By Frank Jossi
Dolan Media Newswires
MINNEAPOLIS – A 284,000-square-foot Minnesota building is the first in state to earn a recertification of the existing-building designation from the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Green Building Council.
The Crescent Ridge Corporate Center I in Minnetonka, Minn., in 2009 was the first property in the state to earn Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification in the category of “Existing Buildings Operation and Maintenance.”
“Our goal was to be on the leading edge of LEED,” said Cam Gunderson, Crescent Ridge’s property manager. “Our decision to earn LEED and get recertified was an effort to be at the front of the pack.”
Gunderson and a handful of others spoke to about 100 people at the February meeting of the St. Louis Park-based Institute of Real Estate Management. The discussion looked at the growing need for buildings with a LEED-existing-building designation to be recertified every five years.
Recertification of existing buildings is just becoming part of the LEED discussion as the standard is relatively new, said Adam Fransen, manager of CBRE’s Sustainability Programs. The Green Building Council initially only rated new buildings, but in 2007 launched a program for existing buildings to achieve LEED.
In going for a recertification, he said, a building owner must supply three months of performance data on energy and water use, waste disposal and a handful of other practices.
The key to success, Fransen said, is for a building to show that it follows a “best practices” methodology over time. Basically, the recertification is the proof that the standards and practices a building owner has implemented are working.
Capturing performance data and making any changes to systems that aren’t working at optimal levels will help with achieving a high enough score to gain recertification, Fransen added.
After the first LEED certification, a building invariably performs better, using less energy, reducing water use and waste. But Gunderson warned that the second time around a building is not likely to show a 30 percent performance improvement after recertification.
If the bump in energy and water savings isn’t as great — because the hard work of conservation comes in the initial LEED process — the recertification has the advantage of being less time-intensive, said Gunderson, who works for Bloomington-based Cushman & Wakefield/NorthMarq.
The key to recertification is collecting data.
“You need to be tracking everything that happens and all the work tickets you issue,” Gunderson said.
This becomes a challenge with a building’s vendors, she said, because “it’s not a normal state of affairs” for them to track energy and waste statistics.
To overcome the tracking challenges for Crescent Ridge, Gunderson hired a consultant and used the cloud-based sustainability tracking software SeaSuite, developed by Goby LLC in Chicago. The recertification cost $39,000, or 16 cents per square foot, and 90 hours of staff time.
The consulting fee was cheaper for the initial LEED certification. But the staff time devoted to that first round — 668 hours — was enormous, Gunderson said.
“We couldn’t have done [recertification] without a consultant,” she said.
To get staff and tenants onboard with a LEED project, Crescent Ridge used a variety of strategies, including sponsoring events, organizing green teams and communicating results through newsletters, signage and on electronic kiosks. The building supports electronic recycling events, Earth Day celebrations and Commuter Challenge programs for carpooling, biking and other transit to work, she said.
LEED tends to work better when applied to Class A properties than older buildings, said Peter Dahl, lead sustainability specialist at St. Paul-based Sebesta Blomberg. Still, those building owners — many of them unlikely to seek LEED —still can cut energy costs and water consumption by using a handful of strategies.
One is to use the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s free “Energy Star” software to determine how well a building performs, he said. Using a building’s automation system to flag building engineers when trouble occurs is another approach to reducing energy, Dahl said.
Another strategy to make a building more energy-efficient is “recommissioning” it to determine what improvements can be made, Dahl said. Recommissioning studies offer suggestions that add little cost, as well as those that may require larger investments, he said.
And any building owner can do a “waste audit” to figure out the potential for greater recycling of plastics, paper and metals, he said. Building owners also should consider composting options as more haulers make that an option.
Dahl pointed out the materials available on the Green Building Council’s website will work just as well for building owners who simply want to improve the performance of their properties without LEED in mind.
But for Gunderson, recertification made sense because the task wasn’t all that difficult.
“It was much easier,” she said, “than the first time around.”