Greener Silicon Valley offices: Where California, cities rank nationwide in LEED


Where are the nation’s greenest new buildings? Illinois tops the list with 2.29 square feet per capita.

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When it comes to LEED-certified buildings, California is No. 5.

That’s according to the latest state-by-state rankings from the U.S. Green Building Council, which administers the efficiency-rating system whose letters stand for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED certification indicates that the building uses energy efficient or other green attributes in its design and operation.

The Golden State has more square feet of LEED-certified buildings than any other (nearly 78 million square feet in aggregate). But the USGBC determines rankings on a per-capita basis. By that standard, California has 1.95 square feet of LEED-certified space per capita. Top-ranked Illinois, with some 29.4 million square feet of LEED space, clocks in with 2.29 square feet per capita. (California actually tied for the fifth-place spot with New York.)

In Silicon Valley, LEED-certified projects are practically a requirement for many tenants to consider occupying them. So it’s no surprise that the region’s portfolio of LEED-certified buildings is expanding — both for new construction and rehabs. I asked the USGBC to pull some local statistics. They show that Santa Clara County had more than 4.1 million square feet of certified-LEED space as of 2013. That is about 5.5 percent of total LEED buildings in the state. Also, 2013 saw nearly twice as many buildings certified as 2012 — 81 in the year just ended, compared to 44 in 2012. That’s up from 29 in 2009 and eight in 2008.

The system was developed in 1998. In 2013, Sunnyvale led the pack of Santa Clara County cities, with 12 buildings earning the certification. Mountain View came in second with 11.

Luxury housing market shows early signs of slowdown

First Republic Bank's Prestige Home Index indicates luxury homes in the Bay Area had a strong finish to 2013. But some suggest that California's high-end housing market is starting to see a slowdown.

First Republic Bank’s Prestige Home Index indicates luxury homes in the Bay Area had a strong finish to 2013. But some suggest that California’s high-end housing market is starting to see a slowdown.

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The Bay Area’s luxury home market is signaling a slowdown ahead even as prices late last year were still showing year-over-year double-digit increases.

First Republic Bank’s Home Prestige Index released Monday found that luxury home prices in the Bay Area are near records amid tight supplies of homes selling for $1 million and often more.

But it’s the commentary from real estate agents that set off alarms for careful followers of the luxury housing market. In discussing First Republic’s latest quarterly figures released Monday, real estate agents in California’s luxury housing market are using telltale language of trouble ahead, with such phrases as “supply is plentiful” and the “market is solid,” while others see “buyer resistance” and “expect the market to level off.”

That type of talk that could prompt home owners to put their properties on the market before prices fall.

Real estate agents say that pricing and demand for the limited supply of homes on the market is approaching levels last seen just before the housing market began to crater in 2007.

Earlier this month, Christopher Stafford andTerry Wright, both of Paragon Real Estate Group, sent an email to clients alerting them to “shifts in the San Francisco real estate market.”

“It is far too early in the year to reach definitive conclusions regarding substantive changes in the market, but there are indications of a number of shifts,” the Paragon agents said. “From the hurly burly on the street, the word is that the quantity of offers coming in on new listings is declining. Where a new listing might have attracted 10 or 12 offers last spring, three or four are coming in now; where three or four offers would have arrived, the seller is getting one.”

“The amount of competition deeply affects home-price increases,” the brokers spelled out.

The Paragon agents see plenty of potential buyers checking out online listings and open houses, but more of them are first-time buyers who are “proceeding more cautiously.” Plus that group doesn’t come in with the buying power of home equity built up over the years.

“Though the market remains hot by any reasonable standard, by some statistical measure it is cooling,” the Paragon agents advised clients. “This may reflect a transition or only a lull before the spring sales season begins.”

On Monday Stafford echoed a frequently heard lament in Bay Area real estate circles, “There is no inventory.”

“It seems some of the heat has been taken off the market,” Stafford told me, adding that he views any references to the market “cooling” as overstating the case.

Those hoping that the Bay Area’s luxury housing market gets a big lift this spring might be disappointed as the affluent experience what Marcum’s accountants call “tax shock” as their higher 2013 tax bills must be paid. This segment of the market is also greatly affected by stock market performance, given how much wealth is created in the Bay Area through stock options and initial public offerings. The IPO market also helps set prices paid by acquirers of private companies. The tie between stocks and luxury housing is so strong that one real estate agent, when asked for his outlook on the region’s luxury home market, said, “You’re asking me to predict what the stock market will do.”

