LEED Facility Case Study: A Natural Progression
By Anne Vazquez
Published in the October 2007 issue of Today’s Facility Manager
The decision for LaSalle Bank Midwest to pursue LEED certification for its headquarters building in Troy, MI was made during a meeting in 2005. Kevin Kmet, first vice president, corporate facilities of LaSalle Bank, explains, “The bank’s facilities and real estate group often met to discuss our strong sustainability commitment. After a while, we decided to find out how green our facility actually was. We knew about the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and its LEED system, and after some research, we decided to get a third party perspective on how we were doing in the realm of sustainability. So we made LEED certification a goal for 2006.”
As Kmet and his team set out to achieve LEED for Existing Buildings (EB) certification, they were fortunate the building already had quite a few features that would earn LEED credits. This is because the pursuit of sustainability actually began many years ago, when the company’s 500,000 square foot facility was built in 1989.
Standard Federal Bank, which became LaSalle Bank in 2005, directed the architects, The WBDC Group, to incorporate environmentally friendly and energy efficient systems into the building. Additionally, the building was constructed using long lasting materials, including a granite and glass facade.
“This structure was built to last for 100 years or more,” says Kmet. “All of the features are very durable. We have granite on the facade and in the lobby. We also have Corian wall guards, which are still in use and in good condition. The building systems were also designed to stand the test of time and to be leading edge. We were fortunate the foresight was there during construction.”
When LEED certification became a goal, Shannon Kosiba of Jones Lang LaSalle was the assistant facility manager of the building. (LaSalle Bank brought facility management staffing back in-house at the end of 2006, and Kmet became the manager responsible for daily operations of the building, in addition to his existing responsibility for all of the bank’s campus facilities.) Kmet explains that Kosiba was the “point keeper,” guiding the bank’s progress in meeting the LEED prerequisite and credit requirements. “She kept track of where we stood and helped to keep everyone on task,” he says.
To launch the endeavor, Kosiba met with the consulting firm hired by the bank to begin planning. “We went through each credit to see what was attainable, what we would work toward, and what we didn’t think would work,” she explains.
The team then moved to the LEED checklist, which is broken down into six categories—Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy & Atmosphere, Materials & Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, and Innovation & Design Process. As the team went through the checklist, it identified credits as “green,” “yellow,” and “red.”
“We already had some of the items in place,” says Kmet. “Those were the greens. If we were close on something, that was a yellow, and if we could not earn a particular credit without changing a significant process or spending a very large amount of money, we marked those as red.”
Despite the building having a number of green features that would earn LEED credits at the outset, there were improvements to be made. And bank management wanted to submit the application to the USGBC before the end of 2006. So in order to tackle the project, Kosiba asked for a Jones Lang LaSalle colleague experienced in LEED submittals to come on-site to facilitate the pursuit. Stephanie Brentin, LEED AP, associate project manager with that firm, helped Kosiba get the process going.
Brentin stayed on for the beginning stages, helping to familiarize Kosiba with the LEED application process. “Kosiba had instant knowledge of the building,” Brentin explains. “The building was very environmentally friendly, but they needed assistance in documenting the processes and identifying some of the LEED terminology.”
Kosiba agrees. “One of the most challenging aspects was the amount of documentation required to prove we were doing what we stated on the application,” she explains. “Finding some of the data was difficult, particularly with a 20 year old building. It was fortunate that the chief engineer had been here since the building opened; he helped us track down a lot of information.”
After compiling the documentation, making improvements to existing practices, and introducing several new ones, LaSalle Bank received LEED-EB Gold level certification, with 49 points, in April 2007.
Green On Board
In 2005, the LaSalle Bank building in Troy already incorporated several systems designed to save natural resources and money. Space cooling, for instance, was provided by a 36-tank underground thermal ice storage system, which has been operating since the building opened. The system reduces energy costs (though not consumption), because the ice is created at night, during off peak hours for the utility. The ice is then used as a coolant during the day.
“We can store up to 6,840 tons of ice in the tanks,” says Kmet.
“On a 90° day, we use virtually all of that ice to cool the building. Our data center is the only place that is not cooled by the thermal storage system.”
That area is equipped with a heat recovery chiller to ensure the cooling needs of the data center are met. In keeping with the efficient building systems approach, the chiller for the data center is a dedicated heat recovery chiller, which takes the waste heat out of the data center and transfers it so it can be used for space heating in the building.
The capability of this recovery system was expanded several years ago to heat water for domestic hot water. “The city water comes into the building at about 60°[F],” says Kmet. “The heat recovery system then heats that water to about 90°, which then travels to our traditional boilers where it’s boosted to the appropriate temperature—about 120°. This reduces the energy used by the boilers, since they only have to raise the temperature by 30°.”
The bank also found a way to use the recovered heat to melt snow on an exterior bridge connecting the facility’s parking garage with the building. Kmet explains that the bridge was showing some corrosion effects, so when the structure underwent repairs, the bank specified radiant heat tubing to be installed under the concrete. Kmet notes the bank applied for a LEED Innovation credit for this system but did not achieve it.
The bank also strives to consume water in an efficient manner. Since the building’s construction, a pond on the site has been used to store water taken from an underground well; that water is used to irrigate the landscape.
In 2003, the bank found another use for the pond. Kmet explains that the chief engineer at the bank had previously suggested the possibility of cooling the building with water from the pond, rather than the traditional cooling tower. This possibility was put on the front burner after the northeastern blackout in August 2003 occurred, and the facility lost its cooling capability when the public water system shut down.
