Thursday, August 16, 2012

BOMA Bay Area EARTH Awards Innovations - Tenant Water Filter Program at 100 Pine

By BOMA Energy & Environment Committee Members Zachary Brown (CBRE) and Jessica Robinson (Zipcar)

It is often said that necessity is the mother of invention, and this month’s featured EARTH Awards winner demonstrates that inspiration can come from unexpected events.

Alan Trinh, Assistant Real Estate Manager and Ernie Horciza, Chief Engineer for CBRE recently shared the history behind the building they manage and the impact that something obscure – a 24” under-counter water filter cartridge – can have.

Constructed in 1972, 100 Pine Street ranks among the oldest skyscrapers in San Francisco, and at 476 feet, it is also one of the tallest. Designed before contemporary high rise plumbing technologies were available, the building utilizes a gravity feed system which pumps and stores water in large holding tanks on the roof. This liquid weight creates adequate water pressure throughout the building but also puts tremendous strain on the in-suite filtration systems that have been added over the years.

According to Margot Crosman, the former property manager for 100 Pine Street, her inspiration to offer water filtration systems to tenants - in exchange for zero use of plastic bottles -  was due to former California State Senator (now Congresswoman) Jackie Speier’s remarks at a BOMA San Francisco monthly luncheon on the topic.

Also, when an off-the-shelf, low-grade plastic filter installed by a tenant failed and left significant water damage, managers at 100 Pine knew they had to respond by installing more robust, metal-encased commercial-grade filters.

Lastly, the timing turned out to be fortuitous because there was another water-themed innovation occurring across town at City Hall. Then Mayor Gavin Newsom had just banned all city buildings and departments from purchasing bottled water, saving a projected $500,000 per year.
For 100 Pine, it was an “Ah hah!” moment. If it could be done at City Hall, it could be done at their building, too.

The new water filter program at 100 Pine Street rolled out with 10 volunteer tenants who agreed to stop buying bottled water in exchange for installation and free, lifetime cartridge replacements. Through the offer, management gained willing participants for the retrofit. Today, the program goes beyond those early adopters and represents real budget savings and carbon footprint reduction for tenants. Some opt for enhanced systems that include small coolers or heating units that deliver hot water for soup or dish washing. And while there are no “water bottle police” to enforce compliance, tenants enthusiastically join the effort.

As the first California building to receive LEED EBOM certification (LEED EB 2.0), 100 Pine continues to lead by example. In June, CBRE completed the installation of a new living wall, which they believe is the first exterior installation of its kind in San Francisco.

By the Numbers: Bottled Water Alternatives at 100 Pine Street

$700: Cost of installation of new filtration system at one sink.
$60: Replacement cartridge which yields 3,000 gallons per filter.
3,000 gallons: 48,000 cups of coffee.
$6,600: Approximate retail price of the equivalent number of 16.9oz single serve bottles.

Want to stay up to date on the latest in energy conservation, commercial recycling, and other sustainability initiatives? The BOMA SF Energy and Environment Committee meets the first Tuesday of each month and is currently soliciting members to participate on this year’s EARTH Awards subcommittees. If you are interested in helping to shape this year’s program, contact Committee Chair Zachary Brown at for more information.

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