Achieving Efficiencies Through Urban Tower Repositioning
By: Richard Westlund, a free lance writer based in Wisconsin.
The $15 million renovation program at 110 Tower includes a highly reflective roof surface and an 8,798-square-foot vegetated roof area to reduce the urban heat island effect.
When their major tenant departed the 110 Tower in downtown Fort Lauderdale, owner GenCap Partners had a decision to make — go after another lead tenant or pursue a greater tenant mix based on business types and square-footage demands. The management team made a commitment to review building functions and equipment and to revitalize the finishes and features to attract a broader tenant mix. Since beginning a comprehensive exterior and interior $15 million sustainable renovation program in 2009, Transwestern has successfully repositioned the office tower, attracted new tenants, added amenities and created 17,300 square feet of retail space opportunities.
Making the Case for Green
Soon after assuming the role of commercial leasing and building management in 2009, Transwestern met with GenCap Partners, Inc., a real estate investment and advisory firm based in Dallas, to review previously identified deferred maintenance issues related to the building. That discussion led to the owner’s decision to engage Transwestern Sustainability Services, a LEED consulting firm based in Milwaukee.
The decision to retrofit 110 Tower to LEED standards was made for several reasons. It was important to GenCap to make the building more energy efficient in order to reduce both tenant and building operating costs. Second, the building’s ownership strongly pursues sustainability objectives and its investors own several other LEED-certified office buildings. Third, by making 110 Tower more environmentally friendly, the building would appeal to tenants seeking to only lease space in LEED-certified buildings. The renovation and modernization work at 110 Tower included:
- An enhanced ground-floor lobby and upper-floor common area;
- New upscale interior finishes featuring marble, wood, steel and glass;
- New exterior building LED lighting;
- Renovated/upgraded elevator cab finishes;
- 85 newly constructed parking spaces;
- Remodeling of the exterior lobby along 6th Street;
- Renovation of hallways, elevator lobbies, restrooms, main entrance door and garage elevator; and
- Replacement of cooling towers, chillers and most air-handler units.
Future improvements underway include upgrades to all building mechanical and operating systems, upper floor lobby and restroom renovations and additional exterior building renovations. New and existing amenities include a health club, bank and conference center, with ground-level retail tenants expected in the near future.
The building will undergo monitoring of the mechanical systems through both commissioning and energy auditing on a two-year cycle.
The Three P’s of Certification – Performance, Planning and Purchasing
The key decision for GenCap was to seek LEED certification based on the actual operating performance of the existing building. Drawing on the consultant’s knowledge and support, the onsite property team developed LEED-oriented strategies for site management programs, water and energy use, environmentally preferred products and practices for cleaning and alterations, sustainable purchasing policies, waste-stream management and ongoing indoor environmental quality. The management team also renegotiated its vendor contracts to reduce harmful chemical usage, energy waste and air pollution, while increasing the use of sustainable products.
After more than 18 months of planning and renovation work, 110 Tower achieved its LEED-Gold certification in May 2011. Key LEED achievements included:
- Energy efficiency: The building’s Energy Star rating of 86 placed it in the top 14 percent of similar buildings nationwide. The building emits 33 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than an average building and is saving more than $198,000 on utility bills annually.
- Sustainable site: A highly reflective roof surface and an 8,798-square-foot vegetated roof area reduces the urban heat island effect and minimizes the impacts of microclimates on humans and wildlife.
- Water system efficiency: The implementation of a water efficiency program, including plumbing fixture retrofits, accomplished a 35 percent reduction of water use in all fixtures. Changing from a chemical system to a green water treatment plan also limited the amount of water consumption.
- Green cleaning: The management team implemented a policy of using green-seal cleaning agents, paper products with high recycled content, least-toxic pest control methods and efficient, quiet equipment with special care devoted to controlling pollutant sources in the building.
- Recycling: The team began waste stream audit and occupant education programs to increase the amount of recycling and waste diversion in the building. In addition, 75 percent of all building materials used in the renovation were recycled.
- Purchasing: The building uses an environmentally preferred purchasing program that includes: ongoing consumables (office paper products, toner cartridges, batteries, etc.); durable goods with a useful life of two years or more (furniture, office equipment, appliances, etc.); facility alterations and construction materials; and cleaning products and equipment (chemicals, janitorial paper products, energy efficient cleaning equipment).
- Lighting upgrades: Lower wattage lighting was installed with a 13 percent energy reduction impact and less mercury usage. Also, lighting motion sensors were installed on the upper floors.
Site Maintenance Matters, Even For Urban Towers
One of the most significant lessons of the 110 Tower LEED Gold achievement was site maintenance, even in an urban downtown location.
“Implementing sustainable site practices is of upmost importance because environmental damage may take years to remedy,” said senior property manager, Ellen Rivera, noting that the project team created practical strategies that are sensitive to plants, wildlife and water and air quality.
The updated green roof will have a number of recreational amenities and a water feature, providing an appealing getaway for the 500-plus people who work in 110 Tower, while also reducing stormwater runoff from the site.
To monitor water consumption, weekly metering systems were installed for potable water usage, cooling tower makeup water and potable water for plumbing fixtures.
Another future-oriented aspect of the project is ongoing monitoring of the efficiency of 110 Tower’s mechanical systems through both commissioning and energy auditing. The building will undergo ongoing commissioning on a two-year cycle to continue to ensure the mechanical systems are performing optimally.