This Issue
 
A Philadelphia developer builds one of the nation’s most sustainable urban neighborhoods.
WRITTEN BY Lorne Bell
Top: A rendering of 4.0 University Place from the developer and founder of Philadelphia’s University Place Associates. The company places emphasis on social impact and brand value. Right: 3.0 University Place won a Smart Growth Award in 2017.

A rendering of 4.0 University Place from the developer and founder of Philadelphia’s University Place Associates. The company places emphasis on social impact and brand value. Right: 3.0 University Place won a Smart Growth Award in 2017.

Scott Mazo has never been a fan of cost-benefit analyses. The real estate developer and founder of Philadelphia’s University Place Associates, LLC, says the industry’s formulas ignore important factors—namely, social impact and brand value.

 

“I’ve been around the construction industry for 30 years,” says Mazo, “and there isn’t necessarily a correlation between the numbers people use and the real numbers that make up the formula for profit and loss.”

 

A Philadelphia resident for almost 40 years, Mazo has spent his career developing profitable properties that improve the lives of his neighbors. In 1990, he co-founded Neighborhood Restorations, a for-profit affordable housing development company. The company restored more than 1,000 abandoned and blighted homes in West Philadelphia, creating 1,200 affordable housing units for low-income residents. It went on to restore the historic Oliver Wendell Holmes Middle School, the first middle school in the United States, creating 42 units for senior citizens and resurrecting the performance auditorium for residents and the community.

 

“There’s no reason our efforts to make a living can’t also make a positive impact,” says Mazo.

 

Now, the 65-year-old developer is finding a new way to realize that double bottom line with the Platinum Corridor, a development of mixed-use commercial and retail buildings, each of which aims to achieve the highest distinction of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. Located in Philadelphia’s University City neighborhood, home of the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, and renowned medical institutions, the project will feature as much as 2.5 million square feet spread across some seven city blocks.

 

The development’s first commercial building, 2.0 University Place, opened in 2013. In addition to achieving LEED Platinum for Building Design and Construction (BD+C) Core and Shell, all seven tenants’ spaces are additionally LEED Platinum for Interior Design and Construction (ID+C). The 97,000-sq-ft building is also Energy Star certified and has achieved top marks for energy efficiency, water conservation, transit-friendly design, green space accessibility, and indoor environmental health. It cost Mazo’s firm $31 million to build, and in 2016, Zurich Insurance Group bought 2.0 University Place for $42.75 million, a record-setting price in Philadelphia at $438 per square foot.

 

The next phase of the project, 3.0 University Place, will include both commercial and retail space and will break ground in 2018. At least two more certified buildings will follow—4.0 and 5.0 University Place—with long-term plans to include certified residential space as well, all of which will aim for Platinum certification. When completed, the Platinum Corridor will transform University City into one of the most sustainable mixed-use urban centers in the country.

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Real estate developer Scott Mazo.

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Lee Huang is the senior vice president and principal at Philadelphia’s Econsult Solutions Inc.

Platinum Planning

While any large-scale urban project requires collaboration and communication, the stakes are even higher with a neighborhood-sized development. Every player is a human link in a chain connecting sustainable designs and technologies to actual green outcomes. To lay the foundation for a successful project, University Place Associates had to begin by making the business case for building the Platinum Corridor in University City.

 

“For our younger generation and for all generations in the knowledge economy, environmental sustainability matters, place matters, and buildings on the cutting edge of sustainability matter,” says Lee Huang, senior vice president and principal at Philadelphia’s Econsult Solutions.

 

Huang and his colleagues helped Mazo make the economic pitch for LEED Platinum development in West Philadelphia. The firm’s assessment went beyond promises of construction jobs and tax revenue; according to Huang, workers in the innovation economy seek out sustainably designed workspaces and urban environments that reflect their own values. That means companies across sectors, from creative startups to high-tech to biopharmaceuticals, want to lease space that is as socially and environmentally progressive as their workers.

 

“There’s a conglomeration effect, where success isn’t just, ‘I filled the building,’ but it creates a magnet for more activity,” says Huang. “Regions are competing for human and financial capital, and that capital can go anywhere. Scott is positioning the Platinum Corridor to be attractive and compelling.”

 

The plan seems to be working. Already, 2.0 University Place is nearly full, with tenants that include innovative companies and even the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. And 3.0 University Place is already attracting inquiries from businesses looking for cutting-edge, sustainable workplaces. Last year, Benjamin’s Desk, a co-working space provider, leased 12,000 square feet at 2.0 University Place. Adam Glaser is partner and chief innovation officer at Benjamin’s Desk, and he says the company’s mission of “leveraging place-making and real estate to advance entrepreneurs” made the Platinum Corridor an ideal location.

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Adam Glaser is partner and chief innovation officer at Benjamin’s Desk.