The traditionally strong spring housing market may see even more inventory come to market if home owners decide that they’ll get better prices by selling sooner than later.

On Monday, First Republic’s closely watched survey of luxury home values clocked in strong gains from a year ago, but more modest gains from the third quarter, especially when looking at the third quarter’s gain over the second quarter of 2013.

In the Bay Area, luxury home values in last year’s fourth quarter rose 12.4 percent from the fourth quarter of 2012 and 1.8 percent from the third quarter of 2013. That was just below the third quarter’s gain of 1.9 percent from the second quarter of 2013.

First Republic Bank produces the quarterly Prestige Home Index with Core-Logic Case-Shiller, a provider of automated property valuation services to the financial services industry. First Republic has tracked luxury homes since the bank’s founding in 1985.

The fourth quarter figures and analysis may provide a snapshot of rising luxury home values as the market was turning down.

“Luxury home prices again posted double-digit gains on a year-over-year basis,” saidKatherine August-deWilde, president and chief operating officer of First Republic Bank. (NYSE: FRC) “Market conditions in California’s luxury communities continue to be very strong. Limited inventory, robust demand and low interest rates are driving prices higher.”

No surprise, new tech wealth is spurring luxury home buying on the Peninsula.

“From Palo Alto to Atherton, we are seeing offers 20 percent to 40 percent over the asking price,” said Pat Kalish of Alain Pinel Real Estate in Palo Alto. “It’s tech money as well as foreign buyers. From all indications, prices will keep increasing because the inventory is so low. If you’re a homeowner, this is one of the best times ever to sell.”

And as a reminder for those who missed Econ 101, rising supply is likely to put downward pressure on prices. One thing is certain: this spring’s home-selling season will be well worth watching.

Mark Calvey covers banking and finance for the San Francisco Business Times.

From a simple idea to a several-hundred-billion-dollar industry

 by Jacob Kriss –

To celebrate the release of our list of the Top 10 States For LEED, we’re posting our narrative of the history of LEED’s development, originally released at the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in November 2013, in three parts on

Part 1: From a simple idea, to a several-hundred-billion-dollar industry

A sustainable built environment within a generation: though only seven simple words, this phrase represents a challenge that may seem, at surface level, insurmountable. How can humanity drastically transform its approach to the buildings and communities where we live, work, learn and play — in such a short period of time?

And yet, at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), we make our commitment to fulfilling this mission the foundation of our efforts every day. We do so not out of naiveté or misguided idealism, but because we see a revolution that is already well under way. Thanks to the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building rating system, sustainability is now a foremost consideration in construction projects around the world. Green building has developed into a full-scale global movement that is transforming lives and communities, helping turn energy-guzzling and water-wasting structures into beacons of promise for a better future. Fulfillment of our mission, though still distant, is far from the impossibility it once seemed.

How did this happen? Was it luck, good timing, or perhaps a combination of the two? Answering this question requires a look back at the developments that shaped LEED into its status today as the world’s most well-known and widely implemented green building rating system.

Where we stand

From its humble beginnings with 19 pilot projects, LEED has grown immensely, as the economic, human health and environmental benefits of achieving certification have become well known. And the numbers speak for themselves.

As of February 2014, there are more than 20,000 LEED-certified commercial projects worldwide, representing 2.9 billion square feet, with another 37,000 commercial projects pursuing certification, representing approximately 7.6 billion square feet. Meanwhile, more than 50,000 residential units have been certified under LEED for Homes, and there are more than 130 certified LEED for Neighborhood Development projects.

LEED has transcended the commercial office space, the sector in which it originated, with market-specific offerings for schools, healthcare, homes, neighborhood developments, campuses, entire corporate building portfolios and retail settings, acknowledging the unique considerations for each of these space types. LEED has also pushed far beyond new construction projects, its original focus, with LEED for Commercial Interiors, LEED for Core and Shell and LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance, which affords older structures the opportunity to dramatically reduce their environmental impact.

USGBC now counts 95,000 professionals who have taken the LEED Accredited Professional (AP) exam, 59,000 additional LEED APs who have gone on to earn a LEED AP with Specialty and 32,000 LEED Green Associates.

LEED projects can be found in all 50 states and 147 countries and territories, buoyed by the 77 local U.S. chapters, the LEED International Roundtable as well as 103 green building councils around the world, united behind the World Green Building Council in a truly global mission.

