Why Sustainability is a Challenge for Developers

James Goettsch
Chairman, Co-CEO
Goettsch Partners, Chicago

This presentation analyzes the projected energy consumption of two Chicago Class-A multi-tenant high-rise office buildings: 150 North Riverside and 110 North Wacker. The two buildings are similar in terms of floor plate, building height and site location. The major difference is that the timeframe for the design phase was separated by approximately five years. During that time, the allowable energy consumption requirement was reduced by 27.2 percent. The presentation explores the ways that the energy reduction was accomplished and what, if any, effect it had on the architecture. The revisions to the energy code were made primarily due to improvements in the performance of the building enclosure and LED lighting. Unless we revise criteria such as eliminating floor-to-ceiling glass, it seems that we have reached the point of diminishing returns for reductions in base building energy usage.

If we are going continue the drive to reduce energy, we need to rely on emerging smart building technologies, which have the potential to not only reduce energy, but also improve the working environment, building operations, and the building management process. The smart building technologies are most promising for build-to-suit or owner-occupied buildings, where it is likely that there will be a return on the investment. However, for multi-tenant buildings, the developer is not likely to invest in the first cost to reduce energy consumption, which would drive up the lease rate so that the tenant can have the benefit of reduced operating costs.