“It isn’t just about a bunch of buildings with better electrical networks and green roofs—it’s about values,” says Glaser, who notes that the building’s green roof has become a gathering place for Benjamin’s Desk’s employees. “We give people an environment that helps them collaborate, and a sustainable environment is an extension of that experience. 2.0 University Place is more of a campus for our people.”

 

Of course, gaining buy-in from city officials and entrepreneurial companies is just part of the planning process. To build a project the size and scope of the Platinum Corridor, the University Place Associates team takes a collaborative approach that begins long before the buildings’ foundations are laid. From the earliest stages of the design phase, Mazo brought together sustainability consultants, architects, engineers, construction managers, and commissioning agents. The early meetings ensured that every team member understood the developer’s vision of sustainability, but they also were integral to building chemistry and accountability.

 

That’s according to Eric Lintner, CEO of the construction firm Dale Corporation, based just outside of Philadelphia. Since its founding in 1959, Dale Corp. has built a portfolio of conventional and sustainably designed projects worth more than $1 billion. After Mazo selected the firm as construction manager for 3.0 University Place, Lintner sat in on interviews with the next potential team members. And so it went with each new member of the Platinum Corridor team, building cohesion and a collective vision that Lintner describes as the purest form of integrated project delivery.

 

“Scott has not only broken new ground with the Platinum Corridor and green buildings,” says Lintner, “but he’s taking a cutting-edge approach to building design. We’re all collaborating, and Scott has hand-picked the team to marry skill sets, chemistry, and people aligned with his vision. And as the plan is developed, there is constant feedback—cost feedback, structural feedback, environmental feedback—all in real time.”

 

Much of that feedback comes from Chloe Bendistis, sustainability project manager at the Sheward Partnership. The Philadelphia-based architecture, planning, and sustainability consulting firm served as design architect for 2.0 University Place’s interior and is now designing 3.0 University Place. Bendistis managed the flagship building’s LEED certification and is overseeing the process for 3.0 and rest of the Platinum Corridor. It’s a mammoth task that requires both high-performance building systems and seamless communications.

 

As each phase of the Platinum Corridor moves from design to construction, Bendistis is a regular onsite presence. Weekly and monthly meetings are held with the construction team to ensure that designs and technologies are synchronized and to review documentation requirements for certification. That collaboration is crucial, as any misstep can mean falling short of the design’s energy and cost savings potential.

 

And while energy models are part of most sustainable developments’ design phase, Bendistis and her crew see the forecasts in a more expansive role. “We test that modeling as soon as possible and use it throughout the development,” she says, ensuring that sustainable designs and technologies become sustainable buildings with sustainable results.

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2.0 University Place has a chilled beam heating and cooling system with 100 percent filtered fresh air. Photo: Matt Wargo Photography.

Chloe Bendistis is the sustainability project manager at the Sheward Partnership.

Chloe Bendistis is the sustainability project manager at the Sheward Partnership.

Platinum Design

There is an undoubtable cool factor that comes with a LEED Platinum project, and this one is no exception. At 2.0 University Place, for example, a 14,000-sq-ft accessible green roof is a popular recreation spot for tenants and a living receptacle for stormwater that would otherwise flow to the sewers and rivers. The feature helps the building achieve LEED credits for stormwater design and reducing heat island effect, where bare urban rooftops reflect the sun and cause cities to heat up.

 

The building also features a SEMCO chilled beam system, which uses almost 100 percent outside air to distribute heating and cooling throughout the building and reduce HVAC energy consumption. By drawing in and purifying outside air, the system also reduces indoor carbon dioxide and allows occupants to individually control their particular spaces, helping the building earn a point toward the Thermal Comfort credit.

 

The aptly named 3.0 University Place takes sustainable technology and design to the next level. The building will feature cisterns that collect rainwater to both irrigate the 22,000-sq-ft rooftop garden and supplement water used in the building’s cooling towers. And SEMCO’s chilled beam technology will again be a fixture of 3.0 University Place, with a next-generation pump cap package that reduces energy consumption and operational costs.

 

“It allows us to turn on pumps only as we need them to circulate water through the chilled beams, instead of bringing cooled and hot water throughout the building,” says Brad Randall, principal at the engineering firm Bruce E. Brooks & Associates.

 

As 3.0 University Place’s engineering consultant, Randall’s firm is charged with a difficult task: ensuring that complex, highly efficient systems are effective, seamlessly integrated, and simple enough for tenants and maintenance crews to interface with on a daily basis.

 

The expansive rooftop garden at 2.0 University Place.

The expansive rooftop garden at 2.0 University Place.

To make that happen, Randall’s team meets with both the products’ engineers and the contractors who will install them. That process is made easier because Mazo also researches the latest technologies and meets with manufacturers to maximize system efficiencies and reduce product costs. It’s an unusual role for a developer to play and invaluable in pulling off a project as sophisticated as the Platinum Corridor.

