WilmerHale announced last week that its New York City office at Silverstein Properties’ 7 World Trade Center has been awarded LEED for Commercial Interiors Gold certification. The law firm is now one of only three in New York City that has earned a Gold rating under LEED-CI. WilmerHale moved into its space at 7 WTC in July of 2012. The 52-story, 1.2 million-square-foot tower – which is now 100-percent leased – was the first commercial office building in New York City to earn a LEED Gold designation from USGBC back in 2007.
Specific green features within WilmerHale’s space supporting its LEED-CI Gold application include optimized energy performance when it comes to lighting, HVAC, equipment and appliances; reduced water usage; increased ventilation; convenient access to public transportation; as well as bike racks, changing rooms and showers. Various regional materials were used during construction of the space, which features glass-walled offices flooding the interior space with natural light and reducing the need for corridor lighting, as well as Energy Star-rated appliances and equipment and ongoing storage and collection of recyclables.
WilmerHale’s LEED certification isn’t the only environmental milestone the law firm has celebrated in connection with its 7 World Trade Center offices. It remains the only private sector tenant – to our knowledge – that has implemented New York City’s Energy Aligned Clause within a commercial office lease. As you may recall, the Clause was developed by a task force organized by the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability. It aims to address the much-discussed split incentive, which remains prevalent in most commercial office leases in New York City and refers to the scenario where a landlord pays for building capital improvements but does not benefit from any reductions in operating expenses that are created because its tenants pay for operating expenses under the terms of the lease.
This is because although many commercial office leases do allow landlords to pass the costs of capital improvements through to tenants, the time frame for the landlord to recoup those costs – typically over the working lifetime of the improvement, which can extend for decades – creates a practical impediment to landlords actually making any energy-efficient capital improvements to their buildings in the first place. The Clause aims to address this imbalance: once qualifying improvements are made, tenants should not only realize actual savings, but will pay the landlord 80 percent of their projected savings as assessed by an independent, NYSERDA-approved engineer (creating a buffer in case savings are not as projected) as part of building operating costs. After the payback period (cost divided by projected savings) for the improvement expires and compensates the landlord for its investment, the tenant continues to enjoy the benefits of the energy savings.