Case Study: Banner Bank—A LEED Platinum, High-Performance Facility

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Project Background

For more than 120 years, Banner Bank has prided itself on innovation and customer satisfaction. It’s a philosophy that meshed perfectly with Boise, Idaho-based developer The Christensen Corporation’s goals to build an attractive, resource-efficient commercial office building with superior indoor comfort and occupant-focused amenities. The building also had to compete in the speculative leasing market. At the very competitive cost of $128 per square foot, the Banner Bank Building, a 195,000-square-foot, 11-story Art Deco building in downtown Boise, proves that high-performance buildings are good for business.

From Green to Platinum

When you’re investing $25 million in a building, you can’t afford to get it wrong. Christensen knew from the outset that the LEED® Green Building Rating SystemTM would provide a credible, effective framework for developing a high-performance building with a high return on investment. Christensen and architect HDR, Inc. originally targeted LEED Silver, but the team quickly discovered that LEED Platinum was in reach—with little or no additional cost. Raising the bar for performance has yielded impressive returns: reduced operating costs contribute to a $1.47 million increase in asset value and a 32.4% return on investment. The huge operational savings also enable Christensen to charge rents comparable to those in buildings 20 to 30 years older and still make a healthy profit—which makes both tenants and owner happy.

Strategies and Results

Using the LEED Rating System to guide the process from start to finish, the team employed a variety of strategies to reduce energy and water use and create a healthy indoor environment. For example, the building site was selected for its proximity to public transit and downtown amenities, and parking fees vary depending on the vehicle’s fuel efficiency.

The building uses 60 to 80% less water than similar buildings via an innovative system that captures stormwater from downtown Boise streets and parking lots. The stormwater, along with reused graywater from the building itself, is used to flush all the toilets and urinals at the site. Christensen also installed low-flush toilets and urinals.

The Banner Bank Building features a number of energy efficiency measures, including geothermal heating systems; “smart” lighting control systems that automatically adjust to daylight levels and turn on and off depending on room occupancy; and underfloor air vents. As a result, the building uses 50% less energy for non-plug loads compared to a typical office building of the same size, including a 65% reduction in electricity used for lighting.

To ensure high indoor air quality, the team used finishes and paints with low or zero volatile organic compound (VOC) content and installed an HVAC system that provides a high number of air changes per hour and includes carbon monoxide monitors. This focus on occupant comfort has proved to be one of Christensen’s most effective marketing tools: positive word of mouth about the building’s amenities has led to a number of inquiries from tenant prospects. Christensen also developed a set of guidelines to help anchor tenant Banner Bank and other tenants take advantage of the efficient systems. A “Knowledge Wall” at the site and a brochure about the project educate the community about the environmental and financial benefits of LEED and high-performance building.

“If we hadn’t committed to a high level of LEED certification, it would have been easy to cut corners here and there,” Gary Christensen observes. “But when you have the plaque, you know that the project was held to a high standard. We take great satisfaction in that.”

About the Christensen Corporation

The Christensen Corporation is a commercial development firm located in Boise, Idaho. Founded in 1986 by owner Gary Christensen, the firm is a leader in the Northwest for planning and developing high-performance building projects.

About LEED®

The LEED® Green Building Rating System is the national benchmark for the design, construction, and operations of high-performance green buildings. Visit the U.S. Green Building Council’s Web site at to learn more about how you can make LEED work for you.

Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Green Building Council is the nation’s leading coalition for the advancement of buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable, and healthy places to live and work. Established in 1993, the Council offers various products and services to include the LEED Green Building Rating System, an annual International Green Building Conference and Exposition, membership summits, information exchange, education, and policy advocacy.

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