Friday, Feb. 5, 2010 | 3 a.m.
More than two years after his company opened the Molasky Corporate Center — the pioneer high-end green development in the valley — Richard Worthington said the concept is growing in popularity and downtown Las Vegas will come to symbolize it.
The recession has put the brakes on development in Las Vegas, but Worthington, president and chief operating officer of the Molasky Group of Companies, said it’s hard to imagine developers will abandon green building. Instead, they will embrace it, he said.
Although his firm doesn’t have any projects in the works for Las Vegas, the Molasky Group is one of the finalists to build an FBI building in Phoenix that, like the corporate center, will be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design gold certified by the U.S. Green Building Council.
Worthington said his company is heeding the lessons of the corporate center in any of its future designs.
“We have learned a lot since we have been through it,” Worthington said. “The consultants don’t get away with as much, and it’s going to be cheaper the next time around because the industry has grown up. Pioneers get all of the arrows because we were the first to build a large Class A office building (that was green). Others that have followed in the market have learned how to do it a lot cheaper. The premium is not as high as when we did the building.”
Worthington said the corporate center, which cost $106 million, ended up running an extra $4.5 million above the entry level of LEED certification. It has an under-floor air-distribution system that improves air quality and lowers energy costs; and the building is designed to allow in more daylight. It even uses solar panels.
If built by Molasky, the Phoenix building will have a 2 percent to 2.5 percent premium, compared with double that for the corporate center, he said.
When subcontractors looked at the plans, they had never dealt with a green project before and because of that, built in a larger margin of error that got multiplied through the bids, he said.
“We were asking subs to recycle trash and construction waste and not use any volatile organic compounds in glues or paints or materials,” Worthington said. “In the early days, they weren’t sure where their source of bamboo (a renewable source of wood for doors and laminates) would be.”
Now that several green projects have been completed in Las Vegas, consultants and contractors know what to do, Worthington said.
The corporate center has had hundreds of people come through to learn about the project when they are at conferences here, Worthington said. That includes visitors from Japan, Norway, Germany and South America.
“We learned what works and how to do it better,” Worthington said. “Once you do it, it’s not as scary.”
One thing that would have been done differently is a bigger use of solar panels to generate power. The cost of solar has come down since building materials were bought in 2006 and the payback is much quicker, going from 13 to 14 years to about six to seven years, he said. That makes it easier to obtain financing, he said.
“I think expectations are being met, and I can tell you in the future that LEED gold is the way to go,” said Worthington, chairman of the Downtown Business Alliance. “The efficiency and cost is only going to get better.”
The alliance, which is composed of business and property owners, seeks to accelerate the development and vitality of downtown.
Las Vegas has already dictated that any projects built on city-owned property must be constructed to high-end green standards, Worthington said. The Symphony Park mixed-use project by Newland Communities should spur other projects to move in the same direction, he said.
“I think it has become the wave of the future and the more that is done that way, the more it becomes the standard that everyone will have to follow,” Worthington said.
Tenants are clamoring for green construction because of the health benefits to employees associated with improved air quality and other features, Worthington said. They realize employees are a big part of a business’ success.