• Strategy
  • CFO.com | US

Greener Buildings, ‘Greener’ Bottom Line

Toyota, the National Geographic Society, and many other organizations are discovering that environmentally responsible facilities can also deliver financial benefits.

Toyota USA is not the only company leveraging greenbacks from green construction. “Green is the new color in corporate buildings,” says Thomas Leppert, chairman and chief executive officer of The Turner Corp., a national general builder that last year completed more than $6 billion of construction. “A few years ago, we saw examples of green buildings in higher education, health care, and government, and a few in the business sector, where the motivation was ‘being the good corporate citizen,’ ” says Leppert. “Today, the list of companies for whom we’re constructing green buildings would fill five pages, single-spaced.” Their motivation: “bottom-line value, through higher worker productivity, healthier employees, and substantial energy and water savings.”

Turner was the general contractor on Toyota’s complex in Torrance, and it has just completed work on the new headquarters building for biotech giant Genzyme Corp. in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “Most of the building was constructed out of recycled materials, including the aluminum framework, drywall, and ceiling panels,” says Rod Wille, Turner’s senior vice president and manager of sustainable construction. “We also installed heliostats on the roof of the building — motorized mirrors that track the sun in its path across the sky and reflect the light into a central atrium, where it is then redirected by another set of mirrors into adjacent office spaces. And we wrapped the building in an outer shell called a ‘loggia’ that holds heat in the winter and cool air in the summer.” Genzyme awaits expected LEED certification.

Not surprisingly, Wal-Mart Stores Inc —which operates more than 3,200 facilities in the United States — is also looking to pare its high power bill. Leppert says that Turner is working on two Wal-Mart superstores that will use photovoltaic rooftop panels like those at the Toyota complex. “Every company has to anticipate what the cost of energy will be in five years,” adds Leppert. “Let me tell you, when I look into the future, I don’t see it costing less.”

What’s Old Is New Again

Reducing energy costs was also a factor in the decision of National Geographic Society to “green up” its existing headquarters complex in Washington, D.C. The society owns four adjacent buildings in the District; they’re 20, 40, 60, and 100 years old, respectively. “We decided that we would renovate all four buildings simultaneously, following the guidelines of the new LEED program for existing buildings,” says Chris Liedel, the society’s executive vice president and chief financial officer. “Given our historic love of the environment” — as well as the society’s status as a scientific and educational nonprofit organization — “green buildings were just a natural fit.”

The society’s facilities staff of 20 building operators, managers, and maintenance employees fall under Liedel’s oversight. The CFO challenged the staff to work with him and the Green Building Council to pioneer a new LEED program addressing the renovation of existing buildings, “in the spirit of the explorers who formed the society more than a century ago,” explains Liedel. “We had these four buildings from four historic eras of the 20th century. Not only could we renovate these facilities with keen attention to their historic features, we could go the extra mile and make them environmentally sound and more financially valuable.”

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