How we earned LEED platinum without blowing our budget

Keeping focus on budget and performance—not LEED points—helped architects avoid common cost traps. By STEVE RICE

Rice Fergus Miller


Agrowing number of buildings in the Puget Sound region and beyond are pushing the envelope when it comes to green design.

While these LEED and “living” buildings are raising the bar for performance, efficiency and beauty, many are also setting an example of sustainability with an unsustainable price tag.

For leading-edge green design and construction to break through to the mainstream, it must fit with mainstream construction budgets. Next-generation sustainable development needs to send the message that value and performance don’t have to be sacrificed when staying within a tight budget.

The new office and studio of architecture and interior design firm Rice Fergus Miller offers just that.

In 2009, Rice Fergus Miller purchased a derelict 30,000-square-foot

former Sears Automotive Center in downtown Bremerton. Two years and nearly $3.15 million in construction costs later, the renovated commercial building is “deep green” with an energy use index of only 21 — making it the most energy-efficient building in the Pacific Northwest by nearly 50 percent.

As owner, developer and designer, the firm achieved LEED platinum at the market-rate cost of $105 per square foot. Given that the only salvageable part of the building was its raw shell, the numbers are even more surprising.

Photo courtesy of Rice Fergus Miller [enlarge] Part of the original roof was salvaged for use in a new clerestory roof area that allows daylight deep into the


From start to finish — and continuing through eight months of operation — this building has been a discovery process about how to approach sustainable design and construction in order to achieve the highest performance and value at a low cost.

93 percent reused

Adaptive reuse is not a new concept but it is gaining traction as developers and designers turn an eye to existing buildings. Tapping into the value of, and resources within, existing buildings not only provides an opportunity for sustainable development that honors the history and context of the surrounding community, but in some cases, is the key to the financial viability of commercial projects.