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LEED certification: not just for new construction.

It would be hard to top Timothy Carey's first foray into building green.

Three years ago, as president and CEO of the Batter Park City Authority, Carey oversaw construction of the Solaire, the first certified "green" residential high-rise building in New York City. Complete with a plant-covered "green" roof, a state-of the art water recycling systems, solar panels and its revolutionary use of building materials such as recycled rubbers and even bamboo, the building understandably generated a lot of buzz when it opened in 2002. It did so again in 2004 when it won a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Award for New Construction from the United State Green Building Council (USGBC).

Now president and CEO of the New York Power Authority (NYPA), the nation's largest state-owned power supplier, Carey is going green again, but this time he's not doing it with a new building. Instead, NYPA will be going for LEED certification for their White Plains Headquarters, a 17-story, 450,000 s/f tower built in the 1980s.

"It's a lot different working with an older building as opposed to constructing a new one," Carey said. "The options are different, but the savings can be immense. Since we've upgraded our headquarters, the results have been wonderful."

According to Carey, after $3.5 million in energy efficiency investments, NYPA headquarters has cut its annual energy usage by more than 50%, saving more than 5-million kilowatt hours annually.

NYPA achieved this savings a bit at a time through the modification or replacement of many of the building's systems. NYPA installed a more efficient chiller system for climate control, packed walls with better insulation, affixed reflective window film to reduce heating from the sun, introduced lighting that is 70% more efficient than your average bulb and equipped the building with occupancy sensors, which allow unused portions of the building to "go dormant" when unoccupied.

Now that plumbing fixtures have been updated and new, "green" paint and cleaning products are in use throughout the building in the place of harsher off-the-shelf chemicals, NYPA is about ready to apply for LEED--Existing Building approval for its headquarters.

A newer form of certification currently dwarfed in terms of numbers by applications for New Construction LEED certification, LEED--Existing Building looks at buildings on a case-by-case basis, determining if each building is doing all that is reasonably possible to be sustainable.

"It would be pretty unreasonable to apply just one standard when some of the buildings we're talking about were built in the late 1800's and other were built six months ago," said Tim Hicks, vice president for the USGBC's LEED program.

Hicks said the probability of obtaining a LEED certification for an existing building depends largely on upkeep.

"If a building has been well maintained over the years, it can be updated and made more sustainable," he said. "If a building is in a deep state of disrepair, you have your work cut out for you."

Founded five years ago, the LEED program is described as "a voluntary, consensus-based national standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings."

For something that is voluntary, it has drawn quite a following. According to Hicks, there are currently about 500 LEED certified buildings in the country and another 4,500 projects seeking certification. Hicks said the reasons for seeking LEED certification are many.

"For one thing, the cost savings are dramatic in the long run. It can really ad to the bottom line," Hicks said. "And providing a good indoor environment for tenants tends to mean a better return and a more productive workforce."

For his part, Carey at NYPA can't help but respect the brand.

"It's a great thing to have that plaque on your building," said Carey, whose agency is helping other state-funded programs meet energy-efficiency guidelines set by Governor George Pataki, which seek to reduce energy use by 35%. "With [the LEED] plaque on our building it shows we're not only talking the talk, we're walking the walk."
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Title Annotation:SPECIAL REPORT: Sustainable Construction & Design
Author:Moran, Tim
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 19, 2006
Words:662
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