Features

Sept. 22, 2008 – Going ‘green:’ A natural fit

By Karin Gelschus
Associate Editor
At first glance, Frieze Harley-Davidson in O’Fallon, Ill., looks like your typical Harley dealership: Rows of leather jackets and apparel, lines of motorcycles and the trademark orange and black Harley logo and colors splashed throughout. But a closer look reveals that this store is anything but typical.
In September 2007, the dealership made the bold move to turn its building into a “green” facility. It’s a change that the dealership not only hopes will benefit the environment, but will also reduce energy costs for years to come.
The facility has some unique materials and features, including a wind turbine, bamboo floor and insulated concrete. Operations Manager Steve Madura says the dealership spent about 15 percent more capital up front than its original budget to go green, but they set up the plan so nearly everything would pay for itself in about 10 years.
To assist in achieving LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System) certification, the contractor hired a consultant company to ensure the dealership stayed on track throughout planning and construction. The LEED certification program has a point system in which it rates the dealership’s environmentally friendly characteristics.
Constructing a green building like the Frieze Harley-Davidson dealership doesn’t take any longer than building a traditional facility, but they are generally expected to have a longer lifespan.
It has been proven by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) that if its LEED certification rating system is followed, a building’s operations costs can be reduced by thousands of dollars.
For that reason alone, many building owners are looking into the certification. Ashley Katz, U.S. Green Building Council communications manager, says currently they have 1,705 LEED certified buildings, and 13,741 are registered to become certified.
“A couple of years ago, it was a little less than half that number,” she said, “so we’ve seen tremendous growth during the past few years.”

The building
The Frieze dealership wanted a facility that “was more than just a shell with a fancy front,” Madura said.
The dealership had always recycled and been environmentally conscious so a green building just seemed to fit when the architect brought it up to owner Virginia Freeze.
The staff continues to recycle, but the environmental benefits go much farther than that, starting with the bamboo floor.
“They don’t actually kill the plant,” Madura said. “Bamboo is what they call a renewable forest. With an oak floor, they actually kill the tree and replant it. With bamboo they top the plant and within seven years, the plant re-grows.”
An area the dealership wanted to spend more on but couldn’t pass city regulations was the wind turbine. They ended up going with a smaller one that creates about 8-10 percent of the dealership’s total power. The wind turbine will have a longer return rate as its cost of $20,000 will take about 15 years to pay back.
An area with a quicker return rate was the 43 sola tubes they put in. “They are mirrored tubes that come from the ceiling and shed natural light into the building,” Madura explained. “That’s hooked to our lighting system, and when those things are so bright, it will shut down one leg of our lights to conserve electricity. Most of the lights in here are set off with motion sensors, so they go off when you go in or out of the room.
“There’s so much here: We have dual flush commodes to conserve water. We have some reused bricks, which make up the sidewalk in the parking lot. And we have native plants, which are drought resistant.”
Like many dealerships, Frieze H-D has a lift in its service area, but the difference is Frieze’s lift uses canoil oil rather than hydraulic fluid, which Madura says is less environmentally safe.
Also more environmentally safe as well as safe for humans are the paints and glues the dealership used. They have low volatile organic compound (VOC).
“That’s what gives you that new building smell,” Madura said referring to regular paints used. “We didn’t get that, but that smell is actually harmful for you.”
The wall system is also unique to most traditional buildings. The dealership used insulated concrete forms. There’s a six-inch gap where the concrete is poured surrounded by three inches of Styrofoam.
“The nice part about that is we were building that portion of the building in the winter,” Madura noted. “With a standard concrete building, you can’t pour the concrete when it’s a certain temperature outside. Because of the insulation and heat that’s automatically released from the concrete, it was warm so the outside temperature didn’t matter.”
Madura adds that the walls are able to be filled with concrete eight feet high at a time, and they’re able to do the entire wall at one time, so there aren’t any seams.
During building, the extra concrete that can come out of the trucks was recycled. Often times, people just wash it out, but this way it can be ground up and then used for sub-base in building road ways.
Recycling during construction was a main point during the process as Madura says there were three dumpsters on site. The different materials were separated, and the clean up crews would take it away and recycle it.
“A little over 90 percent of our building (extras during construction) was recycled rather than it going to a landfill,” he said, adding they also recycle their waste oil.
“We’re able to burn it and that’s actually what heats our service area,” he said. “It never leaves the facility.”
Harley-Davidson is also contributing to recycling as they have come out with a new system for its oil containers. Madura says the oil comes in totes, and the skid and cardboard around it can be recycled, unlike the steel drums that were often used.
The process
While a building owner can choose to upgrade his or her current building, many, like Frieze, start from scratch. The first step after a company decides it’s going to get LEED certified is to register the project, which can be done online, Katz says.
To help building owners and operators understand the process, a LEED consultant can be hired. Vertegy, a consulting firm that specializes with LEED, was hired by the contractor in the Frieze project, says Thomas Taylor, general manager of Vertegy. In the Frieze project, the contractor hired them, but in many cases, Vertegy is hired directly by the owner. “As a consulting firm we can enter into a project by any of the team members,” he noted.
Vertegy makes sure all the activities during construction are documented accurately and then those documents assembled into one submission. “That’s what gets forwarded to the U.S. Green Building Council, which actually does the review for certification of the building,” he said.
The benefits between levels of certification are often intangible, but Katz says depending on where the building is located, there can be tax incentives, expedited permitting, etc. After the documentation is submitted, LEED reviews and rates the level of certification, Katz says. “It’s construction documentation, so it’s very thorough,” she said. “A project will receive their score and if there are some credits they didn’t get, we’ll explain why and they can work with us to make sure they get those credits.”
The Frieze dealership was originally ranked at the silver level, but because the points were so close, they appealed and received the gold status.

