LEED O+M: Existing Buildings v2008
FBI Regional Headquarters
Chicago, IL 60608
LEED Platinum 2008
* This profile has been peer-reviewed by a USGBC-selected team of technical experts.
Goals and successes
What were the top overarching goals and objectives?
The top goal was to prove that in becoming sustainable and doing the right thing for the environment, you can also lower building operating costs and become sustainable.
What were the motivations to pursue LEED certification and how did they influence the project?
The reason we got started with the pursuit of LEED certification was Brenna Walraven, USAA Real Estate’s national director of property management, who was very involved with BOMA and saw that the market was progressing toward green. With the FBI building, which was operating at a good efficiency level to begin with, we decided to see how we could use it as a test case for the rest of USAA’s portfolio. If we’re successful, we knew that this was something we should pursue on a portfolio-wide level. One of the driving factors was lower cost – all ownership wants this. We found this to be true on this project – pursuing LEED didn’t negatively affect anyone in the building, tenants appreciated it, and it built a stronger bond than we already had. It put us as a leader of the pack in striving for the highest level of success.
Aside from LEED certification, what do you consider key project successes?
Our best success was lowering our operating expenses by about 25 cents per square foot by implementing green strategies. As a business owner, our main goal was to prove that we could lower our cost while also doing the right thing. And this was a catalyst for pushing the approach we took on this building across our entire USAA Real Estate portfolio. We developed a lot of policies that we now apply to policy-type LEED credits – such as exterior landscaping and green cleaning – across this portfolio. These requirements are now put directly into vendor contracts and as a general case, these can be used without being tweaked regardless of project location.
What were the most notable strategies used to earn LEED credits?
Reduced Site Disturbance (Sustainable Sites credit 5), was a catalyst in helping earn additional LEED points in alternative categories. Over one acre of non-native turf/grass was eliminated from the site and sustainable native plantings were installed in its place. The eliminated turf was composted back into the ground, eliminating the burden of 187,000 pounds of material that would have been sent to a landfill. The new native planting area, combined with existing sustainable areas currently on-site, amount to over 50% of the site area being landscaped with native and adapted sustainable plantings. These areas do not have to be maintained (mowed or trimmed), fertilized, or irrigated, resulting in lower operating costs, lower lawn equipment emissions, reduced harsh chemical applications and a significant reduction in water use.
A focus of this project was optimizing energy performance. By developing and implementing a building commissioning plan that includes investigation and analysis, implementation and ongoing commissioning, all of the building equipment is programmed to run at its highest level of efficiency. This resulted in lower energy usage and costs, which in turn included a higher ENERGY STAR score.
FBI Chicago Regional Office
An additional step in analyzing energy use in the building was accomplished via sub-metering of major systems, including the highest energy users (equipment) located in the building. This additional tracking allowed better management to lower energy use in an efficient manner by understanding what equipment is using the most energy, at what times and under what conditions. This facility was a highly efficient building with an ENERGY STAR score of a 78 after the first 12 months of operations. Then with expanded focus, and a continuous commissioning program built into the Yardi Preventative Maintenance platform, performance continued to improve steadily; the building now has an ENERGY STAR score of 95.
The Yardi system is an industry-wide real estate platform that can be used for accounting and preventative maintenance. Pre-LEED, our system was set up to manage regular maintenance issues; on a monthly basis, it provides work orders ensuring that equipment is maintained at the highest level. I had a very innovative chief engineer at the time who integrated the LEED commissioning requirements – such as recalibrating sensors, checking thermostats, running fans at optimal levels – into the Yardi platform. This enabled us to not spend money to outsource commissioning; instead, our engineers automatically do it because it’s part of their regular maintenance routine. Now, work orders come out that are related to LEED standards.
FBI Chicago Regional Office Aerial
In regards to materials and resources, we focused especially on sustainable purchasing and solid waste management. The FBI purchasing plan and USAA Real Estate’s recycling program were the driving forces for the points that the building achieved. By having an open dialog and positive working relationship, when the FBI was asked to help support the recycling program and sustainable purchasing efforts, FBI leadership and team members went above and beyond in providing the information required for sustainable purchasing and recycling efforts. In fact, we fielded several phone calls and numerous conversations on how they might be able to substitute sustainable products or even to verify that a product was going to be acceptable before it was purchased. This resulted in over 60% of all products purchased deemed to be sustainable, including furniture and electrical goods.
After USAA Real Estate’s Building Management held a town hall meeting on the LEED program, a tenant recycling committee was formed with participants that included support staff, agents and upper management. The recycling committee provided valuable information to Building Management on how to improve and expand our recycling program. The results speak for themselves: Over 70% of waste was diverted from the landfill and was recycled or reused. The FBI should be proud of these major accomplishments; in proving the acceptance of these programs, the recycling committee still meets regularly and we continue to track the sustainability of all purchased goods in the facility.
