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March 12, 2008


Next Bisnow Breakfast & Schmooze:  Louis Dreyfus Property President Jeff Sussman and DC Head Bob BraunohlerApr. 16 at BLT Steak. Come hear about Lafayette Tower—what they hope will be the first $100/SF building in DC—and other new projects. Special thanks to Tishman Construction and WorkSpaces LLC. Sign up!


At first, Jeffrey Abramson of the Tower Companies seems too good to be true. When he told us he built eco-friendly buildings before LEED existed because it was the "right thing to do," we thought, "yeah, sure." But after sitting down with him in his North Bethesda office, and learning more about him from others, we realized Jeffrey isn't just talk. The Abramsons are one of the storied families of post-war Washington real estate. And for the last 35 years, it wasn't just the Beatles, Beach Boys, and Clint Eastwood who practiced Transcendental Meditation under Maharishi Mahesh Yogi; so did Jeffrey, who flew to India for the Maharishi's funeral last month. For a long time, he's been trying to be not just green but to improve life through real estate.


He says his philosophy is not new age hocus pocus, but actual science:  Maharishi Vedic Architecture to be exact, and that its principles are used in 2000 Tower Oaks Boulevard, his 200k SF Rockville office building delivering in July, that is LEED-Gold certified. Jeffrey says he uses the principles in his own home and that they can influence everything from intelligence and health to good fortune (if buildings are Vedic, he says, they'll be more successful)


What principles make a building Vedic?  Jeffrey cites four: orientation, proportions, placement, and natural materials. Here he shows us a model of the Kishomoto-Gordon-Dalaya designed Tower Oaks and points to a 200-room Marriott Renaissance ClubSport Hotel and high-end condo building that will be next door.  He says the three building complex will be the world's largest commercial application of Vedic architecture. 


Jeffrey shows us his desk, which he's been told belonged to F.W. Woolworth. We're not surprised to see a cup of green tea; we didn't peg him for a coffee drinker. Jeffrey says his interest in sustainable building was sparked not only by TM, but when he read that 40% of the energy use in America which causes pollution is created by office buildings.  He thought: "If we're part of the problem, we can be part of the solution as well."


The native Washingtonian says he was "taught the family business at the dinner table."  Albert ("Sonny") Abramson, still active in the company at age 90, started Tower in 1947, and partnered with Ted Lerner in building White Flint Mall and Washington Square.  But it wasn't until 11 years ago that Jeffrey move Tower toward sustainable building.  It was the first to go green downtown with the renovation of the Millennium Building on 19th and K in '99. They gutted the original '70s structure and added four new floors.  Now the 235k SF building uses no more energy than it did originally. Tower purchases 71M kilowatt hours of energy per year from windmills, and according to the EPA is the largest purchaser of green energy in real estate, and only one of eight companies to be EPA-certified carbon neutral in the country.

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