans to go for gold certification, said Gene Mowery, a project planner in the UO’s campus planning and real estate department.

“This user group thought certification for the alumni center was important, and, with the architectural team, thought the gold level was achievable,” he said.

Three years ago, Eugene began requiring new city buildings larger than 10,000 square feet to obtain LEED silver certification.

The Eugene Airport’s $5.5 million, 11,000 square-foot air cargo building, which was completed in June 2008, is seeking silver certification, spokeswoman Cathryn Stephens said.

A planned $5.1 million, 11,600 square-foot aircraft rescue and fire fighting station, also plans to go for silver certification once funding for the project is secured, she said.

Nationally, green building accounted for just 2 percent of nonresidential construction projects in 2005. That percentage climbed to 10-12 percent last year, and is expected to hit 20-25 percent by 2013, according to the green building council.

“When companies are really focusing on the long-term, they realize there are social benefits as well as economic benefits to building green,” said Sadie Dressekie, spokeswoman for Arlie & Co., a Eugene development company led by John Musumeci and his wife, Suzanne Arlie.

“You’re stupid if you’re not doing them,” said Mark Miksis, development director at Arlie.

“It’s the trend, and as you look at energy prices rising, I think you’re getting left in the dust if you’re not jumping on the bandwagon.

“We’ve talked to some national appraisers and real estate professionals,” he said. “They’re telling us that you’ll be able to appraise (LEED certified) buildings at higher values, and it is the direction the more sophisticated developers are going.”

Arlie is seeking gold certification for the shell of the Inkwell Building, a four-story office building in its Crescent Village project in north Eugene. And, on Friday, Arlie received word that it had been awarded platinum certification — the first in Eugene — for the build-out of its own offices in the Inkwell.

The developer aimed for platinum certification largely as “a test case” to expand its own knowledge of green building, Miksis said. “We (were) asking our consultants and contractors and subcontractors to push the envelope a little bit.”

Also Arlie’s owners are committed to making the work environment as healthy and productive as possible, he said. The office will have good day lighting, operable windows for fresh air, and each employee will have the ability to control the light directly overhead, Miksis said.

Work also is under way on the Eugene Water and Electric Board’s new $83.5 million facility in west Eugene. EWEB is pursuing gold certification, spokesman Lance Robertson said.

“It will be an example of how to construct a more industrial or operational facility that meets the highest sustainability standards,” he said.

The five local buildings that have achieved LEED certification are the Lillis Business complex, the Slocum Orthopedic Center and the U.S. Federal Courthouse in Eugene, and Royal Caribbean’s call center and Symantec’s customer service center in Springfield.

The Kendall Toyota dealership in Eugene also won gold LEED certification, but it was so close to achieving the top platinum mark, that it’s taking additional steps to win platinum certification, said Dave Blewett, president of Kendall Auto Group.

At least 10 construction projects in various stages of planning are seeking LEED bragging rights, according to the green building council’s Web site.

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