Builders Taking the LEED Certification Not Easy but Pays Off in End

Builders Taking the LEED Certification Not Easy but Pays Off in End

By Eric Billingsley

Hangar 25 at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank is one of the first private aviation hangars in the world to obtain Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

LEED certification refers to an independent third-party -the USGBC- verifying that a building project meets the highest green building and performance standards.

Design elements of the hangar include: a “cool roof” that reduces heat gain; an energy efficient building envelope; efficient ventilation and air conditioning; locally sourced materials; non-toxic diamond polished concrete floors; and drought tolerant landscaping.

The 60,000 square foot structure, which includes 10,000 square feet of office space, also has a 225kW photovoltaic system on the roof that produces 125 percent of its power needs.

“We were interested in doing something innovative,” said Becca Frucht, analyst for Shangri-La Construction, the company that supervised the hangar’s design and construction. “Building an aviation structure was an opportunity to show that green building can be applied across industries.”

Hangar 25 is one of a growing number of LEED certified buildings in the greater San Fernando Valley area. There are at least ten certified buildings in the Valley and dozens of local projects pursuing certification, according to the USGBC.

Getting LEED certified isn’t easy, according to local building and real estate pros. But the pay-off is that the credential can be used for marketing; more municipalities are veering towards requiring LEED certification; and buildings are more economical to operate.

“There are a growing number of tenants requesting to be in LEED certified buildings,” said Christian Gunter, assistant vice president of responsible property investing for Kennedy Associates Real Estate Advisors, a Seattle-based investment advisor for the owners of Corporate Pointe at West Hills.

Kennedy Associates is pursuing LEED certification for an 11,121 square foot café at the 80-acre Corporate Pointe at West Hills complex. Wolcott Architecture/Interiors is architect on the project, DPR Construction contractor, Trammell Crow Company development manager, and CB Richard Ellis property manager.

The bulk of the extra cost in pursuing LEED happens during the design and planning phases, said Gunter. Ground rules need to be set for how the building will be constructed, waste will be recycled, and materials sourced locally, among other things.

“You can make ‘green’ as expensive as you like,” said Gunter. “But with a good team it’s not that difficult to do.” Kennedy Associates typically obtains LEED certification for less than 1 percent of added cost, he said.

The company obtained its first LEED certification for a building in 2002 and currently has $1 billion worth of certified properties in the U.S. One problem with pursuing certification, however, is it can take months to submit information to the USGBC and obtain the final credential, said Gunter.

Upgrading to LEED

There’s a huge opportunity in the Valley for property owners to up-grade existing structures to LEED standards, said Jeff Gould a LEED accredited professional who works with Sperry Van Ness. It increases the functionality and efficiency of buildings, lowers overhead costs, and creates healthier environments for tenants.

“The Valley in particular is a huge opportunity because we’re living in a concrete asphalt jungle,” says Gould, adding inefficient existing buildings pump a large percentage of CO2 emissions into the environment.

Some property owners are getting creative by including LEED-type up-grades into tenant improvement allowances and taking small steps like installing energy efficient lighting, said Gould. There are also programs available to help property owners make upgrades with minimal out-of-pocket cost.

“The idea of LEED is great and marketability huge,” said Gould. “But there’s still confusion about how to go about it. Many property owners don’t want to spend the money now.”

Frucht agrees there’s a misperception that green building costs a premium. The key for keeping costs down, she said, is getting all of the players (property owner, architect, and contractor) on the same page from the beginning.

“We can build a green certified building at a cost comparable to conventional construction,” said Frucht. “It’s not just about the environmental benefit but it’s about economics. The bottom line of green building is black.”

Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. is another forerunner of environmentally sustainable building design.

The company’s 21,600 square feet Stage 23 facility is the first green sound stage built by a major Hollywood studio, and is constructed to LEED specifications. HLW International LLP was architect and Tectonics Construction contractor. Warner Bros. Studio Facilities Construction Services also played a major role in the project.

“It’s a smart design and the building is going to be more energy efficient,” says Shelley Billik, vice president environmental initiatives for Warner Bros. Entertainment. “We also have productions and talent that share our values.”

The project recently won an award in the sustainability category at the 39th annual Los Angeles Architecture Awards.

Design elements include: local and environmentally preferred construction materials; recycled steel and metals; non-toxic paint and adhesives; concrete foundations with 35 percent recycled fly ash; water management system; energy efficient lighting; efficient cooling system; and a 100 kilowatt solar electrical system.

The studio obtained LEED Silver certification on another building, and recently expanded its solar electrical system to be able to generate more than 500 kilowatts of clean energy.

“Pursuing LEED certification is definitely hard work,” says Billik. “But it’s something we’re learning not to shy away from. The entertainment business is such a prominent part of the Valley and Los Angeles, and we should be playing an active role in sustainable design.”

What is LEED Certification?

LEED certification refers to an independent third-party verifying that a building project meets the highest green building and performance standards.

Qualities of LEED certified buildings include: lower operating costs and increased asset value; reduced waste sent to landfills; energy and water conservation; healthier and safer environments for occupants; reduced harmful greenhouse gas emissions; and qualifying for tax rebates, zoning allowances and other incentives in many cities.

Commercial buildings, as defined by standard building codes, are eligible for certification under the LEED for New Construction, LEED for Existing Buildings, LEED for Commercial Interiors, LEED for Retail, LEED for Schools and LEED for Core & Shell rating systems.

Building types include, but are not limited to, offices, retail and service establishments, institutional buildings (e.g., libraries, schools, museums and religious institutions), hotels and residential buildings of four or more habitable stories.

There are a variety of rating systems for each building type. Each project is evaluated with a scorecard and point system. Platinum rating is the highest level, followed by Gold, Silver, and Certified.

LEED Certified Buildings in the Greater San Fernando Valley Area*

  • Caltrans District 7 11th floor, Glendale – Silver
  • CFNA, Van Nuys – Certified
  • Fire Station #77, Sun Valley – Certified
  • Fire Station #83, Encino – Certified
  • Fire Station #84, Woodland Hills – Certified
  • Fire Station #89, North Hollywood – Certified
  • Hangar 25, Burbank – Platinum
  • Santa Clarita Transit Maintenance Facility, Santa Clarita – Gold
  • Valley Bomb Squad Facility, Granada Hills – Certified
  • Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Building 1, Burbank - Silver



*Certified is the lowest level of LEED certification. Platinum is the highest.

Source: USGBC

Los Angeles

Los Angeles

Address: 550 South Hope Street, Suite 700, Los Angeles CA 90071

Telephone: 213.797.4240

Fax: 213.265.3030

Email: info@shangrilaconstruction.com