By Matt Baker

As its constituency has begun to feel the mounting pressure to go green from tenants, investors and government regulation over the years, the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) has expanded its role as advocate to include more green leadership. Initially concentrating on the low-hanging fruit of sustainability, BOMA has tried to show its members not only the methods for updating their properties in a responsible way, but also varied ways to finance it.

This commitment to green is as true of the Chicago chapter as the international organization. This was manifest when BOMA Chicago began the process of finding a larger space. They first looked to their membership; with around 250 building members, including over 80% of the square footage in the central business district, this didn’t pare the choices down too far. But topping their list of desirable features in a new space was a sustainable commitment.

This led them to the Harris Bank Building at 115 S. LaSalle Street. Price was of course a factor, as was location; not only did they want a space somewhere in the Loop, the move would be easy as the Harris Building is across the street from their then-current address as 120 S. LaSalle. But most attractive was that the building was in the midst of a modernization process, including several sustainable upgrades. Getting in the building before the remodeling was done, BOMA Chicago was able to have some input on their space that alleviated the need for retrofits on top of the retrofits.

The Harris Building recently applied for LEED certification, with hopes of reaching gold status. Among the amenities available to BOMA Chicago are an eighth floor conference space that they can take advantage of for educational purposes, a building-wide recycling program and a 30% increase in space over their previous location. The building also offers bicycle storage and showers and changing areas for bicycle and pedestrian commuters. These features drew BOMA Chicago in, but they were determined to make their space even greener.

One of the easiest—and cheapest—ways to cut energy costs is to choose a space with good natural light. The Harris Building’s 23rd floor has blocked views to the south, where light harvesting would be optimal. But the floor to ceiling windows in BOMA Chicago’s northwest-facing, 5,400 ft2 space still allow a good amount of light in. “It was my intention to make the space as bright and airy as possible,” said Michael Cornicelli, Executive Vice President of BOMA Chicago. And he succeeded, with 90% of the work space receiving natural light.

MRSA Architects and Planners served as architects on the job, with Maureen Ford, LEED-AP serving as project manager and Kristen Ward as project designer. The whole space was retrofitted for around $80 per square foot, a price subsidized by member donations. BOMA members Facility Solutions Group, who performed electrical consultation, and electrical installers Rex Electrical provided discounts on their services.

The space, which has applied for LEED-CI gold status, employs Energy Star printers and other appliances, low-VOC paint from Sherwin Williams and low-flow water fixtures. Materials and furniture were chosen with an eye toward recycled or renewable content as well as locally available materials. An intelligent lighting system incorporates both motion and acoustic sensors. The acoustic component can be calibrated to the space and eliminates the need for hand-waving when otherwise “smart” lights turn off prematurely.

Further automation saves energy in the ventilation boxes where electrically controlled motors offer a variable draw on power, lending upwards of 60% in energy savings. The office also boasts the first commercial application of LED down lighting in Chicago. Currently limited to the reception area and task lights, there are plans to expand LED usage throughout the office. In addition, over 80% of all construction waste was diverted from landfills, including 4½ tons of drywall.

Carpet tiles from InterfaceFLOR presented the most novel green product installed in BOMA Chicago’s new space. Their “Revival Collection” offers carpet tiles made from reclaimed carpet, such as the almost 7,000 pounds harvested from the space prior to BOMA Chicago’s move-in. The carpet system claims a virtual abolition of greenhouse gases over its lifetime due to a glueless adhesive patch that unites each carpet tile to its neighbor. This floating system not only reduces VOCs and greenhouse gases, it also facilitates removal—and reclamation—of the carpet if the tenant ever moves or redecorates.

Environmental Systems Design, Inc. (ESD) performed all the mechanical, electric, fire protection and plumbing engineering, led by Efren Molina, Senior Associate and Project Manager. ESD supplied the new office with a dedicated electric meter. According to Molina, seeing real data on power consumption not only makes the tenant more responsible for energy use, it can actually lead to a change in behavior, ultimately leading to lower usage.

In addition to the engineering work, ESD performed and consulted on LEED submittals to the U.S. Green Building Commission and commissioned the space, both led by Javier Garcia. Molina feels that ESD’s most important contribution was the commissioning of the fundamental building systems, done over the course of a week and a half. “Commissioning not only assures that the net result is consistent with the design intent,” he said, “but it also measures the performance data such that it assures the project’s energy-related systems are correctly installed and function specifically as designed.”

BOMA Chicago has been trying to educate its membership on all aspects of sustainability. While green building is an obvious and public approach, Cornicelli feels there are many other avenues to environmental and fiscal responsibility—all of which should at least be considered.

Some building managers may want to consider when they bring in a cleaning crew, for instance. Does the disruption caused by having an office space cleaned in the middle of the day negate any savings from not having the office lights burning at night? According to Cornicelli, few ideas should be completely off the table. “The opulent ways of doing business are going the way of the martini lunch.”

As Cornicelli sees it, the market has shifted and building owners need to be savvier, not only about what tenants want, but how to finance it. “Buyers are getting more sophisticated. Sellers—the owners—are getting more sophisticated at financing it.”


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