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Going ‘Deep Green,’ Office Buildings Give Back to the Planet


The hope was that the Bullitt Center would spawn countless office buildings like it. That did not happen, in part because such projects are more complicated, with the permitting process alone often taking longer. The projects are also 5 percent to 25 percent more expensive to build, according to companies that have worked on them. (The buildings can be less expensive to operate, however, especially when they generate their own power and collect their own water.)

But now that the technology for things like solar power has improved, and the incremental costs of going green have declined, a growing number of companies are tackling such projects, with some going “deep” on one or two aspects of a development.

Silver Oak, a winery in Healdsburg, Calif., that produces cabernet sauvignon and is known for sustainable farming practices, now generates more water and energy than it uses.

Credit Human, a credit union in San Antonio, Texas, is building a development that includes a new headquarters for itself as well as an office building, both with rooftop solar arrays. Tanks salvaged from an old brewery will store rainwater collected for use in the buildings, and wells will capture geothermal energy.

Seattle’s indoor sports stadium, a repurposed building erected for the 1962 World’s Fair and recently renamed Climate Pledge Arena, aims to be the first carbon-neutral arena in the world, powered exclusively by renewable energy.

Major real estate companies have been setting targets for reducing energy use and carbon emissions in buildings in their portfolios. Tech companies, too, have their own ambitious goals and are going green with projects on their campuses.

And now with investors looking for ventures that adhere to progressive environmental, social and governance policies — so-called E.S.G. investing — it has become easier for developers to get financial backing for green projects, said Joanna Frank, the president and chief executive of the Center for Active Design, which administers the Fitwel certification program for healthier buildings.


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