Northpointe HQ Goes LEED

March 30, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — There aren't a lot of electric cars on the road just yet, but Northpointe Bank will be ready for them when they arrive. The surface parking lot at the bank's new headquarters at the southeast corner of I-96 and the East Beltline is equipped with six electricity receptacles.

That's just one of the environmentally friendly features on the site; the building is "friendly," too, because it was designed to achieve LEED certification.

According to the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED certification is recognized nationwide as proof that a building is environmentally responsible, profitable and a healthy place to live and work. Different LEED versions have slighlty different scoring systems.

Northpointe's new headquarters was designed by Integrated Architecture and built by Lamar Construction according to LEED certification standards for sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy efficiency, materials used and indoor environmental quality. The four-story, 165,000-square foot building includes a full-service banking center with three teller windows and two Internet banking kiosks, three drive-through teller lanes, a 24-hour drive-up ATM and a customer lounge.

Indoors, the builder used paints, carpeting and flooring with low chemical and particle emissions. Even the cleaning contractor hired to maintain the building uses products that are environmentally friendly and help maintain indoor air quality.

The building is designed so it doesn't use any more energy than is minimally necessary, said David Huizenga, senior associate and project designer with Integrated Architecture. The building has built-in software systems that identify external and internal temperatures and automatically regulate the heating and cooling in a particular area for occupancy comfort.

Integrated Architecture's Peter Knorr, senior construction administrator, is the engineer who's sheparding the LEED certification process. He said the building's energy management system continually monitors the air and the amount of CO2 in the building and adjusts the amount of fresh air as needed. The HVAC system doesn't use any refrigerants that would compromise the ozone, Knorr said.

Outdoors, more trees were planted on the site than are typically found on sites of comparable size, which was done to reduce the heat islands in the surface parking lot, Huizenga noted. Knorr said all the landscaping was designed so it can basically thrive without an undue amount of irrigation, which will reduce water consumption and save the bank money. The plants and trees chosen for the grounds were positioned in specific areas so the irrigation could be very specific as to where it would go, he said. On top of that, the plantings are drought resistent so they're very low maintenance, and because they are native species, they can survive without a lot of fertilizer.

The LEED certification process is not fully completed. An application still has to be submitted to the USGBC documenting compliance with the requirements of the rating system. Knorr said once he collects all the necessary information from Lamar Construction and sends in the application, it might take a month or two before the building is officially LEED certified.

Different LEED versions have slightly different scoring systems. The Northpointe project is seeking basic LEED certification, which requires 26 to 32 points, Huisenga said.

"When we first started doing these types of buildings, there was a little bit of a learning curve, but we decided then that any building we designed would be up to LEED-certified standards, whether or not the owners want to go through the actual certification process," Huizenga said.

There is one tenant renting space in the building presently, and there is an additional 17,740 square feet of space still available for commercial lease through Oxford Partners. Oxford handles all Northpointe's corporate real estate related activities, which up to this point have included helping the bank establish offices in other states and working with some of the residual issues related to the bank's acquisition of the Northpointe Park site, said Dan Wiersma, president of Oxford Partners. His firm otherwise does very little third-party real estate servicing, he said.

Wiersma said LEED certification used to be a novelty in the marketplace, but now it's a big selling point. A lot of the national tenant representation firms have added LEED certification to their list of requirements when they're looking for sites, he added.

"Now the path of least resistance is to spec a building so it satisfies the minimum LEED requirements," Wiersma remarked. "Now the bar is actually being raised to deliver infinitely more sustainability."

Northpointe's new headquarters was the first of three new developments to open on the former Duba's Restaurant property. Uno Pizzeria and Country Inn & Suites are under construction and nearing completion.   

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