Friday, October 2, 2009

Research Park Aims to Meet Green Standards

Matt Evans
The Triad business Journal 6/13/08

The Piedmont Triad Research Park, which is already aiming at becoming the largest urban research park in the country, wants to add another distinction as the greenest such development in the land.

Park officials were expected to announce Thursday that they would be pursuing certification under the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program for the entire 200-plus acre project. LEED is a nationally recognized third-party certification of environmental sustainability based on design, construction and operational benchmarks.

Environmental issues have been at the forefront throughout the early stages of development, according to Piedmont Triad Research Park President Doug Edgeton, not just as a matter of principle but also necessity since so much of the property involved is reclaimed industrial sites.

"We've been having to do a lot of cleanup just in the process of getting going," Edgeton said. "As we've been talking to others in the industry, we haven't found any other research parks going for LEED, so we thought, 'maybe there's a niche here for us.'"

Edgeton said the park has already taken a number of steps that count toward the stringent LEED requirements, including reusing existing buildings and materials to reduce waste going to the landfill and bringing storm water drainage above ground the reduce impurities in the runoff that reaches Salem Creek.

LEED rules will require the park to hit other targets such as a 30 percent reduction in overall energy consumption compared to existing benchmarks. Edgeton said the most challenging aspect of pursuing the certification will likely be the need to reconfigure road and new building layouts to maximize the impact of passive solar energy.

It will all cost money in the short run, not just for the construction itself but also to pay for the certification process. Many developers are turned off by the cost of green building, but Peter Marsh, vice president of facility planning and design firm Workplace Strategies in Winston-Salem, said those fears are usually exaggerated.

While costs can vary widely depending on the project, Marsh said in general the cost premium for LEED-level construction is between 1 percent and 6 percent, and for owner-occupied projects, the amount of time it takes to recoup that initial cost is one to three years, after which energy savings flow to the bottom line.

Marsh has been working with experts from Wake Forest and engineers on the Piedmont Triad Research Park project. He said the studies aren't yet done that will predict how much the green building will cost and eventually save, but he said it should prove worthwhile.

"In situations like this where you're talking about long-term owner occupancy, you typically see very considerable paybacks," Marsh said.

What isn't yet measurable is how much LEED certification might return to the park in terms of new tenants attracted by the green focus. But Edgeton said he's sure that return will also be significant.

"When we go out and talk to companies they have a checklist, and it includes the progressiveness of the community and quality of life," Edgeton said. "Going green says, 'We have a very high quality of life.'"

No comments:

Post a Comment