Environmentally-friendly construction of new office buildings and retro-fitting older structures is increasing as tenants try to find ways to cut energy costs. Companies are also trying to competitively position themselves as "green," and that includes building management firms like Transwestern.
"We do it because it makes good business sense. We like operating in an energy-efficient fashion, optimizing the cost for the owner and maximizing their values and making sure the operating expenses are as good as they can be and the building has the best operating team possible."
Transwestern's Steve Ash, who says the LEED system, which rates buildings based on a certain standard of sustainable design and construction, actually comes from the government-backed Energy Star system.
"You probably were introduced to it on your refrigerators and washer and dryers at your home, et cetera. Well, it's proliferated into, really, a national baseline standard for measurement for how buildings are operating."
Transwestern's Roy Cook says LEED certification is built on a good Energy Star rating.
"The average building in the city of Houston or average building across the United States scores about a 50, from 0 to 100. The Energy Star, what you really want to achieve is a score of 75. That gets you the Energy Star label. That means your building is operating in the top 25 percent geographically of the buildings in your region. You can get up to a third of your points from your Energy Star score, and the minimum for the LEED certification is a score of 67."
It's become a competitive advantage to offer square footage in LEED-certified buildings.
"If our building, our utilities are operating at, you know, $1.70, and our competition or the building across the street is at $2.10, that's huge."
Steve Ash says this effort is in it's infancy, both for newly-constructed office space and for "EB's," or existing buildings.
"The scary part is we're really just scratching the very, very surface of this issue for existing buildings, and I think there's only one building in the state of Texas currently that is a LEED EB certified building--Kirksey Architects here in Houston, Texas. Every new development out there, virtually, is probably seeking not only a LEED certification but probably a LEED silver certification for a higher standard, even, than just the base standard. I think there's many as many as ten certified buildings in Houston."
Consultants are capitalizing on sustainable development. Green Building Services of Portland, Oregon, recently opened a Houston office, headed by Amanda Tullos.
"I think it's becoming more and more that there are problems that we have to address, and people fundamentally want to do the right thing. If the framework is set up that people can do the right thing fairly easily, people will do it."
Tomorrow, architects look at what can be done to go green.
"So if the area of the building that faces west is very small, there's a huge savings right up front."
Ed Mayberry, KUHF Houston Public Radio News.