How to Win a TOBY
Last week, TIER REIT’s Burnett Plaza in Fort Worth, managed by Behringer Harvard, won an International TOBY Award in the 1M SF-plus category. How does a building that old (three decades) and that large (the tallest between Fort Worth and San Diego) do it?
We asked Behringer Harvard’s Allison Millington (the building’s GM, seated second from left, above with her team) and regional VP of property management Ann Withington. Although Burnett Plaza was built the same year “Billie Jean” topped the charts, each of its previous owners (TIER REIT bought it in 2006) put in the capital needed to keep the 40-story, 1M-plus SF building contemporary and Class-A. It’s now home to GM Financial, Bank of Texas, the GSA, and others.
While known for its monolithic, modern design, it’s not just another pretty face. (Beauty is more than skin deep.) The building excels in energy conservation, the largest TOBY judging category. Burnett Plaza is Energy Star rated, BOMA 360 certified, and LEED-EBOM Silver; efforts have reduced kWh usage by 20.2% over the past three years, saving $0.42/SF. Allison says that the building has a highly efficient energy management system, coupled with lighting retrofits and motion detectors, variable frequency drives, optimal start/stop times, and time clocks that regulate the water heater and circulation pumps.
We think the building’s main chiller plant looks like day care for Transformers. Replacing one chiller increased efficiency by 30%, while negotiating with the local energy company has also slashed rates, Allison says. And the building and its tenants partner with local supplier Oncor to conserve energy during near-brownouts by turning off nonessential lights and equipment and closing blinds when energy use spikes. Recycling is also a huge priority, from e-waste and large furniture collection to document shred days.
We snapped Allison on stage with Kimberly-Clark's Jamie Britton, Parmenter's Steve Harrison, BOMA/Fort Worth prez Melissa Graham of Cousins Properties and exec director Michelle Lynn, BOMA past chair Rich Greninger of Carr Properties, and Allison's 7-year-old twins Grant and Bryce. The building’s secret weapon: concierge Sandy Berry, who engages tenants and the community beyond the usual building-wide blood drive. Think lobby holiday breakfasts, ice cream socials, yoga classes, massages, sponsoring charitable orgs, and collecting toothbrushes and teddy bears for children. Sandy also books local vendors to sell their wares—jewelry, clothing, flowers, or books—every Thursday (perfect for the last-minute gift buyer), who then donate 10% of sales to local charities.