Merritt Properties Embraces High-Tech Solutions to Aid the Environment
The real estate and commercial development industries have a significant impact on the environment. And while much can still be done to improve and alter business practices in these fields to lessen the harmful effects on the environment – less debris going to landfills, reduction of greenhouse gases and increased adoption of green technology – many builders, developers and real estate firms have already taken great steps to “go green.” One of the pioneering companies locally is Merritt Properties, the largest privately held commercial real estate firm in Maryland.
To illustrate Merritt’s focus on the environment, let’s take a look inside two of its developments, Schilling Green and Schilling Green II in Hunt Valley.
Schilling Green, a three-story, 106,208-square-foot Class A office building that is LEED Platinum certified by the U.S. Green Building Council, is a redevelopment of an existing site, and Merritt was able to salvage 77 percent of the building structure and maximize resource conservation. “The former building was built in the 1980s and was distressed looking. It had a bad reputation in the market with low ceilings and poor lighting, so we gutted it and installed new mechanical and electrical systems and re-skinned the exterior to allow more daylight. We needed to repurpose it to erase the stigma,” says Josh Asbury, project manager, land development, at Merritt Properties.
A new building envelope utilizing insulation with a greater R Value and Low-E glass, as well as an energy-efficient boiler package and high-performance lighting, decreased the building’s energy consumption by more than 21 percent. Additionally, 70 percent of the building’s core energy use was purchased from renewable energy sources, and photovoltaic panels were installed. Outdoors, the landscaping utilized native, drought-tolerant plant species, efficient irrigation heads and a weather station, which resulted in a 56 percent reduction in irrigation water use.
When it came time to develop Schilling Green II, however, Merritt was faced with a different situation – an 80,000-square-foot warehouse that needed to be demolished. In accordance with its mission of reducing its impact on the environment, Merritt was able to divert 95 percent of the construction and demolition waste from landfills. “It was a long process … two months of demo and then dividing masonry, concrete, steel, etc., in order for it to be recycled. We were able to crush the concrete debris to be used as subgrading for the parking lot,” Asbury recalls.
Schilling Green II, a four-story, 131,347-square-foot Class A office building that is LEED Platinum certified, also received an enhanced building envelope utilizing superior insulation and Low-E glass, as well as energy-efficient packaged rooftop units and high performance lighting, to decrease energy consumption. Also, more than 30 percent of the building materials used contained recycled content, and irrigation water use was reduced by 59 percent by way of weather stations, efficient heads and drought-tolerant landscaping. Indoors, Merritt employed green housekeeping services to reduce indoor air contaminants produced by cleaning chemicals.
One of the unique elements used in Schilling Green II is a “pressurized, under-floor air distribution system that delivers fresh air right where the employees are instead of dropping air down 10 feet. It’s a circular process that delivers air from below that is returned above, and it’s much more efficient,” explains Asbury. “We also installed highly efficient lighting, including solar elements and LEDs, which were not commonplace at the time. We always try to look at what is best for the life of the building, not just what will work for a few years.” With this in mind, Asbury says that interior spaces were designed so that if a tenant’s needs change or they need to move from one space to the next, there will be little demo or redevelopment work to be done so that they can move quickly.
In addition to the water efficiency systems for the exterior landscaping, Merritt also installed water-efficient restroom fixtures such as dual-flush toilets, water-free urinals and self-metering faucets, lessening the burden on municipal water supply. “We always look for new technology and are willing to be early adopters,” Asbury says.
Other unique green elements include preferred parking spaces for hybrid vehicles to promote the use of fuel-efficient vehicles, water bottle filling stations and electric vehicle charging stations.
Asbury says that in addition to helping improve the environment, having buildings with an abundance of green elements is also good for business. “Many tenants are worried about energy costs, so they like that we have installed many energy-efficient systems. One of our first tenants was EA Engineering, an environmental engineering company, and having a LEED-certified building was a strong selling point for them, and EA Engineering went one step farther by having their interior space LEED-certified,” he says.
Merritt is also able to show potential tenants the effects that working in a green building can have on worker productivity, which can offset leasing costs in a green building. “Studies show that employees who work in a space with high ceilings, lots of natural light and fresh air are more productive,” Asbury says. According to the Heschong Mahone Group’s report, “Windows and Offices: A Study of Office Worker Performance and the Indoor Environment,” “It would be reasonable to assume a productivity gain of between 2 and 10 percent when moving from an average building to a green building that incorporates high quality natural light, exceptional ventilation and possibly user controls.” I95
Leasing opportunities are available at both Schilling Green and Schilling Green II. For more information, visit www.merrittproperties.com.