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HOUSTON-The one-million-square-foot, First City Tower has been awarded LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The class A CBD office tower is the first existing building in Texas to receive the designation.

CB Richard Ellis associate director and First City Tower general manager Dave Johnson says the goal of certification began two years ago. However, building owner FC Tower Property Partners LP began greening up the office tower at 1001 Fannin St. in 2000.

“We didn’t just decide two years ago that it would be a nice idea to go green, and we weren’t motivated to be the first in Texas,” Johnson tells GlobeSt.com. “This was more common sense, what we could do to reduce the utility and energy consumption, and make this a more efficient building.”

Johnson acknowledges that retrofitting a 1980s building toward sustainable use was a bit of a challenge, involving everything from changing pest control to green pest control, to changing out janitorial equipment to eco-friendly operations, to surveying tenants on commuting habits.

Perhaps one of the greatest challenges in making the change involved water usage. “The water requirement was our biggest hurdle,” Johnson remarks. “We’re a 28-year-old building, and the water requirements were different when it was first constructed.” Meeting the LEED guidelines required modifications to the sinks and flush valves among other things, he comments.

When it came to trash management, Waste Management, one of the building’s main tenants, was extraordinarily helpful, implementing a single-stream method of recycling throughout the building. Johnson says that approximately eight months after the program’s implementation, approximately 60% of the trash was being recycled.

Though a specific price tag for going green wasn’t available, Johnson says the results have been phenomenal. During the year 2000, the building used approximately 31 million kilowatts. By 2008, he says, that total was down to 23 million kilowatts. Furthermore, in comparing fourth quarter 2008 usage figures with those generated during fourth quarter of 2007 shows a 5% savings.

Though the building has its award, Johnson says more tweaks will continue to be made to systems to further improve sustainability. Furthermore, the next step is to begin documenting everything that led to the award in the first place. Part of the LEED requirement states periodic renewal, up to five years. “We haven’t decided whether we want to renew annually or ever other year,” Johnson adds. “But we probably won’t wait for five years to renew.”

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