Crosstown Concourse earns prestigious LEED Platinum certification for historic adaptive reuse

Crosstown Concourse has been nationally recognized in being awarded the Leadership in Energy Platinum Certification (LEED) Platinum certification for historic adaptive reuse, the highest rating given by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Built in 1927, the former Sears, Roebuck & Co. retail store and catalog warehouse was renovated in 2015 and opened in 2018. Now, the mixed-use art-deco building houses a medical center, YMCA, apartments, retail, a mix of nonprofits and many other amenities. Additionally, Crosstown High School will open its doors next fall.

“It’s literally an art history professor (Todd Richardson) who pulled together a team of people to do something that conventional wisdom - everybody in the city knew couldn’t be done - and pull it off at a very high level,” said Tony Pellicciotti, principal at Looney Ricks Kiss.

Notably, it’s also the world’s largest building with the designation.

“Through extensive research regarding Crosstown Concourse’s size and scope, we believe this correctly qualifies the title as the largest historic adaptive reuse LEED Building Design + Construction Platinum project in the world,” said Pellicciotti.

LEED is a globally-recognized green building rating system. It was created by the U.S. Green Building Council. Projects can earn points to achieve one of four rating levels – Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum. The designations are given to the categories of Building Design + Construction, Interior Design + Construction, Building Operations + Maintenance, Neighborhood Development, and Homes.

"The LEED Platinum certification is a wonderful third-party confirmation of our design efforts to create a place that is both economically and environmentally sustainable long-term. The 'better together' mantra of Concourse not only applies to our tenants but also to the vision for renovation, which naturally led to decisions that made the Platinum certification possible," said Todd Richardson, co-leader of Crosstown Concourse.

The mission of the $200 million redevelopment is to improve the quality of life to residents, patrons and the surrounding Crosstown community. LEED certification is quickly becoming the benchmark to meet that goal in housing and building construction and redevelopment. However, overrunning costs were always a concern. Money wasn’t spent just to receive a designation.

“For me the part that resonates is that everything that was done was done because it was the right decision for the building, the partners, the tenants and the community. There was nothing that was done simply to pursue LEED,” said Pellicciotti. “To say that it was all project and mission driven, and it achieves the highest, possible rating, and it is the largest historic adaptive reuse project in the world, is a remarkable testimony to the vision of Crosstown and what they set out to do. So, the certification is a reflection of what they achieved.”

Not to say Crosstown came away with Platinum status by way of happenstance. If the accolade lies within the overall vision and costs of the project, why not shoot for the moon?

“Considering the scale and complexities, but also potential impact of the project, why wouldn’t we also aim for the highest level of sustainability certification?  Thus, the entire ownership, design, and construction teams were committed to seeing the project meet the incredible goal of LEED Platinum,” said Krissy Buck Flickinger, LRK's director of sustainability and wellness.

For instance, 93.5 percent of construction waste was recycled. Including demolition, sixty-five million pounds of material was recycled, overall.

Energy efficiency was also a key factor in decisions in design and materials. Crosstown is home to several nonprofits and civic-minded organizations. Often funded by charitable donations or grants, these entities generally need to be mindful of operating costs.

“One of the points we are proud of is OGCB, Memphis-based engineering firm which specializes in energy efficiency, designed not only an extremely efficient mechanical plant but used conventional, off-the-shelf technology, so we weren’t spending money on leading-edge stuff or experimenting. It was putting proven technologies that created the most efficient package possible,” said Pellicciotti.

The improvements will lead to an estimated 32 percent energy savings. Further efficiencies will curtail water use by 40 percent to minimize the impact on the Memphis aquifer, the main source of water for the city.

Following the LEED certification, Crosstown will focus on its WELL Building Certification. It uses performance testing and historical data to monitor items that impact the wellbeing of people inside the building, through air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind.

“I like to highlight the Mind category in particular to show this shift in industry thinking: points can be attained for projects that offer healthy sleep and travel policies, adaptable workspaces, family support services, behavior and stress management programs, among other items,” said Buck Flickinger. 

Certification not only imbues leadership in an emerging industry, but it can improve employee recruitment and retainage.

Last year, Crosstown Councourse was also nominated by London-based The Architectural Review for the publications’ “New into Old” awards. It was one of 15 renewal projects up for the honor. Others nominated spanned the globe from Europe, Asia, Australia and the Middle East.

“So, it ties together things that are community-related in a broader context than just the footprint of the building,” said Pellicciotti. “What’s so incredible to me is that it’s a Memphis-based thing, it’s all organic and homegrown, not something imported from LA or New York.”

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