Environmental consultant renovates offices to LEED standard

September 12, 2009

The Lexington Car Co. that occupied a four-story building at Meridian and 12th streets downtown quit producing its luxury automobiles shortly before the start of the Great Depression.

But remnants of the company’s Indianapolis presence, where cars were shipped for sale from a manufacturing plant in Connersville, live on through an eco-friendly renovation undertaken by August Mack Environmental Inc.

The Indianapolis-based environmental consulting firm moved to the historic building in May 2008 from Castleton and occupies 11,000 square feet on the fourth floor.

Wood panels recycled from original Lexington work stations were used to construct a reception desk and helped August Mack achieve LEED, or leadership in energy and environmental design, certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

The Washington, D.C.-based council administers the LEED program and certifies projects, depending upon the extent of “greenness.” Participants can achieve certified, silver, gold or platinum status by building upon, or renovating, a sustainable site and choosing renewable materials and resources, among other requirements.


The reception desk was made from wooden panels used in work stations when the downtown building housed a sales office for the now-defunct Lexington car. (IBJ Photo/Robin Jerstad)

August Mack earned gold certification and is one of just 10 companies in the metropolitan area that has received any level of LEED accreditation, according to the green building council’s Web site. In addition, the company’s project is the first in Indianapolis to receive a gold rating in the “commercial interiors” category.

Perhaps more impressive is that August Mack pursued the effort to “green” its space and made the additional investment even though the firm does not own the building.

“We practice in this area and consult on sustainability,” said Geoff Glanders, August Mack’s co-founder and president. “We thought, ‘You know, we have this opportunity. Let’s walk the walk instead of talking about it.’”


Indianapolis-based Shiel Sexton Co. Inc. owns August Mack’s building, last occupied by office equipment distributor VanAusdall & Farrar Inc. The construction contractor invested $10 million to renovate The Lexington, named after the car company.

The building is fully leased.

Most noticeable among August Mack’s environmentally friendly efforts is the natural sunlight flooding the space through a row of new windows flanking its space. Low-energy lighting also helped the firm cut energy consumption. A new heating, ventilation and cooling system was installed as well.

A stroll down a hallway reveals a locker room complete with lockers and a shower for employees who bike to the office or take a jog during lunchtime. August Mack employs 40 in Indianapolis and a total of 100 at its five locations. The others are in Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Glanders, who lives in Carmel, peddles the Monon Trail an hour one way a few times a week, weather permitting. A bike rack outside the building earns August Mack a few more points toward LEED certification.

Besides additional exercise, a downtown presence allows Glanders and company co-founder Bryan Petriko to be more visible in the business community and to be closer to clients. August Mack counts the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and several law firms and banks among its clients.

August Mack’s flooring features tile made with cork—considered a renewable resource—and carpeting containing recycled content. Low-solvent paint covers the walls.

Even employee work stations are recycled. Carmel furniture broker RDS and Associates rescued them from a customer service center built by Fidelity Investments that the Boston financial services firm never occupied.

In the conference room sits a large table transported from August Mack’s previous home. The table is made from walnut trees harvested from a property owned by Dick Shiel, a founder of Shiel Sexton and Glanders’ father-in-law.

Art work made from recycled materials depicts the evolution of August Mack’s shrinking carbon foot print. Little waste from the renovation went to landfills. (IBJ Photo/Robin Jerstad)

Besides owning The Lexington building, Shiel Sexton served as August Mack’s project coordinator for the LEED certification process. Cameron Smith, a LEED certified planner at Shiel, led the project.

“The coolest thing that was done, when we went through and gutted the building, we saved as many wood doors and wood panels and glass from the building that we could,” Smith said.

August Mack recycled nearly 90 percent of the waste generated during the renovation and spent 96 percent of its furniture and furnishing costs on salvaged and refurbished furniture.

Interest in eco-friendly projects remains strong. Nearly 100 projects in the Indianapolis area have been registered for LEED certification; 10 have gained the accreditation. Statewide, 28 of the 200 registered projects have been certified.

Despite harsh economic conditions in the commercial real estate market, William Brown, director of sustainability at Indiana University and chairman of the green building council’s Indiana chapter, said green construction continues to thrive.

“I think we’re seeing that across the country,” he said.

Glanders declined to divulge how much his firm spent to renovate its space, but he estimated the expense at about 20 percent more than what a normal renovation would cost without LEED elements.

Supporters of eco-friendly projects argue businesses ultimately can recoup their investments through energy savings. Yet, a 2006 study by the London-based Davis Langdon construction consultancy argues that the difference in average costs for green buildings compared with normal construction is insignificant.•


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