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November 4, 2008

DC’s First Geothermal Spec Office?

Richard Donnally, CEO and managing director of Sustainability by Design, a subsidiary of Gaithersburg-based DVA Architects, is poised to claim a small piece of DC development history for himself. Right now, he is waiting for word from a client about specs for a local office building. But these aren’t just any specs; if the developer approves them they will morph eventually into what will be DC’s first geothermal-fueled spec office building, according to Donnally. 

Geothermal energy has been used in schools, but it has not made its way in the commercial market, at least in any significant fashion, he says. Donnally is not sure why: “It represents a small increase in price, yes, but there is only a five-year payback period and a 50% energy savings.” The additional costs, he says, range from $1 SF to $2 SF. But 50% energy savings, “is phenomenal. A good LEED-certified building usually results in a 30% to 40% reduction in energy cost.” (Donnally is well acquainted with the savings a geothermal energy system can deliver. He designed his own home with a geothermal energy system that cuts heating and cooling costs by half.)

The building is currently designed for Gold LEED certification, but if the developer opts for a geothermal system, it will likely receive a Platinum certification. Right now, the developer is weighing the costs and benefits and will make a decision shortly.

This office building is not the only green project in the company’s pipeline, even though it is a recently launched endeavor. All together SBD has about a dozen projects in the planning and development stages, including Loudoun Parkway Center, a 138,000 SF office building designed for Gold LEED certification. It also designed the 230,000 SF Atlantic Corporate Park in Dulles – NoVa’s first spec office project expected to get LEED Gold core-and-shell.

“We have done about 3 million SF of LEED certified building design and one million SF of LEED gold certified data centers,” he says. Data centers are the latest real estate asset type to embrace LEED, he reports. “The operators of the buildings lease out space and their tenants are starting to ask about LEED because they realize inefficient energy costs are being passed onto them.” But the biggest demand driver for LEED, as Donnally sees it, are institutional lenders. One client in fact, recently changed all of its design specs to incorporate LEED – specifically at the request of its financial backer, he says. 

A Carbon Neutral Meeting

The 5,000 or so attendees at the Urban Land Institute’s Fall meeting and expo in Miami last week will be pleased to know that the gathering’s carbon dioxide footprint has been completely offset by Enterprise Community Partners, a provider of the development capital for affordable housing in Columbia.

Enterprise’s Green Communities Offset Fund is purchasing an offset from affordable housing developers against the emissions of carbon dioxide generated by the meeting -- 5,500 tons of carbon dioxide that includes travel to the conference as well as attendees’ energy use in the hotels and conference center.

Contributors to the Green Communities Offset Fund that funded the ULI meeting offset included Bart Harvey, who donated a portion of his $100,000 prize from the Urban Land Institute J.C. Nichols Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development to the Fund, and the Harvard University Graduate School of Design Advanced Management Development Program in Real Estate Class VII.


DC is one of the leading cities adopting LEED and other green building standards. That doesn't mean, though, that other cities aren’t making similar headway. For instance, in the last week or so….J. C. Penney broke ground on its first store expected to receive LEED certification. Located in Fairview, Texas, the 115,000 SF facility will open in August 2009 as an anchor of Fairview's new one million SF lifestyle center, The Village at Fairview. It will also be one of two planned JCPenney stores to be certified under the Designed to Earn the ENERGY STAR program…The Proximity Hotel in Greensboro, NC, was awarded LEED Platinum -- the first hotel and restaurant to obtain the USGBC's top level certification…. Patni Computer Systems in Noida, India received LEED Platinum for its IT-BPO Center, making it, at 5-acres, the largest Platinum rated building outside the United States.


Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority just broke ground on what it says is the largest green-built townhome community in Virginia. Twenty-seven new townhomes are being built to EarthCraft/Energy Star standards. Certification to the EarthCraft House program requires field-verification and diagnostic pressure-testing by a third-party Technical Adviser.


Springfield-based Versar has become a member of USGBC. The international professional services firm, which specializes in national defense/homeland defense programs, environmental health and safety and infrastructure revitalization, has also recently established its Energy and Climate unit in Germantown as part of its expanding focus on energy and sustainability.

Green Calendar

The Building Owners and Managers Association International, or BOMA, has launched its Sustainable Operations Series (http://www.boma.org/TrainingAndEducation/SOS/) 90-minute Webinars that teach practical strategies and best practices for implementing green commercial building operations.

11-12-2008. Strategies for Reducing and Reusing Building Resources
12-3-2008. Rethinking Recycling—Beyond Paper and Cans
1-14-2009. How Green Is My Building? Tools for Measuring the Total ROI of Sustainability.



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