Jonathan F. P. Rose
Meet Jonathan F. P. Rose. He is the founder and CEO of Jonathan Rose Companies, a New York-based green real estate planning, development, owner’s representative and investment company with a unique business mission: Repair the fabric of communities while preserving the open space around them. A thought-leader in Smart Growth, national infrastructure and green building movements, Rose fosters projects that create walkable communities with existing modes of public transportation where – unlike car-centric fringe development – multiple options exist for commuters.
The Rose Smart Growth Investment Fund acquired the Joseph Vance Building in Downtown Seattle in 2006 with the express purpose of transforming the historic building into a leading green office building in the Seattle marketplace. The Fund made numerous investments over the ensuing two years to achieve its combined goals of enhancing the tenant experience, preserving the historic character and greening the building for enhanced efficiency.
"Since new construction typically only accounts for one percent of our national building stock annually, we not only need to build new green buildings, but also focus on effective strategies for greening the existing 99 percent," Rose said.
Erected in 1929, this 14-story Art Deco structure is located on a busy bus tunnel servicing Seattle's central business district which is currently being retrofitted for light rail. When the Fund acquired the building in 2006, it was classified as Class C office space and was about 30 percent vacant. Rose invested $5 million in tenant improvements and an extensive green renovation of the structure that followed the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED for Existing Building Checklist. The results illustrate the synergy between preservation and sustainable development.
Most notably, the building's thermal modeling suggested that newly installed fans, light shelves, shades, and the original double-hung windows – once weather-stripped and refurbished – were sufficient for providing occupant comfort during Seattle's warmer months. Therefore, in lieu of a new air conditioning system, Rose pursued a "natural ventilation" strategy, further bolstered by removing old carpets and drop ceilings. Exposing the building's thermal mass had the added benefit of restoring its historic high ceilings and terrazzo floors.
"What we discovered with the Vance Building was that working with the historic aspects of the building – such as its operable windows, terrazzo floors and the existing heating system – actually made it easier to green the building," Nathan Taft, who oversaw the acquisition and repositioning of the building for Jonathan Rose Companies, said. "We would have spent more money and achieved less environmental results had we worked against the historic features of the building. It now stands as an exceptional model of a green, historic property."
Other strategies designed to enhance efficiency and the experience of its tenants included the refurbishment of the building's steam heating system – an approach that was more efficient than the installation of a new HVAC system. In addition to repairing and upgrading the system, valves were added so that individual tenants could control the temperature in their space.
Other key elements of the building's green redevelopment plan included high-efficiency water fixture retrofits, the use of sustainable building materials where possible, and non-toxic paints and sealants for improved indoor air quality. For two-wheel commuters, a new bike storage room with a shower and changing facility were built.
After renovations, the building was re-classified as Class B office space and is currently 96% percent occupied. Office rents have increased from an average of $18 per square foot to between $22 and $26, and overall operation costs have decreased.
Above all, Rose's work offers a model for sustainable development. However, such sensible development – which makes reusing buildings and reinvesting in transit-accessible communities a priority – is often jeopardized by federal policies that incentivize sprawl. Rose and the National Trust for Historic Preservation are major proponents of the Obama Administration and Congress working to eliminate disincentives for smart growth by developing policies that redirect investments in infrastructure and buildings back to our urbanized areas.
Additionally, antiquated local building codes can also make it difficult for developers such as Rose to combine the best of new green building practices with historic preservation projects. Yet, in these tough economic times when state and local governments are slashing programs to balance budgets, the much-needed modernization of building codes to make them more sensitive to historic buildings will likely to be delayed. With climate change on our door step, we simply don't have time to wait. Because of this, the Obama Administration and Congress must act quickly to establish a grant program for states and local entities to implement energy codes that facilitate building rehabilitation and energy retrofits.