• 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.

Notes Smith: “We also were losing the cultural identity that comes with having a close-knit community. The goal from a planning standpoint was to bring everyone back to the headquarters campus. But we had to do this without increasing occupancy costs — that was the financial hurdle. In effect, the South Campus buildings had to be cost neutral.”

The division’s chief financial officer, Tracey Doi, says that financial considerations were always at the forefront of decision-making. “Rather than go out and say ‘let’s build a green building’ and ‘how much does this cost?’ we instead asked ourselves how we could build a complex that was sustainable and cost-effective,” she explains. “It turned out that by pursuing LEED certification, we would get what we wanted financially. Ultimately, the structure did not have a cost premium.”

The LEED system of providing points for specific design and construction decisions guided Smith in planning the complex. “When we set out to design the exterior of the building and were deciding what to enclose it in, either pre-cast concrete or a metal panel, we were swayed by the fact that metal ‘skin’ — basic warehouse-type construction — was more economical to build and offered significant sustainability benefits,” says Smith. In fact, the metal-skin building enclosure is 30 percent more efficient than California energy requirements, which delivered a saving on the company’s operational costs. Toyota took that saving, continues Smith, “and applied it to more thermally efficient, insulated, double-pane glass windows, which offer similar sustainability benefits. Had we built a traditional pre-cast concrete enclosure, we’d be looking at additional energy costs of $1.2 million a year.”

Doi concurs. “At $63 per square foot, the building shell is in the lower half of the $54-$76 range for a campus,” she says, “while the interior costs were at the lower end of the $22-$40 range. You don’t need to sacrifice efficiency for green.”

The South Campus complex incorporates 95 percent recycled materials, based on LEED calculations, including more than 250 miles of reinforced steel reclaimed from Camrys, Corollas, and other recycled automobiles. More than 95 percent of the construction waste — 113 tons in all — was either recycled or reused rather than discarded in landfills. All the wood used in the complex was cut from trees specifically planted for logging. The complex sports one of the largest commercial solar electric systems in North America, covering 53,000 square feet of rooftop. Underground is a special pipeline to supply recycled water to the complex for cooling towers, landscape irrigation, and toilets. Even the buildings’ copy rooms have a separate ventilation system from the office space to reduce the drift of toner fumes into work areas.

Smith and his team also made some striking changes to the architectural design of the complex: “We took the stair towers, which typically are located inside a building and are dark and gloomy, and situated them on the outside,” he says. “We opened them up with big windows, which encourages workers to use them because, well, because it’s cool to use them.”

The upshot: South Campus employees use the elevators less often, and they get a cardio boost, to boot.

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