“The building was running great,” recalls Kmet. “We were on a generator, and everything was moving along pretty well, except for city water. Our cooling tower ran on city water, and ultimately, that was our Achilles heel.”
That led the bank’s facilities team to decide that the pond would become the source of backup cooling water. “I hope we never have another blackout,” says Kmet, “but if such an event should occur, at least that piece of the puzzle has been solved.”
Using the pond for backup cooling requires it to be treated for anti-scale, and as Kmet points out, they could not use traditional cooling tower chemicals, since water from the pond is also used for landscaping. “We treat the pond with the same equipment that is used for swimming pools that don’t contain chlorine—a bromine type system with reverse osmosis,” he says. “This system worked so well that we now also use it for the primary cooling tower.”
As part of its LEED application process, LaSalle Bank considered the status of its existing garden roof. Occupying 16,500 square feet, the intensive garden roof positioned on top of an EDPM membrane had been in place since 1989. “In 2005, we had done some roof studies to see how it was performing,” says Kmet. “After 16 years, it was time to start looking at a partial replacement or redo the entire thing.”
The decision was made to repair and keep the existing roof, which featured trees as part of its landscape. However, the bank wanted to expand the reach of its garden roofing and looked at a different approach for additions.
As part of his research, Kmet visited other organizations with garden roofs, including Ford Motor Company in nearby Dearborn, MI—known for its 10.4-acre extensive garden roof. “We looked at what Ford had done with the extensive green roof, which featured sedum, a very lightweight greenery,” says Kmet. “We talked to the people at Ford about their experience with it and considered what the costs and paybacks would be.”
Ultimately, the bank installed an additional 34,148 square feet of garden roof, but it differed from the existing garden roof in that it was an extensive roof consisting of sedum—a low maintenance, succulent plant.
Kmet explains that the bank expects a 10 year payback in the energy savings from the new roofing. “It is designed to last 20 years,” he says, “so halfway through its life, it will have paid for the cost premium of such a system.”
Now, only the two uppermost roofing levels are not covered with vegetation. Instead, those levels feature reflective roofs. “The use of the reflective roof was a cost savings measure,” explains Kmet. “And we still do reap energy savings from that portion of the roof.”
Applying for LEED-EB requires facility managers to take stock of the performance of their building systems in terms of energy use as well as occupant comfort and health. Kmet had a substantial amount of data on utility usage from the past, but he needed to do more work to ensure that indoor environmental quality was acceptable.
“It was easy for me to go back to the bills for utility information, but we also had to verify the amount of outside air we were bringing in,” he says. “We had a design measurement of how much we were bringing in, but not an actual figure.”
Recycling and cleaning policies were other areas that the bank evaluated to achieve LEED credits. Going into the process, the bank had an existing occupant recycling program involving paper, aluminum, glass, and cardboard. “We recycled all of those materials with our waste handler,” says Kmet. “Whatever can be recycled is recycled. And materials that cannot be recycled are incinerated by the recycling plant and used for energy.”
While the practice was in place, the bank needed to document clearly the extent of the recycling. Says Kosiba, “Once we started the LEED process, the bank realized the importance of tracking that information and the resulting benefits.”
The cleaning program was an area that required improvement both in practice and tracking to become more sustainable. “We were close on that,” says Kmet, “but there were some products that weren’t the best for the environment, so we had to change those. We went through our purchasing policy in that area to improve on the products we were using in the building.”
Creating or changing purchasing policies and service agreements was an important and time consuming part of the LEED pursuit. Kosiba notes that the bank now writes specific sustainable requirements into service requests. “You need to have contractors and vendors understand the goals of the facility and the new process,” she says.
Life After LEED
When asked what his facilities team does to stay on the right track for sustainability and LEED recertification in five years, if desired, Kmet says measuring energy and water use is number one. “We’ve had a good tracking record in the past, and I now have five years of electric, water, and gas usage figures.
“I do that for all of our owned campus buildings,” Kmet continues. “I can measure this building against another building that hasn’t gone through the LEED process or that doesn’t have as many green features. That is the control building, and I’ll determine if it was a hot summer or a cool summer so the numbers are not skewed. I’m quite pleased with the headquarters building now, since it is outperforming the control building in energy savings.”
With the bank’s new LEED status, Kmet has given a number of public tours to interested parties. To heighten awareness—and earn a LEED Innovation credit—LaSalle Bank established a visitor center for employees and customers to learn about the bank’s sustainable practices and LEED certification.
“We are not in the business of giving tours, but people find out mostly by word of mouth and want to see it,” says Kmet. “I am amazed at the public’s response and the desire for more information. I think customers and employees take home ideas that help them in their own efforts.”
With close to 20 years of experience in a building with sustainable features, Kmet has seen many technologies touted as the next best thing. When asked how he identifies what might be right for his buildings, he notes that a mix of good research and good timing are important tools for a facility manager.
“It can be challenging to stay on top of the technology, and there are a lot of new things on the market,” says Kmet. “We have been very fortunate in that we’re anxious to introduce new things, but we’re not overly eager. An example is our sedum green roof; yes, it’s a fairly new approach, but there are a lot of them installed, and a lot of research is available. I’m very comfortable that we’ve made the right choice there.”
The fact that LaSalle Bank has operated with some sustainability measures since 1989 has helped the facility management staff ease into new operational requirements that came about as a result of LEED. “It hasn’t been a light switch effect,” says Kmet. “It has been a progression over 18 years, since we’ve been implementing strategies along the way. We have had to learn some things about maintaining the new green roof, for instance, but for the most part it has been business as usual.”
This article was based on interviews with Brentin ( firstname.lastname@example.org), Kmet, and Kosiba.
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