LEED silver designation for Tacoma’s Wells Fargo Plaza

Unico Properties LLC, a real estate investment and operating company that owns Wells Fargo Plaza in Tacoma, announced earlier this year that the Class-A office building has earned a rare Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Existing Buildings (LEED-EB) Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Wells Fargo Plaza, which serves as the anchor of Tacoma’s Financial District, is the first property in Tacoma to achieve LEED-EB certification. The 308,000-square-foot, Class-A office building is located on Pacific Avenue, between 12th and 13th streets.

Since the retrofitting process began in 2009, approximately $1 million has been invested in sustainable upgrades to Wells Fargo Plaza. Results from McKinstry’s energy audit estimate that Wells Fargo Plaza has lowered its overall electricity consumption by 1.15 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, and its natural gas consumption by 9,485 therms per year, which equates to a 16 percent energy reduction compared to prior consumption. Additionally, Unico has partnered with the U.S. Department of Energy and ECOtality North America to install commercial-grade electric car charging stations at Wells Fargo Plaza as part of the Federal Government’s National EV Project. As a result of this partnership, two Blink Level II electric vehicle charging stations have been installed in the parking garage of Wells Fargo Plaza. Unico is an early-adopter and partner with ECOtality in bringing a network of electric vehicle charging stations to the Pacific Northwest, helping to create an “electric highway” from Seattle to Portland.With the LEED-EB Silver certification, total operational savings at Wells Fargo Plaza will be approximately $75,000 to $80,000 per year and the building will see a 29 percent reduction in electricity costs.

Unico’s investment in building improvements include the purchase of 100 percent renewable energy, resulting in 1,337 metric tons of carbon offsets; installing high-performance, low-flow plumbing fixtures which yield a 45 percent reduction in water use; the first commercial composting program in Tacoma’s Central Business District with DM Recycling Company Inc.; lighting efficiency upgrades in the office tower, in the stairwell, in the visitor parking garage and in the Bank level of the building to better capture natural daylight; and an interest-free loan and rebates from Tacoma Power Utility (TPU), which are pending approval, will help make Unico’s investments more economically feasible.

“We are very conscious of the long-term effect buildings have on the environment and it takes leadership and effort to upgrade an existing structure to green standards,” said Ross Peyton, Unico Properties General Manager in Tacoma. “As the first building in Tacoma to receive LEED-EB certification, we are pleased to bring our commitment to sustainably operating buildings to the Tacoma market.”

Officially open to the public with no fueling charges initially, the two charging stations at Wells Fargo Plaza offer a concentration for ease of access and quick recharging needs in downtown Tacoma. In addition to Wells Fargo Plaza, Unico has installed, or will install, charging stations at three of its other properties along I-5 and I-405: it has installed charging stations at Rainier Square (Seattle) and Skyline Tower (Bellevue), and it will install charging stations at U.S. Bancorp Tower (Portland), helping to build the “electric highway” from Seattle to Portland.

Wells Fargo Plaza also increased its ENERGY STAR rating to 80. Organizations earn the ENERGY STAR label by using the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) national energy performance rating system to generate energy-efficiency ratings for their buildings, on a scale of 1 to 100 as relative to similar buildings across the county. Prior to the retrofitting process, Wells Fargo Plaza had an ENERGY STAR rating of 71.

Wells Fargo Plaza includes a 25-story office tower, a two-level landscaped plaza with a fountain, a below-grade parking garage, and a parking structure that connects to the office tower with an enclosed atrium walkway. The building offers panoramic views of Puget Sound, Mt. Rainier, the Olympics and the Cascade Mountains. Wells Fargo Plaza was built in 1970 as the home of the National Bank of Washington (now Wells Fargo Bank). The project was initiated by a group of prominent Tacoma-based investors, including George Weyerhaeuser and Ben Cheney, and it was designed by the prestigious San Francisco-based architecture firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill.

Wells Fargo Plaza. (PHOTO COURTESY UNICO PROPERTIES)