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By Anne Cosgrove
Published in the April 2007 issue of Today’s Facility Manager
Fifty-one stories above street level, the green roof at 111 South Wacker Drive in Chicago leads a relatively solitary existence. Aside from the monthly upkeep performed by maintenance staff, the sedum vegetation inhabiting the rooftop does not need much care and can thrive in less than ideal conditions.
“The sedum is almost like a ground covering,” explains Suzanne Hendrick, general manager of 111 South Wacker. “It’s very low maintenance.” The low growing succulent plant covers about 90% of the roof’s surface.
The green roof is one of the measures taken by the building’s developer, Chicago-based The John Buck Company (TJBC), to earn Gold LEED for Core and Shell (LEED-CS) certification for the 1,027,671 square foot building. Broadly defined, LEED-CS addresses base building elements such as the structure, envelope, and building level systems (i.e. central HVAC). It does not include the way tenants build out their individual spaces.
Earning 36 points, the building was LEED-certified by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in October 2005, several months after opening the previous May. As the first speculative high rise office building to earn LEED-CS Gold, 111 South Wacker represents a milestone for the USGBC rating system. It also marked an achievement for JBC, since the building was the firm’s first foray into LEED certification.
Ed Walsh, vice president and operations manager for JBC, was involved in the project from the start. He explains, “One of the firm’s principals, Dan Jenkins, initiated exploring the LEED certification program in order to understand what was required. He became a LEED Accredited Professional (AP) prior to the start of construction.” To further facilitate the process, JBC hired a LEED consultant to steer that aspect of the building.
Walsh, who has worked for JBC for 15 years and served as project manager for another Chicago high-rise property—1 North Wacker (also known as the UBS Tower), has seen the project through from JBC’s purchase of the property to the present—working with Hendrick on operations issues.
In explaining his role, Walsh says, “I have, more or less, been the person in the field for the developer, JBC. Initially, I was involved on the mechanical side, but as that MEP scope expanded to all the utilities, I became involved in getting those into the building.
“I also worked on the materials and quality control aspect of construction,” explains Walsh. “This involved working with the architect and the structural engineer with regard to material testing of concrete and steel.”
Setting Sights High
JBC wanted 111 South Wacker to be a top of the line facility for its occupants. As such, there were several main focuses for the team: sustainability; technology; and aesthetics. Designing a successful building that would meet all these criteria depended greatly on the skills of the individuals on the job.
As an integrated real estate services firm established in 1981, JBC has experience in development, management, and leasing. So while LEED certification was new with the 111 South Wacker building, other aspects were familiar territory for the JBC team, which enabled it to work efficiently with the other project team members.
Says Joe Cliggott, project architect and senior associate with Chicago-based Goettsch Partners, Inc., “Guiding factors in the decision making were based on consultant and owner input, as well as working closely with the general contractor to determine the best alternatives when we considered aesthetics, cost, time, and materials availability. The knowledge on the team, in terms of what the market demands were, enabled us to respond in a very efficient manner.”
Hendrick, who came on board in September 2006, notes that JBC’s strategy of having Walsh involved on both the development and operations sides created continuity during the transition. “During the transition, Ed made sure all building start-up issues were addressed,” she explains. “Coming into the building, I was able to focus on enhancing building operations, since the start-up issues were being addressed.”
Once the building was complete, Walsh kept his office there and currently serves as a resource to Hendrick and other management staff. Walsh and Hendrick agree that having someone who was involved in construction stay on during the operations stage has been beneficial. “It takes ongoing involvement to understand how a building functions,” says Walsh.
Sustainability, Technology, And Aesthetics
With LEED certification as a goal, sustainability came into play at the very beginning of planning. When JBC purchased the site, there was an existing parking lot with two additional levels below grade. Cars were being valeted between rows of columns—remaining structures from the USG Building which had occupied the site previously. In a strategy employed to save construction time as well as to earn LEED points, the team decided to reuse the existing foundation walls and caissons.
Cliggott explains, “Due to the disjointed grid system between [the existing] 45° and the 90° structure we had planned, we used a 10’ deep concrete mat to tie in the existing structure to ours. It was highly effective, and it allowed us to reduce the amount of time and material to build the below grade structure.”
Since JBC envisioned a building that would accommodate tenant needs well into the future, technology and related amenities were crucial to the planning as well.
Says Cliggott, “A primary goal was to create an office building efficiently designed for the way companies work. It needed to be flexible, adaptable, and equipped with multiple platforms for voice and data technology. We worked carefully with prospective tenants to identify their needs and how our project could best respond to them, without limiting options for future tenants.”
Flexibility in technology was paramount in the design, and this factor was addressed through offering tenants multiple options for their technology needs. There are voice/data risers for both copper and fiber optics and sized for multiple carriers with redundant feeds; power service from two separate substations; rooftop technology platform/pathway; two oversized building voice/data distribution risers with two voice/data closets on each floor; and a 12KVA riser to Com-Ed vaults serving each office floor.
Walsh witnessed the implementation of these systems during construction. “It began in the initial design where pathways for voice and data were established within the building for ease of access. From there, we created the option for tenants to expand services regarding the different carriers they might use—whether for bandwidth requirements or rooftop access to satellites.”
With backup power and cooling requirements crucial to organizations relying on computer networks and climate control for the continuation of operations, the project team dedicated a space toward the bottom of the building where tenants could place their own backup generators. Tenants could also install their own backup equipment for cooling in a space provided on the roof of the building.
Visually, the building’s circular main lobby may be its most definitive feature. The 45′ high space is enclosed in a glass cablewall, which not only gives the appearance of the rest of the building floating above it, but it also creates a view into the building from the street.
“The transparency of the lobby engages passersby,” says Cliggott. “Without stepping foot into the building, the pedestrian becomes part of the interior. Likewise, for the occupants within, the lobby provides the most minimal protection from the outside; the only thing separating the interior from the exterior is the acoustic privacy and the thermal comfort.”
The aesthetics of the ground floor, a portion of which is occupied by a restaurant, creates an attractive and welcoming visual for occupants and outsiders alike.
All Eyes On Management
In describing her day to day responsibilities, Hendrick explains that much of her focus is on enhancing amenities for tenants. Organizations leasing space in the building include financial firms, a large law firm, and a printing and publishing company.
“I meet regularly with the service providers in the different profit areas, which include a fitness center, a parking garage, and a conference center,” Hendrick says. “We work to make sure we keep informed on what tenants’ needs are and determine whether or not we are exceeding those expectations.”
Of course, Hendrick has more than amenities to oversee. There are additional JBC employees on-site, including an assistant manager who shares responsibilities with Hendrick. There is also a tenant services coordinator to collaborate with tenants on their work orders and other space requests.
Other services are outsourced including the concierge, who assists with the conference center, security services, engineering services, and cleaning services. “I strive to work as a team with all of our contractors,” says Hendrick. “We take advantage of the outsourcing in that it helps us to have more resources available to assist in the overall management of the building.”
Now owned by another company, (JBC sold the building to a German firm, Union Investment Real Estate AG, in December 2005), the focus on being a LEED facility remains important. In fact, Hendrick has been charged with preparing to undergo the certification process for LEED for Existing Buildings (EB).
“As we renew contracts with vendors, we make sure provisions related to this pursuit are included,” she explains. “We are also meeting with those providers to begin benchmarking in order to compile the information needed to submit the application to the USGBC.”
Ongoing improvement is top of mind for members of the management team at 111 South Wacker Drive. By sharing knowledge and setting goals, this vision remains in clear focus.