USGBC also counts nearly 13,000 member organizations representing 13 million employees among LEED’s supporters, including Fortune 500 companies, architecture firms, contractors and builders, product manufacturers, nonprofit organizations, government institutions and many others. These organizations, large and small, represent a broad cross-section of economic and societal interests.

Such metrics are a reminder of how LEED has galvanized an entire industry, which McGraw-Hill Construction anticipates will be worth between $204 billion and $248 billion for new construction projects in the United States by 2016.

While impressive, these numbers also do little to explain how what started as a humble 37-page document in a gray cardboard binder has changed the way the world thinks about the buildings that we use every day.

The early years (1993-2002)

LEED’s development grew from the formation of USGBC in 1993 by three individuals: David Gottfried, Mike Italiano and Rick Fedrizzi, who currently serves as president, CEO and founding chair of the organization. At that point, while the environmental movement possessed considerable momentum, it was challenging to provide a uniform definition of “green buildings” — let alone a codified mechanism for certifying them based on their sustainable features.

“Coming to understand and appreciate the connections between the built environment and its effects on the natural environment and human health was a long process,” said Fedrizzi. “But as these connections and the criticality of green built infrastructure began to come to light, we also realized that the need for an organization to advance the cause of green building and to manage its own green building rating system was equally critical.”

USGBC’s formation and the development of LEED occurred at a time when many were experiencing “the malaise of a collection of bad design,” a phenomenon that had been growing since the 1970s, said Scot Horst, USGBC’s senior vice president of LEED. With the increase in mechanized building systems and the rise of air conditioning in the latter half of the century, people had closed up office buildings, hospitals, housing high-rises and schools, working with machines instead of with nature to complete building projects. The result, according to Horst, were buildings that looked good from the outside but were detrimental to the environment as well as the buildings’ occupants, who may have suffered from sick building syndrome.

The 1990s saw a growing realization of the need to optimize these systems — with people and nature in mind — to create better buildings. LEED grew from a recognition among those in the building community that, “there’s all these amazing things that people are doing, [so] let’s write them down in a list, and say that if you do so many of them, that’s an environmental structure,” Horst said.

Joel Todd, chair of the LEED Steering Committee and an early participant in USGBC, recalls writing building materials reports in the early 1990s for the American Institute of Architects. But in the process, “You immediately realized, it’s not just about the materials, it’s about the whole building,” she said. She remembers helping to draft the initial version of LEED several years after USGBC’s formation in 1993. “There was a real creative tension, push/pull, that still exists today, which is, ‘How far can we push people and not lose them?’”

Rob Watson, CEO and chief scientist at ECON Group and chair of the LEED Steering Committee from 1995 to 1996, remembers initial efforts to name the system. “The first name of the system proposed was ‘DOMEC,’ which was what the volunteer marketing committee came up with in the spring of 1996,” he said. “I said to myself, ‘We’ve GOT to be able to do better than this.’ So, I asked myself what the system was really about, and I kept coming back to the notion of leadership. I wrote down a bunch of words that captured what we were trying to do which, not surprisingly, included leadership, energy, environment and design. In 15 minutes the name was coined and needless to say, the Steering Committee liked LEED better than the alternative.”

Some of the earliest considerations in creating the rating system were keeping things as simple and attainable as possible, cutting out anything already covered by U.S. law, as well as trying to get each credit on one page, front and back — perhaps a laughable aspiration today, given the comprehensive language in the current rating system, but a serious effort at the time.

Todd remembered now-obvious shortcomings of the early version of LEED. “The green building movement was really focused on the environment, at first,” she said, recalling notions like, “Why are we thinking about indoor air quality? That’s not the environment.” Human health and well-being, social equity and economic development were not serious considerations, at least at the time.

She also recalled efforts to formulate the rating system to win accreditation from the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), a body that validates norms and guidelines across many sectors. “It was clear at the time that what was going to be required to get consensus from all of the interests and everybody was not going to result in a leadership standard — it would be more like [building] code,” she said.

As USGBC continued to write its standard in the mid-‘90s, early government backing from the Department of Energy, which supplied $300,000 in grants to keep USGBC afloat, proved pivotal in ensuring that LEED got off the ground.

By 1998, USGBC had successfully developed LEED 1.0, and it began pilot testing 19 projects. An earlier decision to move from alphabetical listing of credits in the earliest draft of LEED to grouping credits into the now-familiar five categories was critical to its market adoption, said Todd. “It made the rating system much more accessible for people, much easier to understand and much easier to put into use. It just made more sense.”