What cutting-edge strategies or processes were implemented?
When we started to pursue LEED, our first ENERGY STAR score was 78. By starting LEED, we managed to get the score to 87. EFT Energy approached us to install a real-time energy management system that enables you to see energy use within 15 minutes; they offered to provide the meters if we did the installation because they wanted to see how their system works within a building that’s already running really well. Off of that, for a minimal capital cost, we now have 25 sub-meters that measure all of our major pieces of equipment. An example of how this has already saved money is when the BAS system suddenly stopped turning off the garage system over the weekend. Because this was metered, on Monday, the team was able to catch the mistake within 15 minutes and correct it instead of waiting for the electric bill.
How was the integrative process applied and what was the greatest benefit gained?
GSA holds the lease for FBI and this project was built-to-suit for FBI. We held a town hall meeting and as a result of strong interest from FBI, started a sustainability community that met to discuss issues of LEED and beyond. Our hope was that people in the committee would talk with other tenants and push them to participate, and we saw recycling levels move way up and people becoming more concerned about the kinds of products used. On this committee, we engaged top management levels down to the lowest levels, including stakeholders such as the building management, cleaning staff and top FBI management. The committee was open to anyone and we had over a dozen members.
Once the government understood what we were trying to do and we learned that the federal government requires sustainable purchasing, they opened up their purchasing logs for LEED purposes, as well as their alternative transportation information, which allowed us to pursue these credits. While this project was certified three years ago, the committee still meets today to discuss concerns and ongoing programs day-to-day. The key people who stepped up and said they wanted to be involved spread the word and policed their own people – people were telling their coworkers they needed to recycle and that sustainability is the right thing to do. The tenants became an extension of the LEED initiative. And we have integrated staff into the LEED process every day by making it a direct part of their job, particularly in regards to maintenance and ongoing commissioning. We didn’t just earn Platinum and pat ourselves on the back – we live like this every day in this and other USAA buildings – it’s part of our culture now. The results of this integrative approach to LEED speak for themselves: Our maintenance costs have gone way down.
What were the most important long- and short-term value-add strategies and what returns on investment (ROI) have been experienced or anticipated?
We didn’t spend a lot of money implementing LEED. The facility was built in 2006 and occupied in April 2006 by the government. Even though the building itself was not built or certified green, it already had green strategies such as lighting sensors and energy-efficient equipment. We just tweaked or added things here and there that made sense. There was a minor expense to change out the aerators and flush valves, but this had an ROI of just eight months. Now, we’re looking just at long-term ROI. One of the cheapest strategies applied was de-lamping in areas where there was too much light (e.g., storage rooms or corridors where there is a lot of exterior light). There was no strategy that didn’t provide the ROI desired. The building’s ENERGY STAR score kept going up and utility bills kept going down. In the end, lower equipment maintenance and utility bills offered the largest cost reduction.
Every year, we assess what’s the next thing that we can do operationally to save money on this building. In 2011, we just retrofitted all of the garage lighting (over 300,000 square feet) with LED lighting through a grant with the State of Illinois; this has resulted in a tremendous ROI of only 18 months. We’re excited to see how that works on a long-term basis, especially because the lifetime of the LEDs is supposed to be minimum of seven years (if on 24 hours, which they’re not), and maintenance cost should be zero.
What project challenges became important lessons learned?
Many companies tout their products as being green, but we learned that we needed to do homework, understand what the LEED requirements are, and ensure that they are followed word-for-word. We were purchasing garbage liners from a vendor who assured us that they were green and met LEED standards. But as we kept asking more questions, we found that a lot of the liners didn’t meet the standards. This opened our eyes: We can’t just trust what someone says; we needed to dig deep and do research.
I recommend that LEED project teams give themselves plenty of time. If you start implementing these changes into your day-to-day operations, it doesn’t become a burden or extra submittal work – integrating it into your culture makes it easier. It helped us to spread the work out for LEED certification and get everyone’s input (including interesting ideas). And it can be a fun process if you keep staff motivated and bought in.
What key moments adjusted the project’s direction or outcomes?
We were not necessarily striving for a LEED Platinum rating. When we decided to pursue LEED, we decided to have a town hall type meeting with our tenant to explain the changes to come in the building and why. After the meeting, many people approached us and said they wanted to be involved. This was surprising; the last thing we wanted to do was load the tenant up with side projects that would side-track them from their mission. But once we found out how interested they were, we realized that with their support, we could earn Platinum.
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