 

Of course, occupant behavior and operator error can cause even the most advanced systems to fall apart, says Randall, so the firm designs systems that anticipate those behaviors. For example, automatic LED lighting is set to a low level by default, rather than beginning at maximum brightness and relying on users to manually turn them down. And Bruce E. Brooks & Associates offers education services to occupants to ensure that sustainable systems perform at their peak.

 

“It takes care during the design and construction and follow-up afterward,” says Randall.

 

Achieving LEED Platinum also means going beyond energy efficiencies and water conservation. As a transit-oriented development, the Platinum Corridor is strategically located just one block from Philadelphia’s subway system at 40th and Market Street. The site is also served by several bus lines and is bicycle accessible, with onsite showers available to encourage workers to ditch their cars for more efficient modes of self-propelled transportation. These measures help 2.0 University Place and future buildings in the Platinum Corridor achieve LEED Sustainable Sites credits for access to public and alternative transportation.

 

Yet the Platinum Corridor’s most significant contribution to University City’s workforce and businesses may be its emphasis on occupant health and wellness. In addition to providing workers in 2.0 University Place with accessible green space and visual access to the outdoors in 90 percent of the building, LEED Platinum tenant spaces were built with low-emission sealants and adhesives. The building also circulates more than twice the amount of outdoor air per person as a conventional office building. Why should that matter to existing and potential tenants of the Platinum Corridor?

 

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Rendering of 3.0 University Place, which will begin construction in 2018. 3.0 University Place will have a 22,000-sq-ft green roof and cisterns to recycle rainwater for irrigation and chiller towers.

According to a 2015 Harvard University study, “The Impact of Green Buildings on Cognitive Function,” workers who labored in spaces with low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and high levels of circulating outdoor air performed 101 percent better on cognitive function tests than workers in conventional workplace settings. It’s a finding that also has real-world implications for a company’s bottom line, with increased cognition generating as much as $6,500 in improved productivity per person per year, the study found.

 

“Energy is one piece, but looking at cost of productivity and human health benefits—that’s where Scott and the Platinum Corridor differentiate themselves,” says Michael Pavelsky, sustainability director at the Sheward Partnership.

 

In keeping with Mazo’s long history of making a meaningful impact on Philadelphia’s residents, the Platinum Corridor’s design also considers those already living and working in University City. The entrance to 2.0 University Place, for example, is oriented to the north to face residential neighborhoods and increase community connectivity. And exterior plazas throughout the Platinum Corridor will engage the community with open designs and green features.

 

“We want to make the Platinum Corridor a place where people want to come—to work and live in this neighborhood,” adds Pavelsky.

 

Platinum Results

Mazo’s Platinum Corridor is already seeing measurable results in energy efficiency and cost savings, and energy models for 3.0 University Place are generating impressive forecasts.

 

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According to University Place Associates, 2.0 University Place uses 33 percent less energy than a conventional building, with a 29.2 percent reduction in energy costs. The building uses almost 42 percent less indoor water and captures and treats 95 percent of rainwater that falls on the site, reusing it for irrigation of the vegetated roof.

 

3.0 University Place’s sustainable design and green technologies will save 1 million KwH of electricity per year when compared to a conventional building. Through high-efficiency water systems, including the recycling of rainwater for both rooftop irrigation and the building’s cooling tower, the building will also save an estimated 778,000 gallons of water annually. Its design also calls for diverting 50 tons of construction waste from landfills.

 

Those environmental benefits may not be a draw for every company, but the Platinum Corridor’s promise of significant utility savings, healthier work environments, and increased worker productivity is universally appealing. For Mazo, who sees both principle and profit as integral to his success, it’s all part of an unconventional formula three decades in the making.

 

“This is the contribution I want to make,” says Mazo. “There’s only one planet we have to live on, so I’m going to make it work by good practices. That’s part of the equation.”

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2.0 University Place

Status
Opened 2013

 

Features
98,000 square feet
5 floors
Transit-oriented design
Bicycle accessible
14,000-sq-ft accessible green roof
Stormwater collection for irrigation
Chilled beam heating and cooling system with approximately 100% filtered fresh air circulation

 

LEED Certifications
LEED Platinum BD+C
LEED Platinum ID+C

 

LEED Scorecard (BD+C: Core and Shell)
Total Credits: 47/62 – Platinum
Sustainable Sites: 12/15
Water Efficiency: 4/5
Energy & Atmosphere: 11/14
Material & Resources: 6/11
Indoor Environmental Quality: 9/12
Innovation: 5/5

 

Awards
Greenest Project 2016,
Philadelphia Business Journal

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3.0 University Place

Status
Construction begins 2018; completion in 2019

 

Features
170,00 square feet
5 floors
22,000-sq-ft green roof
SEMCO chilled beam system
Cisterns recycle rainwater for irrigation and chiller towers

 

Awards
2017 Smart Growth Award,
Delaware Valley Smart Growth Alliance (DVSGA)

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4.0 University Place

Status
Schematic design phase