When a building is LEED-certified, it demonstrates the commitment of the owners to a standard of energy efficiency that helps to keep our country moving toward a more green and sustainable future. There can be tax benefits to energy efficiency as well (read our blog post here). Let’s take a tour of some of the most interesting LEED certified buildings around our country today.

Santa Monica Civic Center Parking Garage

via City of Santa Monica
The Civic Center Parking Structure in Santa Monica, California, was the first building of its kind to become LEED-certified in December 2014. Not only is the building aesthetically pleasing, but it embodies the city’s commitment to sustainability. Photovoltaic panels on the roof provide electricity for the facility, while the building uses natural light and lower lamp wattages. Reclaimed water and stormwater management reduces the building’s need for fresh water. The garage provides outlets to charge electric vehicles and free bicycle storage to the public to encourage alternate transportation modes.

Children’s Museum of South Dakota

via Children’s Museum of South Dakota
The Children’s Museum of South Dakota incorporated sustainable design from the early planning stages. The goal was to create a healthy and safe place for kids and their families to learn and play. The original building was a school, built some time in the 1930s; renovations reduced the number of new materials needed to construct the project. Much of the space surrounding the building was maintained for outdoor exhibits and landscaped with native vegetation to reduce the amount of stormwater runoff. The facility’s mechanical and electrical systems needed to be replaced and all of the heating, cooling and lighting were redesigned with energy efficiency in mind. All aspects of indoor environmental quality were considered including using low VOC materials. Innovative design techniques continue to be kept in mind in this fun and educational museum which obtained LEED Silver certification in June 2013.

Chandler City Hall

via GreenSource
The Chandler City Hall in Arizona received LEED Gold certification in August of 2013. One of the main reasons the city sought the certification was concern for long-term operations and maintenance costs. The building has a solar energy system on the roof of the garage. There is an art piece—entitled “Turbulent Shade”—on the west side of City Hall’s 120,000-square-foot building that reflects sunlight while allowing natural light into the building. Special recognition for its water savings was obtained by registering a 74% deduction in water use (LEED requires only 40%). Large windows were placed to allow for more daylight, and heating and cooling vents were placed in the floor to be more efficient. Chandler is committed to energy efficiency: A green-building initiative put in place in 2008 requires new city buildings larger than 5,000 square feet to be built to LEED Silver standards or better.

Empire State Building

Via Shutterstock
The Empire State Building was awarded LEED Gold certification in 2011 after completion of a $550 million renovation that began in 2009. This historic landmark opened in 1931. The goal of the retrofit was to reduce energy usage by more than 38%, energy costs by $4.4 million annually, and carbon emissions by 105,000 metric tons over a 15-year period. Some of the elements included in the project included improved lighting design, daylighting controls, and occupancy sensors in common areas and tenant spaces to reduce electricity and cooling loads. The “guts” of the chillers were completely replaced while leaving the shells to reduce cost. The entire HVAC system and the ventilation controls were upgraded and optimized. Perhaps the most fascinating is the number of windows that were refurbished: 6,514! The process reused 96% of the existing glass and frames, and continues to reduce the building energy costs by more than $400,000 annually. These are all very big numbers, but coming from such a big building in a big city, nothing less was expected. (alliantgroup is proud to say its NYC office is located at the Empire State Building!)

Helios House Gas Station

via Wikipedia
With materials upcycled from an old gas station that used to occupy the lot where this project now sits, the Helios House in Los Angeles, California, is the nation’s first gas station to be LEED certified. While you probably see the irony of a gas station going green, the station’s motto is “a little better” and the idea is to educate the consumer in addition to improving the site itself. The canopy is built of 90 steel-cut solar panels which reflect light to reduce electrical needs. The structure collects rainwater to irrigate the landscape of a living wall of plants that absorb carbon dioxide emitted from the pumps. Low-energy lamps with motion detectors reduce lighting use even further. The floors are made of recycled glass and rapidly renewing bamboo walls. Helios House is undeniably beautiful to look at—if you stop by to get some gas, you can recycle your old cell phone there as well.

King Street Station

via Flickr user John Westrock
Sustainability was a critical goal when the City of Seattle, Washington purchased and made the decision to renovate King Street Station. Construction began in 1906 and it was placed into service seven years later. A 1965 remodel then covered much of the beauty of the Italiante style of the original structure, and by 2010 it had deteriorated significantly. The campanile bell tower was renovated by using salvaged glass tiles, and the roof was redone with green-glazed terracotta tiles produced by the same company that manufactured the original ones. It was important to the city to restore the historic finishes in many places while making sure a major seismic upgrading took place. The original ornate ceiling was revealed after a 1960s suspended ceiling was removed. This allowed for daylighting. Geothermal wells were dug below the plaza, ground source heat pumps were installed for heating and cooling, and operable windows were restored. Photovoltaic solar panels were placed on a trackside canopy and water harvesting all helped earn the project LEED Platinum certification. The building today consumes 68% less energy than prior to the renovations and gives visitors an upgraded green view of a beautiful past.

San Francisco City Hall

via ecobuildingpulse.com
In May of 2015, San Francisco’s City Hall turned 100 years old and at the same time became the oldest building in the United States to receive LEED Platinum certification. The sustainability consultants, Thorton Tomasetti, implemented a retro-commissioning effort to reduce the building’s energy use. They saw the need to separate building steam meters for district-supplied steam. A newly reconfigured ventilation and heating system monitors temperature and carbon dioxide levels. It circulates fresh air when a room is filled with people and cools the building. Efficiency improvements will reduce consumption by approximately 20%, helping to make City Hall one of the most energy-efficient buildings in the country. The biggest changes were made to the HVAC systems and the improvement of water efficiency.

Gerding Theater at the Armory

via energy.gov
The Gerding Theater at the Armory in Portland, Oregon is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Now home to the Portland Center Stage Theater Company, it was originally constructed in 1891 to house local units of the Oregon National Guard. The Armory became the first historical renovation of a performing arts venue in the world, receiving a LEED Platinum certification. The project team had a tremendous challenge as they wanted to maintain the unique outer shell by building a concrete building inside. This conserved the energy of the existing brick, stone and wood trusses. Administrative and lobby spaces are lit by skylights throughout the daylight hours. Lobby spaces give guests radiant heat from hot water tubes embedded in the cement flooring. In offices and rehearsal rooms, chilled beams are used for individualized comport and greater efficiency. All in all, Forbes magazine recognized it as one of the greenest buildings in America. What a great place to see a production!

We hope you have enjoyed our brief tour of these energy-efficient architectural beauties. Let us know if you’ve visited any of them, or if there is one you think we should have added to our list!

alliantgroup is the nation’s leading provider of specialty tax consulting services including the Energy-Efficient Commercial Building Deduction (179D) and the Research and Development Tax Credit. Contact us today to learn how your work on energy-efficient and LEED-certified buildings may qualify you for lucrative tax incentives and credits.