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NZE leasing explored at sustainability conference

Boulder Commons is the first Net Zero Energy-leased development in the metro area. Boulder Commons will be discussed at the April 26 Sustainability conference sponsored by CREJ.

NZE, or more precisely Net Zero Energy, leasing is the final panel at the Sustainability: Achieving the Next Level conference sponsored by the Colorado Real Estate Journal.

You will want to stay for that panel, even if you don’t qualify for the four hours of continuing education credit.

The half-day conference, CREJ’s principal Green Building event of the year, will be held from 12:25 p.m. until 4:45 p.m. April 26 at the Hyatt Regency Aurora-Denver Conference Center.

The sustainability conference will follow the morning C-PACE conference, also sponsored by CREJ.


Sustainability for commercial buildings will be the topic of an April 26 conference sponosored by CREJ.

The sustainability conference is expected to draw more than 200 building owners, brokers, property managers, architects, engineers, consultants and others.

A NZE building is one with zero net energy consumption. In other words, a NZE building creates on site roughly the same amount of energy it uses each year.

The next step in the evolution of a NZE building is the NZE lease.

When you think about it, there has been a bit of a disconnect in NZE buildings, the top of the food chain for sustainable buildings, as far as the benefit-reward.

The developer/owner spends the money either upfront or in retrofits for things like solar panels, extra insulation, plenty of natural light and energy-efficient light fixtures, to make the building as sustainable as possible.

But it is the tenant in many buildings that reaps the reward of a NZE building from lower operating costs – and frankly, happier, healthier and more efficient workers.

Two people from the Rocky Mountain Institute – architect Victor Olgyay and associate Alisa Peterson – will delve into the best practices for NZE leased buildings.


Natural light is an important component of an NZE buidling as this conference room at Boulder Commons illustrates.


They will address the business case for pursuing NZE leased commercial properties for landlords and investors, as well as the competitive advantage for tenants.

They also will detail how to approach an NZE lease agreement that benefits both landlords and tenants while meeting stringent NZE goals.

While there are not that many NZE leased buildings in the nation, Colorado is fortunate to have the Boulder Commons development.

Boulder Commons is a 100,000-square-foot, mixed-use development at 2440 and 2490 Junction Place, just north of the transit center at Boulder Junction. It is 2 miles from downtown Boulder.

Boulder Commons, developed by Morgan Creek Ventures, is a two-building development that includes office space, restaurant, a coffee shop and a community gathering space.


This infographic from the Rocky Mountain Institute shows how a building owner can profit from sustainable buildings.

The Rocky Mountain Institute is an anchor tenant at Boulder Commons, taking 14,000 sf of space.

“We love it,” said Cara Carmichael, a manager at RMI who was going to be a panel member at the CREJ sustainability conference but had to drop out because of a conflict.

“We are so proud to finally be in a bulding that reflects our value and where we can bring clients and donors alike to show them what the next era of buildlings should look like,” Carmichael said.

She said Boulder Commons is the largest “multitenant” NZE-leased building in the nation,”and I believe it is the first Net Zero Energy-leased building in Colorado.”

But she is sure that more NZE-leased buildings will follow.

“I really do,” Carmichael said. “Net Zero Energy buildings bring a lot of value to building owners as well as tenants. Office space is this new hub of innovation. NZE-leased buildings not only save energy, but they provide a lot of value to companies because it helps them attract and retain employees. People who work in NZE buildings are happier and healthier and are less likely to leave.”

The development leverages state-of-the-art sustainability features to achieve the goal of NZE. The buildings are designed for optimal light penetration, which reduces the lighting load and overall energy usage while maximizing views and daylight for employees.

Additional energy is harvested by solar panels that line the roof and east building facades.

Other sustainable features include:

  • A tight, well-insulated building envelope,
  • A highly efficient HVAC system,
  • Energy-efficient lighting,
  • Low-flow plumbing fixtures and
  • A car-share program.

Of course, the NZE panel is not the only reason to attend the sustainability conference.

Other panels at the conference include:

  • High Performance Buildings and Corporate Sustainability;
  • Well Building Update: What Landlords Need to Know;
  • Green Roof Ordinance Update: Costs and Implications;
  • LED Lighting and Changing Code Requirements;
  • Expanding EV Charging Network and Available Grants; and
  • “Hot topics” including where LEED certification is headed and a look at Arc, a state-of-the-art platform that collects, manages and benchmarks data to improve sustainability performance.

In addition to the panel members from the RMI, other speakers at the conference will include:

  • Amanda Timmons – president, Ampajen Solutions LLC ;
  • Terry Smith – director of Corporate Real Estate, Charles Schwab & Co. Inc.;
  • Blair Madden-Bui – CEO, John Madden Co.;
  • Wendy Williams – director of property management, Vector Property Services;
  • Phillip Saieg – regional director – Technical Services, Energy & Facilities Solutions, McKinstry;
  • Jeremy Attem – Strategic Planning, stok;
  • Rachel Bannon-Godfrey – discipline leader – Sustainability, Buildings, Stantec;
  • Brian J. Levitt – president, NAVA Real Estate Development;
  • Thomas D. Koch – vice president, Industrial Hygiene and EHS Services, The Vertex Cos. Inc.;
  • Sarah Spencer-Workman – manager, Sustainability Services, NORESCO;
  • John G. Hart – president, Peak Engineering;
  • Andy Creath – founder and owner, Green Roofs of Colorado;
  • (Potentially) Kevin Kelley – senior vice president – commercial development, United Properties;
  • Kathie A. Barstnar – executive director, NAIOP Colorado;
  • Jesse Hunt – sustainability coordinator, Powers Brown Architecture;
  • Amanda Timmons – president, Ampajen Solutions LLC;
  • Mark Adams – partner/general counsel, Next Step Energy Solutions; and
  • Zachary Owens – program manager, Transportation Fuels and Technology, Colorado Energy Office.

If you scratch the surface of just about any deal, there is a story behind it. The Rebchook Real Estate Corner looks at the what and who that make the Colorado commercial real estate industry spin every Tuesday and Thursday online at CREJ.com. The people behind the deals are passionate about what they do, whether they focus on offices, apartments, industrial, retail, land or lending. They also are passionate about their clients. Given the cyclical nature of commercial real estate, those who prosper in it have plenty of stories to tell. I hope to share them with you. 

This column includes news stories, in-depth looks at deals, profiles, Q&As and pieces on the latest trends. Contact John with story tips at JRCHOOK@gmail.com or 303-945-6865.

Kris Oppermann Stern is publisher and editor of Building Dialogue, a Colorado Real Estate Journal publication, and editor of CREJ's construction, design, and engineering section, including news and bylined articles. Building Dialogue is a quarterly, four-color magazine that caters specifically to the AEC industry, including features on projects and people, as well as covering trends…