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NRDC Achieves LEED Gold and Living Building Challenge Certification; Here’s How

The San Francisco office of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) was the city’s first LEED certified tenant improvement project over a decade ago – now, following a new renovation of the historic high rise, the building has been awarded both LEED v4 Gold Certification and Living Building Challenge (LBC) Materials Petal Certification. It was one of the first tenant improvement projects worldwide to take on the immense challenge of pursuing – and achieving – both rating systems simultaneously, NRDC says.

The goal of the improvement project was to create a commercial office space with exceptional sustainability standards at a below-market construction cost per square foot.

NRDC began pursuing the Living Building Challenge, in addition to the latest available version of LEED, because it aligned closely with the organization’s mission and sustainability goals. “The Living Building Challenge’s highly rigorous approach to certain topics – such as the ecological impacts of material selection and the consideration of the health and wellness of occupants – compliments LEED certification nicely for the scope of an interior fit out,” Eileen Quigley, NRDC’s sustainability manager, told Environmental Leader.



The project needed close collaboration from the start in order to ensure that all of the rigorous requirements for the rating systems would be met. NRDC built a team of all the major players and developed a streamlined system of product vetting and approvals between the design and construction consultants.

NRDC followed the Integrated Design Process (IDP), which lets all parties to play a part in setting the project’s sustainability goals and to determine the specific design elements that would meet those goals.

The team included representatives from:

  • NRDC, the owner representative and project manager;
  • Architect and lighting designer: Gensler
  • Contractor and LBC consultant: GCI General Contractors
  • Mechanical, electrical and plumbing: Integral Group
  • Structural: Simpson, Gumpertz & Heger
  • LBC consultant: Closed Loop Advisors
  • LEED consultant: stok
  • Various subcontractors for specialized collaboration on LBC and LEED materials requirements.

Some elements of the implementation included:

  • Reuse of existing materials such as doors, flooring, lighting and HVAC system components whenever possible;
  • Minimizing the quantity of new materials needed through minimalistic design elements;
  • Materials sourced from manufacturers with sustainable supply chain practices;
  • Mechanical and electrical systems designed around the buidling’s narrow floor plate and operable windows – this allowed for natural ventilation and daylighting for the majority of operating hours;
  • 100% LED lighting fixtures, controlled by occupancy and daylight sensors;
  • 100% of individual spaces monitored by CO2, temperature and relative humidity sensors;
  • 50% of construction budget spent on products assembled within 100 km of the project
  • 100% of wood either salvaged or Forest Stewardship Council certified;
  • 76% of installed products are Red List-free.

Additionally, NRDC installed energy and water submetering systems that collect performance data across a variety of systems to ensure operational practices are aligned with design intent.



For certification, NRDC was able to demonstrate that it had achieved:

  • 53% energy savings
  • 41% water savings over LEED baseline
  • 95% construction and demolition waste diverted from landfill
  • 86% operational diverted from landfill
  • 58 tons of Green-e Climate Certified Carbon Offsets

Additionally, NRDC expects that the renovation will help improve its overall bottom line. A growing body of research is showing that healthy buildings can impact a company’s bottom line through reduced absenteeism, improved retention, and greater employee productivity, NRDC says.


Getting It Done: Vendors mentioned above





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