Following the success of the pilot program, LEED for New Construction saw a public launch in March 2000. That year, 51 projects participated, and in March 2001, drawing on lessons learned from the pilot program, USGBC launched LEED 2.0.

Meanwhile, certifications outside the commercial office sector, where LEED had its start, began to sprout. Early notable successes in 2000 included the Kandalama Hotel in Sri Lanka, the first LEED-certified hotel and the first LEED international project, as well as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation Phillip Merrill Environmental Center in Annapolis, Md., the first project to secure LEED Platinum.

Brendan Owens, vice president of LEED technical development, joined USGBC in 2000. He recalled that at the time, it was not difficult to solicit projects to participate. In many instances, LEED reflected practices that building consultants like Paladino and Green Building Services, both early LEED users, were already doing. “In the early days it was one-to-one contact, and they [LEED users] would become that spark within the organization,” he said.

Shortly after the release of LEED 2.0 in March 2001, USGBC held a series of member meetings to determine next steps for the continued evolution of the system, and a blanket decision was made to slow LEED development, at least for a time, to foment further market uptake prior to introducing a new version. “It was clear that if we didn’t let this sit a little bit, no one was going to catch on to it,” Horst said. “There was a lot of frustration at the time,” he said, as much work had gone into determining the next steps for LEED’s evolution, “but a lot of excitement too.”

The temporary pause in developing LEED didn’t slow the momentum, however. Furthering its movement into new market sectors, USGBC saw the first elementary school achieve LEED Gold, Third Creek Elementary in Statesville, N.C., in November 2002. Meanwhile, as a reflection of the excitement and demand within the green building industry, USGBC hosted the first-ever Greenbuild Conference that same month in Austin, Texas, with approximately 4,000 attendees — organizers only expected 1,500. And while many anticipated continued momentum within the green building space, few could have foreseen the explosive growth that was to come.

What is LEED and what can it bring to the sustainable design table?

by Cody Hill –

What is LEED and what can it bring to the sustainable design table?

LEED is an acronym used to identify buildings, homes, neighborhoods, and construction projects that exemplify Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. There are four levels of certification in regards to LEED which “rank” where the building stands in its energy efficiency, environmental impact, and sustainability. A building that is certified in LEED offers a variety of benefits, both immediate and long-term. Let’s take a deeper look at LEED and highlight some of the buildings that meet each level.

4 Categories of LEED
New construction projects are ranked on a tiered system and must fall within 1 of 4 categories. These categories are: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum (Platinum being the highest, Certified being the lowest). Placement is based upon the number of credits accrued in five categories of green design.

– Water efficiency
– Energy and atmosphere
– Materials and resources
– Indoor environmental quality
– Sustainable sites

Benefits of LEED?
Being certified as a LEED building offers benefits. For one, the costs associated with building operation will cost less as a result of efficient use of energy and water. In addition the building will be valued higher as a result of it being environmentally friendly, sustainable, and resource efficient. You will also be recognized publicly for being a leader in energy and environmental design (who would have thought?!) which is a prestigious and honorable award.

Improving the Environment – Inside and Out
It should be noted that the inside of the office building should also be environmentally friendly. As one of the five green design categories includes indoor environmental quality, LEED may attract additional employees to the workplace. Having high air quality within the office interior is something that not many employees get to experience, but when a construction project is certified it is just an added benefit included.


Buildings LEED Certified
– Taipei 101: Platinum (Taiwan)
– Bank of America Tower: Platinum (New York City, NY)
– Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability: Platinum (Vancouver, BC)
– RBC WaterPark Place: Platinum (Toronto, ON)

Since its creation back in 1998, LEED has been implemented in 30 countries and been applied to thousands of building projects here in the U.S. Four states have banned LEED in public building projects for various reasons, but the case remains solid for LEED as an environmentally friendly and ecologically advantageous system.

Silicon Valley’s hotel boom, quantified

Weekday business travel fueled growth in Silicon Valley hotel occupancy and daily rates during 2013.

Weekday business travel fueled growth in Silicon Valley hotel occupancy and daily rates during 2013.

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A new report shows that growth in Silicon Valley hotel occupancy and room prices accelerated during 2013, setting the stage for a busy 2014 in the region’s hospitality market.

Atlas Hospitality Group this week released new 2013 year-end data on California hotels, which documented a 94 percent increase in median room prices in Santa Clara County and a 40 percent median nightly rate increase in San Mateo County.