Expenses
There are some extra costs involved, beginning with the registration fee for LEED. Katz says there’s a one-time registration fee, but the amount depends on whether the owners are members of the Building Council. It’s $450 for members, but if they’re not, it’s $600. With that comes access to the LEED Reference Guide, which Katz says outlines the rating system and credits that are available, and how many points they can earn for each credit.
LEED Director of Marketing and Communications Taryn Holowka says USGBC doesn’t charge any documentation costs, but there are fees for the whole LEED process, which includes access to LEED online and the Building Council’s technical review. The average total is about $2,500, but the range is $1,750-$17,500 depending on square footage.
As for building costs, both Taylor and the LEED Web site say they can be worked into the building owner’s original budget. Taylor added once a company has determined the dollar amount it wants to spend, “then the team you assemble has the responsibility to deliver that building for the dollar amount you have.”
Frieze H-D’s team consisted of the builder, architect and Operations Manager Madura.
“We had weekly meetings where we looked at where we were, how we were on the budget,” Madura said. “And everything had to be done with a change order if it increased the budget.”
It does, however, depend on the project. Taylor says people seem to be willing to spend more capital up front for a more efficient building.
“I think that has to do more with what’s going on with energy costs,” he said, “as people have come to us first and foremost with the want to save money on their utility bills.”
The Frieze dealership did end up spending more capital up front, about 15 percent more of its total budget, says operating manager Madura. Their plan, however, was to have a 10-year payback rate.
“What we looked at more than our percent increase was our payback,” he said. “We set anything up with a 10-year payback to make everything worth doing.”
One option the dealership passed on was solar panels. “We thought that increased our budget too much,” he said
“The biggest thing is set yourself with a limit as far as your payback. Then work from there because if you set your payback, you’ll know what’s more feasible for you.” He added if something has an 11-year payback, it’s justifiable spending the money, but not if it’s something that will take 25 years to pay itself off.
The return on cost efficiency is an obvious plus in building a green facility, but Madura adds there’s also a benefit in the feeling the people have about the facility.
“It’s a wonderful feeling,” he said regarding helping construct the facility. “People are excited about the building. We’re really looking at it as creating an environment that’s fun and friendly to come into and good for the environment.”
The environment aspect is also a connection, besides motorcycles, the dealership can have with its customers, says Taylor of Vertegy.
“The moment the person walks in the building, they can see you care about the same things they care about,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to capitalize by communicating without saying a word.”

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