Eastown renovation earns LEED silver

January 3, 2010
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Something very rare happened to an office building in the Eastown Business District: It earned LEED certification.

The Boland Building, a 14,500-square-foot structure at 1331 Lake Drive SE, recently earned a LEED Silver certificate for its core and shell because of an extensive renovation by its owner, CWD Real Estate Investment.

“We are excited to offer sustainable office space in a great location at an incredibly affordable rate,” said Sam Cummings, CWD managing partner.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for small and growing businesses to have a higher-quality office environment with lower operating costs than is traditionally available to them, with the associated bragging rights of being in a LEED Silver building,” he added.

It is rather unusual for an owner to invest the additional dollars — in this case $125,000 — to gain that distinction for a building situated in an older, urban business district near the outskirts of downtown. Normally, such investments are made in suburban buildings or downtown office structures, but not likely in either during a recessionary time.

However, CWD felt the additional investment was money well spent, both environmentally and economically.

“Being sustainable is the responsible thing for everyone in the community to do. We are trying to do our part,” said Nick Koster, vice president of development for CWD.

“From a more economic standpoint, LEED equates to a more energy-efficient building, which results in lower operating costs. This is a savings to our tenants and makes our building more attractive,” added Koster, who also managed the renovation.

Koster said that as far as the firm knows, the Boland is the first small office building in the immediate vicinity to achieve LEED Silver status.

“This provides an advantage over similar office space, as our tenants can choose to not only meet their sustainability goals, but also realize lower occupancy costs than at a non-LEED building,” he said.

CWD said the Boland renovation recycled 82 percent of the waste generated by the work, which means that roughly 63 tons of wood, metal, glass and concrete weren’t taken to landfills. About a quarter of the new materials used in the work contained recycled content.

The firm also reported that gaining the certification means the building’s energy use will be 10 percent lower than energy code standards, and water usage in the building will be 30 percent less than standard fixtures provide. The work also improved ventilation throughout the building by 30 percent.

CWD bought the Boland Building in late 2007, before the sub-prime mortgage crisis and near collapse of the nation’s financial market occurred. Back then, Koster said the firm thought of the Boland’s renovation as sort of an urban real estate experiment.

“The LEED renovation had a cost premium over a traditional renovation. That premium was roughly $125,000, in this case. As we ran our financial models, we found we needed to get about a 50-cent-square-foot premium over our planned asking rents to justify the additional investment in the sustainable project,” said Koster.

“So we decided to give it a shot and see if the market would value LEED certification enough to offset the cost premium.”

But then 2008 arrived and a failed housing market drove a failing economy into recession. Credit tightened, banks recalled loans, unemployment rose, businesses either cut back or closed, and property owners offered deep concessions to keep tenants in their buildings.

“As we completed the project in late 2008, the control variable — economic conditions and market lease rates — did not stay constant and, in fact, declined significantly,” said Koster.

Still, Koster said CWD doesn’t have any regrets about spending the extra money to create the first LEED Silver office building in an urban business district. He also knows that the final chapter of the Boland story hasn’t been written yet.

“Our experiment gets an ‘incomplete,’” he said. “But as costs are now the focus of every office user, we are very happy to have an affordable, sustainable product in a prime location on a main artery to downtown.”

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