The upward trend has previously been illustrated on a local level by recurring monthly upticks in cities including San Jose and Santa Clara — the latter of which saw average hotel prices hit $177 per nightduring the busy fall months.

Those numbers put Silicon Valley well above state hotel industry averages last year. The region’s recent hotel boom has been fueled by workweek business travelthat dropped off during the recession.

Throughout California, median daily hotel rates increased 17 percent, Atlas found.

Sales of the hotels themselves increased 35 percent statewide to $4.7 billion. The $975,000 paid per room for The London West Hollywood made the property the most expensive purchase last year when broken down per unit.

Santa Clara County also saw a 180 percent increase in the value of hotel sales — bolstered by a $93 million deal for the 510-room Hyatt Santa Clara — despite a 36 percent drop in the number of overall transactions.

The challenge for Silicon Valley hoteliers will be to keep up with corporate demand while also minding a nagging dropoff in weekend travel to workaholic Silicon Valley. The potential for new competition from hotel investors circling the market is another factor that will likely loom large in the coming year, as we previously reported.

Prefab ecoMOD Project Wins 2013 R+D Award for Affordable Housing

One of eight winners of the 2013 R D Awards that were presented by ARCHITECT magazine, the ecoMOD Project is an effort of project teams at the University of Virginia (UVa) to work with affordable housing organization in the creation of low-impact, energy-efficient housing units. Project teams are made up of UVa faculty and students



One of eight winners of the 2013 R D Awards that were presented by ARCHITECT magazine, the ecoMOD Projectis an effort of project teams at the University of Virginia (UVa) to work with affordable housing organization in the creation of low-impact, energy-efficient housing units. Project teams are made up of UVa faculty and students of various disciplines that have collaborated on the design, build, and evaluation of twelve housing units that are located on eight sites.



Beginning in 2004 and evolving the program to include renovation projects in 2009 (ecoREMOD), the ecoMOD Project aims to bring sustainable residential design to people in low- to moderate-level income brackets so that they can benefit from the reduced costs of an energy-efficient home.

Housing projects encompass new construction ecoMOD projects that utilize prefabrication methodologies and ecoREMOD projects that attempt to bring sustainable design concepts to an historic context.

Current installations that are on track for occupation this summer are three modular units that will be rented or purchased by low-income households. Two of the homes meet international Passive House standards at a delivery cost of $105 per square foot (plus design fees and foundation work). The third home, a control unit, meets local codes and cost only $70 per square foot. It will allow the teams to collect data on cost to benefit ratios and returns on investment in energy-saving systems.

The modules utilize regionally-sourced materials such as FSC-certified red oak for flooring and cementitious fiber board siding that contains 50 percent flash that was recovered from nearby Georgia’s coal-burning power plants.

Upcoming challenges for ecoMOD include the design of a LEED-certified ranch that can be built for less than $70 per square foot.

Google jet terminal at SJC to break ground Feb. 28

A rendering of a new private aviation terminal approved for Mineta San Jose International Airport.

The official groundbreaking for Signature Flight Support’s $82 million private jet center at Mineta San Jose International Airport will take place Feb. 28.

Bulldozers are already on site, and demolition work has commenced on the 29-acre project, a major portion of which has been leased to a company that manages the private aircraft of top Google Inc.executives. But the largely ceremonial event will serve to “personally thank everyone who’s been a part of this process over the last year,” said Maria Sastre, Signature’s president and chief operating officer.

“It’s been a long and winding road, but we certainly have arrived at the right place,” she said.

Watsonville-based Granite Construction is the lead contractor on the project, working underneath the Weitz Co. Shenkel Schultzis the design architect in partnership withGensler.

The event announcement comes a week after San Jose planning commissioners rejected an appeal brought by the airport’s existing fixed-base operator, Atlantic Aviation. Atlantic called the city’s approval process flawed, inadequate and rushed. The company has also initiated litigation challenging the city’s environmental clearance of the project.

And it follows news that the federal government has selected Google Inc. to lease Moffett Federal Airfield. Google is a separate entity from Blue City Holdings, the Google execs’ aircraft management company that has struck a deal with Signature for the SJC site. But some still wondered in the wake of the Moffett news if Blue City would remain on board with the San Jose project.

“It has no impact whatsoever,” Sastre told me. “In fact, the BCH folks have been as anxious as we have been to get construction started.”

The construction timeline is 18-24 months, she said. Sastre said that other tenants are also lining up to reserve space at the project, which will include 270,000 square feet of hangar space. At least one other tenant has signed, though she declined to identify the company.