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Manekin's new headquarters goes 'green'

The Baltimore Sun

Silver is good, but, like any competitor, Manekin is hoping for gold.

Technically, the real estate company has neither, but it is expected that its new corporate headquarters will be certified as a "green" building, one designed to conserve energy and reduce the effects to the environment.

The final touches are being made to the $9.4 million, two-story, 52,000-square-foot structure in Columbia Gateway, although Manekin's employees have moved into their spaces.

Manekin's headquarters is only the second green development by the company, although it is working on a third and expects to develop others, said R. Colfax Schnorf Jr., senior vice president and director of development for Manekin.

The principal green features include automatic light-dimming during the day and motion sensors to assure office lights are on only while areas are occupied; a roof built with materials to reduce heat absorption; waterless urinals in the men's restrooms; the use of carpeting, paints and glues that are nontoxic and do not emit odors; a high-efficiency heating and cooling system; and extensive use of natural light.

The manufacturer claims that each urinal will save 40,000 gallons of water a year.

That figure may be a little high, but the savings will be in the "hundreds of thousands of gallons" annually, said David Pratt, a partner with Lorax Partnerships LLC, which promotes green development and assisted Manekin in the design of its headquarters.

It added $337,544 to construct the headquarters as a green building, but the company expects to achieve a 35 percent savings in annual energy costs, Schnorf said

The certification also will enable Manekin to qualify for a state income tax credit.

The certification process is administered by the U.S. Green Building Council, a Washington-based coalition of industry leaders that promotes the design and construction of commercial office buildings and homes to produce a healthier workplace and reduce adverse effects on the environment.

The program is officially known as the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, and includes a rigorous review before certification is granted, Pratt said.

The certification process for Manekin probably will take another three months, Pratt said.

There are four ratings a building may achieve: certified, silver, gold and platinum.

Schnorf said that it appears the building will receive a silver certification, but there is a chance for a higher rating.

"We're still hoping for gold," he said.

Pratt said that "silver has kind of become the industry standard for businesses."

Pratt said he expects the demand for green office buildings will increase, and as that happens he believes the need for tax incentives will decline.

Mankein's headquarters also features two main entrances with a glass canopy about the front entrance, a fitness center with cardiovascular equipment and weights, seven conference rooms, cherry paneling, upgraded communications software and a kitchen and lunch area.

The company will use 34,000 square feet and will lease the remaining space.

Meanwhile, Manekin will soon begin construction of another headquarters -- this one for Merkle Inc., the database marketing agency, which plans to move to Columbia from Lanham.

Manekin was hired by Merkle to construct a $65 million, five-story, 120,000-square-foot headquarters in Columbia Gateway, the county's premier office park.

Manekin is acquiring 7.7 acres from General Growth Properties Inc., which it will then sell to Merkle when construction is completed, said Schnorf.

Groundbreaking is expected by the end of April, with construction completed by May next year, Schnorf said.

Manekin also plans to acquire an adjacent 4 acres to permit Merkle to expand.

That project will not be developed as a green building, because there is insufficient time before Merkle's existing lease expires and it must move. Some energy saving and environmental sensitive aspects, however, will be built into Merkle's facility, Schnorf said.

"It adds about 60 days to the upfront design process" to build green, said Alex Kopicki, a developer for Manekin. "We didn't have an additional 60 days in the Merkle project."

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