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The recently opened office 5 Wall St. was built here in Burlington, MA’s as a certified “green” office building from the ground up, says its developer, the Gutierrez Co. It’s also the first new certified green building in Burlington, and just the fifth LEED-Gold Core and Shell structure along Route 128. Even more unusual is that 5 Wall St. was a spec office building, not built for or by a single user, and that the certification was not required by the municipality.

“We took on the LEED [certification] not as a requirement of any permitting,” says Scott Weiss, managing director of commercial development for Burlington, MA-based Gutierrez. “It was the right thing to do, at the right time. People were [just] understanding and appreciating the benefits of green building.”

Construction on the 182,000-square-foot building, designed by Cambridge, MA-based Symmes Maini & McKee Associates, began in September 2007. The first occupants moved in during November 2008, with the certification coming last month. “It takes time to go through the verification process,” Weiss explains.

Among the techniques used at 5 Wall to achieve the LEED status were the use of 100% Forestry Stewardship Council certified wood; the recycling of 80% of construction debris, totaling more than 200 tons; the installation of high-efficiency water systems, reducing usage by 40%; the use of native plans to reduce irrigation; a white roof; use of LEDs and other efficient lighting; low VOC paints and green cleaning materials; and a massive amount of glass for daylighting. “You come here and it’s shocking how much light there is,” Weiss says.

The building is now almost 50% occupied, and having the certification in hand should help with future leasing, even though as the first new building in the market in decades, 5 Wall St.’s rents are at the high end of the market’s range.

It’s difficult to determine how much of a premium Gutierrez paid for the construction, Weiss says. “There was some added cost and effort on our part to go through the process.”

The office at 5 Wall is just the tip of the iceberg, as the Commonwealth propels itself increasingly into a leadership role in green development, says Kevin Settlemyre, associate director of Integrated Environmental Solutions, a Boston-based consultancy.

Currently, according to the US Green Building Council, Massachusetts has 157 projects that are LEED-certified to some degree–including six projects rated Platinum. Another 550 projects are awaiting LEED certification. And more developments are on the way, encouraged by both local codes, such as Boston’s Article 37, which requires that new projects meet the standards to achieve LEED certification, and Massachusetts LEED Plus, a state initiative which requires projects 20,000 square feet or greater to achieve LEED certification, Settlemyre says.

Among the new projects pursuing LEED certification in the state is Boston Properties’ Atlantic Wharf mixed-use project, planned to open on Boston’s waterfront in early 2011. The mixed-use complex will include a 750,000-square-foot class A office tower–30,000 square feet of retail and public spaces, 70 to 80 residential units, a 650 car parking garage, and a waterfront plaza. The project currently is planned for LEED-Gold certification. On a somewhat smaller scale, the company’s titular Weston Corporate Center, is also expected to be LEED-certified and will provide class A office space outside the city opening in July 2010.

Boston Properties is also investigating the installation of the largest ground mounted solar panel system in New England.

“Green/sustainable design and operations is a practice deeply rooted in the Boston Properties Boston Region,” says Andrea Simpson, a Boston Properties spokeswoman, adding that the company developed greater Boston’s first green speculative office building in 2008, and that Atlantic Wharf will be home to Boston’s first green skyscraper. “[It is] near and dear to our ‘commercial developer heart’, so to speak.”

While the state is requiring sustainability in its buildings, it wasn’t providing too much in terms of financial help during the development of 5 Wall St. “We had no incentives,” Weiss says. “They do not exist. There was nothing we could take advantage of.”

State-approved energy conservation technologies can receive a corporate tax deduction, according to the US Department of Energy Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency. Some rebates are available: Commonwealth Solar, created by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, has been providing rebates for photovoltaic systems at various facilities in certain areas. Other utilities also provide rebates.

“There’s definitely a push on the renewable side,” Settlemyre observes.

Despite any state incentives though, green will continue to grow in Massachusetts. “You can definitely consider Massachusetts in the leadership category,” Settlemyre says. “I’ve done work in the Midwest and they don’t have rebates. And it’s definitely grown within the last year.”

“I do think green being is becoming more standardized,” Weiss says. “More and more buildings will be built with a green focus.”

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