Green Keepers

With construction costs in decline, opportunities for renovating and repositioning outmoded office buildings abound. Counterintuitive as it may seem, retrofitting in recessionary times pays dividends when the real estate market rebounds; and sustainability is an increasingly important aspect of strategic property management.  

By taking a green approach to retrofitting, building owners not only bolster brand identity, reputation and shareholder value. They enjoy the added advantage of reduced absenteeism, as well as increased occupant satisfaction and employee productivity. Three current Gensler projects demonstrate how sustainable building upgrades yield environmental and business benefits.

Image: Johnson Controls Inc. — Glendale, Wisconsin  

Powering Up Sustainable Solutions

A Fortune 100 company, Johnson Controls Inc. is aligning its metro Milwaukee headquarters with a corporate vision of creating “a more comfortable, safe and sustainable world.” What began as a boardroom renovation project has evolved into a comprehensive transformation of the 1960s-era campus, a sustainable showcase for the manufacturer’s innovative technologies.

In addition to renovating the Corporate Center, the company opted to add a facility dedicated to its most lucrative division, Power Solutions, connecting the new property and additional parking to the historic facilities with a multipurpose Amenities building.

The campus’ one-story, brick buildings are re-skinned with floor-to-ceiling glass, vastly improving the daylight quotient and opening up landscape views. Rooftop skylights fill offices with natural light, and an under-floor air distribution system connects to individual cubicles, enabling employees to regulate temperature and air flow in workstations that also feature self-adjusting lighting and white noise controls.

Made to Measure

Johnson Controls’ campus is a model of sustainable real estate development — slated to become the highest concentration of LEED Platinum buildings in the world. When complete, the campus will house Wisconsin’s largest solar array, a combination of ground-mounted and rooftop-laminated cells supplying nearly 400,000 kWh of electricity and saving 530,000 pounds of CO2 per year.

In addition, a geothermal exchange system composed of 272 wells will benefit the entire campus, using the earth’s stable temperature to supplement the mechanical system and providing significant savings in operating costs during the heating and cooling seasons. Environmental improvements include a 30,000-gallon cistern that collects roof rainwater for reuse in flushing toilets and urinals. This measure saves nearly 600,000 gallons of potable water annually.

Staying Connected in South Park

Gensler repositioned the 32-story AT&T Center in Los Angeles to keep pace with the city’s rapidly developing South Park neighborhood — an urban center on the upswing. “Building owners look to us to assess where the value is and then unlock that value,” says Gensler’s John Adams.

A Gensler-designed system of painted metal panels, suspended from the existing building skin, created shading advantages that reduce the building’s energy consumption. Likewise, UV-reflective film applied to the windows minimizes the sun’s heating effects without decreasing the penetration of natural light. And a new white, elastomeric roof minimizes heat gain inside the building. These changes contributed to AT&T Center receiving LEED-EB Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Dialing in Efficiency

AT&T Center has long been one of Los Angeles’ most distinctive addresses. Now — with an Energy Star rating of 94 — it’s also one of the greenest. Owner LBA Realty keeps it that way through a commitment to sustainable building operations and maintenance practices.

The building combines high-efficiency cooling and heating systems with best management practices that hold operating costs to a minimum. The new variable air volume system alone cuts energy costs by up to 30 percent. Fluorescent lamps replace the existing lighting, and office lights shut off automatically each night. Low-flow fixtures improve water efficiency — and new aerators on lavatory sinks have reduced water consumption by 75 percent. A building-wide recycling program and green maintenance protocols complement the infrastructure upgrades.

A Long-Term Investment Strategy

Gensler’s repurposing of a seven-story, spec-office building for Cathay Bank in Los Angeles provided the opportunity to create a sustainable headquarters, while boosting the quality of the workplace employee performance. While the building’s San Gabriel Valley location was ideal, close to the bank’s customer and employee base, it had deteriorated badly. Rather than demolish the facility and start anew, the team took the environmentally preferred option of recycling the structure.

The original building’s squat proportions and heavy massing proved huge hurdles to overcome. Through a series of strategic interventions, the design team dramatically increased the visual prominence of the building, devising a way to hang a high-performance glass curtain wall from the concrete structure to improve the building’s energy efficiency.

The Energy Savings Bank

Sustainable upgrades, such as high-performance glass, low-flow fixtures and enhanced daylighting all deliver operational savings to Cathay Bank. “We wanted to create a superior workplace, benchmarked against the typical office building,” says Gensler’s David Herjeczki. Workstations were shifted to the north side of the building, where floor-to-ceiling glass provides abundant natural light and mountain views. Darker glass and sunshades protect the private offices on the east and west ends of the building.

Conference rooms, copy rooms and pantries are stepped back from a south-facing perimeter that absorbs the hottest daytime sun. Outside, the bank is moving ahead with plans for photovoltaic canopies that will shade the parking lot — and generate 33 percent of the building’s electricity.

Vernon Mays
—Gensler Firmwide Communications


Christopher Barrett: pages 1, 2c, 3b
Provided courtesy of Johnson Controls Inc.: page 2a
Pat Goetzinger: pages 2b, 3b-c
Brian Vitale (Gensler—Chicago): page 2d
Johnson Controls, Gensler Project Team: page 3a
Kelley King: pages 4a, c, 5a
Ryan Gobuty (Gensler—Los Angeles): pages 4b, 5b-c, 7c-d
John Edward Linden: pages 6a-b, 7a-b
Cathay Bank, Gensler Project Team: page 6c

*For detailed information, please roll over imagery on individual story pages.

Gensler Contacts
John Adams (Gensler—Los Angeles):
Karl Gustafson (Gensler—Chicago):
David Herjeczki (Gensler—Los Angeles):
Stephen Katz (Gensler—Chicago):
Steve Meier (Gensler—Chicago):
Brian Vitale (Gensler—Chicago):

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