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Driven to be Green

Driven to be Green

With its U.S. headquarters addition, Toyota Motor Sales set out to prove that large-scale sustainability doesn't have to be a costly proposition

By By Larry Flynn, Senior Editor | August 11, 2010
This article first appeared in the 200311 issue of BD+C.

The perception that sustainable design and construction inherently contains a substantial cost premium, especially for big projects, is belied by the completion of the south campus addition to the Toyota Motor Sales headquarters in Torrance, Calif.

On Earth Day, April 22, the 627,000-sq.-ft. office complex — comprised of five interconnected buildings — became the largest project to receive a Gold rating in the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building program.

Toyota says it elected to pursue LEED certification to comply with its own Earth Charter guidelines, established in 1992, which call for the company to reduce its impact on the environment in every aspect of its business. Toyota achieved this goal, while staying within its $75 million construction budget.

"The budget was one that anyone can understand," says Dan Heinfeld, president and a LEED-accredited professional with chief architect LPA Inc., Irvine, Calif. Constructed for $95 per square foot, Heinfeld calls the project "affordable green."

"That's in the middle range of cost for a corporate headquarters, and we were still able to achieve our green goals," says Heinfeld. Green can be done on a budget, he says, "but it's how you plan and budget it that counts."

According to Steven Kendrick, AIA, the LPA principal-in-charge, an analysis by Toyota put the premium for sustainability on the project at 2-3%. To obtain a Gold rating, Kendrick says the cost premium was reckoned at 5-6%.

The new buildings were designed to consolidate 2,500 employees in Toyota's financial services and customer service departments, some of whom were located in off-campus facilities whose leases were coming up. To make sense financially, the new campus had to be at least as cost-effective as the leased space. That meant tight budget controls.

But competition also was a motivating factor, says Kendrick.

Ford Motor Co. had recently gained a LEED Certified rating for its 300,000-sq.-ft. Premier Automotive Group's North American headquarters in nearby Irvine — the first LEED 2.0 project in Southern California. Honda Motor Co. had also received LEED certification for a 180,000-sq.-ft. complex in Gresham, Ore., a suburb of Portland.

At 627,000 square feet, the south campus addition to the Toyota Motor Sales U.S. headquarters is the largest building to receive a Gold rating in the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design green building rating system. A two-story glass atrium ties the campus’s five wings together.

LPA also was the lead architect on the Ford project, but found the clear goals established at the outset of the Toyota project beneficial. "With the Ford project, the decision to have a LEED building was made after the project was under construction," says Kendrick, which made it very expensive to achieve LEED certification. "At that point, you have to start to buypoints if you want a LEED rating," he says. "With this project, most of the decisions were made when we were still drawing with markers and tissue paper."

Reaching for the Gold

The initial objective for the south campus was to achieve a LEED Silver, but "early on we realized that Gold was within our reach," Kendrick says. The project earned 47 points, eight points more than necessary for a Gold rating.

One of the project's more notable sustainable elements — an extensive photovoltaic array system — originally was planned as a future installation. "As we continued to identify savings on the project, it allowed Toyota to pursue additional interests on the project," says Jett McCormick, senior project manager for Turner Construction Co., whose Irvine office was the general contractor on the project.

Initially, the photovoltaic array wasn't in the budget, but as the project progressed, McCormick says, "there was enough savings being generated that it was added during the normal course of construction." The California Public Utilities Commission's Self-Generation Incentive program provided a 50% rebate of the installed cost of the system.

Covering 53,000 square feet of rooftop, substantial parts of all five buildings, the 536-peak-kilowatt photovoltaic solar electric system is one of the largest privately funded systems of its kind in North America. "There are panels on every one of those buildings and they cover most of the roof," says Kendrick, who was surprised that Toyota would approve such a large system.

The system supplies about 20% of the buildings's electricity, enough energy to power more than 500 homes. Over a 25-year lifetime, it is expected to reduce greenhouse-emitting gases, such as 10,250 pounds of nitrogen oxide and 12,300 tons of carbon dioxide. That's the equivalent of eliminating 54 million automotive miles or planting 853,000 trees.

An expansive photovoltaic system covers 53,000 square feet of rooftop, making it one of the largest privately funded installations of its kind in North America.

