Of all the things Dennis Latta did to help San Francisco’s iconic Transamerica Pyramid win recognition as “green,” one was very simple: showing up.
That’s because the U.S. Green Building Council gives a nod to building owners who employ people like Latta, who’s the on-site construction manager for the Transamerica Pyramid Center and a LEED-accredited professional. After roughly 10 years of green upgrades, last year the Pyramid Center, which includes the 505 Sansome St. building, was awarded LEED Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. The Pyramid Center is now among 20 commercial properties in San Francisco with LEED Gold, according to the USGBC.
But Latta did much more than just show up. Fulfilling LEED certification requirements can be an exhaustive process that requires extensive documentation and oversight, especially for a building as large and with as many tenants as the Transamerica Pyramid Center.
“It’s much more than just saying you did it,” he said.
Latta approached and educated tenants on LEED certification requirements. For example, he had to scrupulously document the eco-friendliness of each tenant’s office furniture, and educate new tenants on sustainable options, like buying the previous tenant’s furniture. He also worked closely with subcontractors to make sure they were adhering to LEED standards.
Completed in 1972, the Pyramid’s design was also a challenge. Being a pyramid, no two floors are the same size. “Any calculations done for the whole building take more effort to do as you are not working with your typical rectangular building where each floor plate mimics the one below it,” Latta said.
All the work is paying off.
A cogeneration plant was installed, a heat and electricity-producing engine that provides up to 70 percent of the Pyramid’s electricity needs. Heat from the engine is captured and used to heat and cool the building’s water, which has eliminated the need for utility steam. The plant saves the center $600,000 a year in utility costs, and reduces the buildings’ greenhouse gas emissions by 750 million tons per year.
Installing a drip irrigation system in the landscaping and planting drought-tolerant plants has reduced water consumption by 40,000 gallons. The city also subsidized high-efficiency toilets that use less than half the water of regular ones. All told, the Pyramid Center is using over 50 percent less water year over year. The Pyramid Center also earned LEED points by being close to public transportation, and diverting 75 percent of its waste from the landfill.
Tenants are a shade greener, too. In 2008, public relations firm Allison & Partners, which leases 9,750 square feet in the 505 Sansome building, set out to be certified as a green business by the city, which requires having green building space.
Last year Allison and Partners won the green business certification in part because of the Pyramid Center’s initiatives, said Robin Savinar, an account manager at the firm. “They have been a great help,” she said. “It helped with the outreach of business.”
Latta likes to think the Transamerica Pyramid Center is setting an example for other large commercial buildings and owners. “I believe the mayor said it best, ‘If a building of this vintage and size can do it, anyone can do it,’” he said.
A new pedestal has been ordered to show-off the LEED Gold plaque in the Pyramid’s lobby. When it arrives, Latta plans to rub it with his own shirt to make sure it is shining.