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Medical Campus celebrates LEED title; Green renovation of ex-Trico building gets rare designation

A Buffalo building is now among a rare class of rehabilitated structures certified for their environmental efficiency.

The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus on Thursday celebrated the successful transformation of the former Trico building into a structure recognized by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

"I think this is the way we can turn the corner environmentally in this country -- when we can make it financially sound to do the right thing environmentally," said Chief Operating Officer Patrick Whalen, initially a skeptic.

The Thomas R. Beecher Jr. Innovation Center is the first building in New York State outside New York City to receive the "core and shell" designation from the U.S. Green Building Council, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit. The building received a score of 27 out of a possible 61 for renovated core and shell projects.

Project manager Mark McGovern, whom Whalen called the "environmental conscience" behind the effort, said, "I just thought we had the capital and that it was the right thing to do."

It is estimated that the green elements of the building's $11 million-plus renovation cost more than $600,000. The overall building renovations cost about $8.2 million. But grants covered about half those costs, and some of the environmentally efficient additions qualified for about $78,000 in incentives from the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority.

Renovations include solar panels, paints that pose no harm, an energy recovery system that uses outgoing air to heat or cool incoming air as seasons change, ultra-efficient lighting and water conservation systems. The project was able to achieve a 42 percent reduction in water use.

"It's about achieving indoor quality and comfort and in a way that uses low energy. That's really the big task. It's a holistic design," said John F. Daly of Trautman Associates, an architecture company that worked on the project.

The road to the green certification and renovation was rough, Whalen said.

"The entire Trico complex is a collection of about 13 buildings. Because of that, it was a difficult project. And they're old buildings, so we had to redo everything," Whalen said. "We had to gut everything. The bones of the building were good. But cosmeticly and mechanically, it was toast."

Core-and-shell designations are for both new and existing structures. In an existing structure, they are aimed at "buildings with refurbished shells that use environmentally friendly or recycled products," said Sal Graven, a spokesman for the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority.

Whalen has said the Medical Campus intends to advance environmental efforts regionally. One of its plans is to install solar energy devices to power electric car chargers in a parking garage. The devices are rare in the Northeast because they can be undependable in the winter when snow and diminished sunlight can reduce their effectiveness.

The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, a group of medical and research institutions, bought the former Trico building about four years ago as part of a multimillion-dollar package that included other properties.

e-mail: vsherry@buffnews.com

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