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The Anatomy of a TOBY Winner

Last week, TIER REIT’s Burnett Plaza in Fort Worth, managed by Behringer Harvard, walked away with an International TOBY Award in the 1M SF-plus category after nabbing local and regional honors. How does a building that size (the tallest between Fort Worth and San Diego, unless you count mountaintop bird's nests) and over three-decades old do it?

The Anatomy of a TOBY Winner

We asked Behringer Harvard’s Allison Millington (above, the building’s GM, with her team) and regional VP of property management Ann Withington about its secret. First, despite being built the same year “Billie Jean” topped the charts, each of its previous owners (TIER REIT bought it in 2006) put in capital needed to keep the 40-story, 1M-plus SF building contemporary and Class-A, they say. (It’s now home to GM Financial, Bank of Texas, the GSA, and others.)

The Anatomy of a TOBY Winner

While Burnett Plaza is known for its monolithic, modern design, it’s not just another pretty face. (You need to fall in love with the inside... the exterior is just a bonus.) 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, which, 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, yield annual savings of 1.8M kWh.

The Anatomy of a TOBY Winner

Above is the building’s main chiller plant. (It 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. (That saved energy then accommodates air conditioners awaiting tenants at home.) Recycling is also a huge priority, from e-waste and large furniture collection to document shred days.

The Anatomy of a TOBY Winner

Above, we snapped Alllison accepting the award; with her are 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 seven-year-old twins Grant and Bryce. Tenant relations and community service are critical to the building’s success, Allison and Ann say. 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 at the local hospital. Sandy also books local vendors to sell their wares—whether jewelry, clothing, flowers, or books—every Thursday (perfect for the last-minute gift buyer), who then donate 10% of sales to local charities.