LEED O+M: Existing Buildings v2009
Re-certification: Adobe SF 601 Townsend
LEED Platinum 2012
Re-certification helped ensure that we are operating the building to its fullest potential, maximizing operating efficiency and minimizing operating costs.
"The greenest building is the one that is already built," remarked architect Carl Elefante. The greenest of the green, then, might be that fine old structure saved from the wrecker's ball and brought up to the state of the art in energy efficiency and all of the other attributes of "greenness." 601 Townsend Street in the South-of-Market district of San Francisco is one such building. Designed by the noted firm of Sutton & Weeks for the Pacific Steel and Hardware Company, the three-story, brick building was completed in 1905, just in time to survive the 1906 earthquake. The ensuing flames that engulfed the city, and the dynamited firebreak that stopped those flames were just one block north of the building. It also survived the later waves of redevelopment that altered so much of the cityscape around it. Remarkably, 601 Townsend reached the 21st century largely intact.
In 2004, the building was purchased by Macromedia Associates and remodeled for the computer age, but with its historic essence preserved. The Beaux Arts-detailed brick cladding remains along with generous arch-top windows. Even the milling marks on the tree-sized redwood beams and pillars, and the old wear patterns on the thick redwood floors are still there. In 2005, Macromedia became part of Adobe Systems Incorporated, and the day-to-day running of the building fell to Adobe's facilities management partner, Cushman & Wakefield. That same year, the structure was nominated for and received a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. Next, Adobe and Cushman & Wakefield set out to finish the job of turning the building into productive, state-of-the-art corporate offices and a model of sustainable building operations.
Following LEED guidelines, the partners worked to enhance the building operations in six areas: energy management, water conservation, solid waste diversion, indoor environmental quality, sustainable procurement and alternative transportation. Cutting energy use in a plant with 900 workers, 1,800 personal computers, and batteries of data servers operating 24/7 is a challenge. One key to meeting it is a web-based monitoring system, developed in part with Adobe software that permits energy and water use to be tracked -- and adjusted -- in detail, and which also reports total CO2 emissions. To date, 41 energy and related conservation measures have been implemented, resulting in 601 Townsend attaining an Energy Star score of 100, the maximum possible, in the EPA's Energy Star for buildings rating system. Electricity usage has been effectively reduced 63% over this seven year period.
Water use at 601 Townsend has been reduced by more than 62%. Faucet and shower head aerators reduce maximum water flow to just two quarts per minute. Toilets are high-efficiency flush in the men's rooms, complimenting the water free urinals. Women's rooms feature high-efficiency, dual-flush versions.
The diversion of solid waste from landfill through composting and recycling has risen from 23% to 98%. Every desk now has a second, smaller "side-saddle" wastebasket so that compostable and recyclable items stay separated. Adobe's standards mandate that all products from copy paper to carpet must be purchased with high recycled content. Even take-out food service products (paper plates, napkins, cups, etc.) are compostable.
Cleaning practices have a lot to do with stress on the environment inside a building. At Adobe, management insists on "green" products and methods that minimize hazardous chemicals, noise, indoor air pollution, and worker injury. Cleaning is performed during the day to minimize the need for lights to be on at night and to allow janitors to be home in the evenings with their families. To encourage alternative transportation, Adobe provides bicycle racks and locker rooms with showers and EV charging stations, and it provides employees with shuttle service to the local train station and $100 per month in the form of vouchers to use on buses and trains. Fully 74% of Adobe's employees in San Francisco use alternative transportation to get to work.
On April 13, 2008, 601 Townsend Street became the first San Francisco structure to be certified at the platinum level through the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program for Existing Buildings (LEED-EB). On December 24, 2009, 601 Townsend became the first to be re-certified through LEED at the platinum level. On August 30, 2012, the building was submitted for re-certification for the second time, again at the platinum level.
Most recently, Adobe implemented bio-gas energized fuel cells, alternative energy sources to save money, reduce CO2 emissions still further, and further free it from the grid. Adobe's Scope 1 and Scope 2 CO2 emissions have been reduced 56%; 100% with the purchase of carbon credits. Adobe has set a goal of being carbon neutral by 2015. Three LEED certifications at the platinum level, an Energy Star score of 100, solid waste diversion rate of 98%, electricity use reduced 63%, and water use reduced 62%; is it any wonder that San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee recently commented that 601 Townsend "epitomizes sustainability more than any other building in San Francisco." In a city rich in old buildings and seeking to help lead the country into an environmentally responsible future, this modestly elegant South-of-Market structure is showing the way.