Another unexpected bonus was the project's water recycling system. At an added cost of $400,000, the Building Team worked with the West Basin Municipal Water District in Carson, Calif., and the city of Torrance to extend existing recycled water lines a half mile to the south campus for use in toilets, the central plant's cooling towers, and irrigation. Additional lines were run to the existing campus as well, which will eventually allow them to be tied into the system.

According to Toyota, the reclaimed water is 30% cheaper to use than potable water. Together with the use of waterless urinals, the complex is expected to conserve more than 11 million gallons of drinking water a year. Through the use of high-efficiency irrigation and drought-tolerant plants, water demand is reduced 60% compared to a conventional system.

In addition to the PV array and the reclaimed water, the Building Team's strategy was to "develop a list of targeted items" to get the Gold rating, says Kendrick. "There was no one big thing that was going to get us there; there were little things in all of the categories, which is the intent of LEED."

The "little things" included an advanced building automation system, a utilities metering system, natural-gas-fired absorption chillers for the HVAC system, an Energy Star cool roof system, and thermally insulated, double-paned glazing. In all, the campus exceeds California's stringent energy-efficiency requirements by 24%.

Making use of waste

The project's on-site recycling program received an innovation point for "going above and beyond the call of duty," Turner's McCormick says. More than 95% of construction waste (133 tons) was either recycled or reused.

Bins were placed on the jobsite so that crews could collect and sort steel, plastics, wood, metal studs, and excess drywall. "Gypsum is a good material for landscaping," says McCormick. "It mixes well with clay soil to make it more porous."

Kendrick praises Turner for buying in to the recycling plan so enthusiastically. "Contractors usually are hesitant about sorting and recycling, but Turner did extensive training and planning and found it was cheaper," he says.

The key, McCormick says, was "to get everybody to buy into the program and make it a day-to-day activity." Though LEED has received a lot of attention in the construction industry in recent years, McCormick says, most subcontractors don't have much experience with it. Therefore, while the overall project was delivered on a cost-plus basis, subcontractors were selected in part on how well they would fit into the sustainability picture. "They had to tell us how they perceived the LEED program and how they planned to help achieve the LEED requirements," says McCormick.

Every worker was required to attend a half-hour orientation on the LEED program. A rigorous air-quality control process was undertaken, which included sealing off air ducts throughout construction to keep out particle matter. Smoking was not permitted on the site. Low-emitting materials, such as low-gas glue and no-gas particleboard for finishes, were used. Copy rooms were equipped with separate ventilation systems to keep toner fumes out of work areas.

Thanks to these precautions, the building was able to forgo the usual "flushing process," which sped up both the LEED commissioning and the move-in, McCormick says.

Materials were also crucial to the success of the project. The structural steel frame (made from 96% recycled scrap metal), tilt-up concrete panels containing fly-ash waste, and carpeting made from recycled plastic reflect the project's requirement for a cost-effective green design. Eighty percent of the materials used on the Toyota project contained recycled content.

Tilt-up panels were chosen for the building's skin to save money, says LPA's Heinfeld. "We knew we were going to have to use that money elsewhere on the project." But the Building Team instituted a quality-control program to ensure the best possible finish for the panels. Prior to construction, mock-ups were constructed to demonstrate how the exterior wall corners would fit together and how the glass would be inset within the panels, which were constructed thicker than normal so that window glass could be set within them.

The result proved to be both cost effective and aesthetically pleasing. "If you drove past the buildings, you wouldn't know they were tilt-up," says McCormick. "They look like precast."

The concrete casting slabs on which the tilt-up panels are formed proved to have a secondary use. As crews began breaking up the slabs following production of the panels, Toyota project manager Brian Connor suggested the pieces of the beds be used as paving stones. Some 2,000 square feet of casting slab were broken into paver-size pieces for incorporation into the garden court walking paths.

Not everything went perfectly. After M/E/P work was underway, one of the floors had to be built out, which required the reprogramming of eight floor plates.

Despite this relatively minor setback, the project was completed on time, in 14 months. To enable the certification to be obtained by Earth Day, the Building Team expedited both the LEED-certification and commissioning processes.

"This was not our first project with LPA or Toyota, even though we'd never all worked on the same project before," says McCormick. "There was a sense of teamwork and everyone giving that extra effort to achieve the goals."

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