Cawley Partners principal Bill Cawley says the 14 percent higher construction costs of his first environmentally conscious building scared him to death. Fortunately, everyone survived, the building was successfully sold, and he says green is now the company standard.
Chalk it up to good instincts. Cawley’s Dallas-based development, management, and leasing company built its first LEED Gold building in 2006, but not because of tenant demand. It took hope and good intentions to go that route, given that even today the bulk of potential tenants in Texas do not ask for LEED-certified office space.
“The primary leasing considerations are location, facility amenities, and efficient floor plates,” Cawley says. “But we lease on a plus-electric basis, so when I can show them that our energy-efficient buildings will save them 17 percent off their electric bills, it helps when all other factors of competing buildings are the same.”
Cawley speaks of a slowly changing cultural regard for green building in this fossil-fuel rich state—the firm also has owned or developed buildings in Colorado, California, and Utah—but he was on to something from the start. Cawley Partners’ early adoption of Earth-friendly, energy-frugal construction reflects a larger trend reported by the USGBC, which ranked Texas second on its list of states with the most LEED-certified projects in 2012, second only to California. On a LEED-square-feet-per-capita basis, Texas ranks tenth.
Cawley is currently developing Knoll Trail Plaza, a four-story, 120,000-square-foot building strategically situated midway between the Dallas–Fort Worth and Love Field airports. Although it’s still in the design stage, Cawley says the development will include LEED-qualifying green features found in previous projects: minimized water use, maximized storm-water management, an energy-efficient envelope, and responsibly sourced materials, including recycled bricks.
“It takes time for a culture to change,” Cawley says, referring to tenants as well as contractors that have had to revise sourcing and working methodologies. “Old bricks, for example, make great walls, flooring, and sidewalks. It costs more to clean them up, but our construction people are learning to recycle them properly.”
The firm invites bids from multiple construction firms in the area, with Dallas-based Spring Valley Construction Company winning one recent project in part because the firm has several LEED APs on staff. Other Cawley projects also in the works to meet similar standards are Wilcox Plaza at Las Colinas in Irving, Texas, and Legacy Center in Plano, Texas. Texans expect energy costs to rise in the future and for inflation to accelerate as well. As that unfolds, Cawley believes his company’s buildings will continue to take on greater value.
As an avid organic gardener, Cawley draws inspiration for eco-conscious buildings from his own greenhouse at home. That’s an avocation that takes some time to bear fruit, invariably after some creative problem solving. When those homegrown tomatoes ripen and satisfy the palate like nothing else can, the results far overshadow the time and effort required to get there.