Archive for September, 2011

Can My Employer’s Office Building be Green?

September 27, 2011

I got an email at work this week noting that the company’s landlord (Brandywine Realty Trust) was implementing a new recycling system. Instead of changing everyone’s trash can liners daily, the trash can at my cube is now a recycle can—the trash goes to lined cans in the kitchen. The idea is to make it less easy to throw away trash and more easy to recycle, The system will be set up to encourage the sustainable option—in this case, recycling,

I became curious about what else a landlord like Brandywine could do on the sustainability front. Brandywine actually has a pretty impressive program. A couple of its elements include green cleaning products and beginning an integrated pest management system for the landscaping outside. Equally impressive from a corporate point of view are the goals for 2011—including a 70% recycling diversion goal (the source of the email I got), a 10% reduction in water consumption—35 million gallons, and bringing 33% of their portfolio into Energy Star compliance. These are all excellent goals—and measurable.

But Brandywine is not the only large commercial landlord in the Philadelphia area marketplace implementing green building initiatives. Another major landlord is Liberty Property Trust. I was actually lucky enough to be able to take a tour of one of their showcase properties—Center City Philadelphia’s Comcast Center. It is truly a spectacular building featuring a 100 foot high “lobby”. However, in order to save energy, only the bottom 20 feet is climate controlled—the other 80(%) are not. That is a lot of energy usage avoided.

The Comcast Center has several other notable features that make it a more sustainable building. The special windows block 60% of the sun’s heat while enabling 70% of the sun’s light to get through. The urinals are waterless (saving an estimated 1.2 million gallons of water). The irrigation system is based on the collection of storm water and re-using that water vs. turning on the taps. This water will be stored in old boiler tanks that were re-purposed and re-used (and saved from a landfill at the same time.).

There are numerous other major buildings in Philadelphia that have significant green elements. The expanded Convention Center, for example, has a “white-roof” which reflects the rays of the summer sun. It also has the energy efficient “Low-E” insulating glass. Both of these help reduce operating costs. In suburban Philadelphia., Centocor put a “solar grove” in their parking lot. This features 8 columns of 70 solar panels each. The panels will simultaneously save $35,000 on energy costs and generate $60,000 in revenue from solar power sold back into the electricity grid.

The more I look, the more examples I find of commercial property owners making their properties greener and more sustainable. It definitely seems the wave of the future—one that can’t come soon enough in my view. I am happy that my particular office building is implementing the new single stream recycling system. I am even happier that many other building operators have implemented larger scale projects to make their buildings green and cheaper to operate at the same time.

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