Austrian green building firm sees future in U.S. commercial real estate

October 31, 2012

Commercial real estate in San Francisco could see a significant reduction in construction time after an Austrian green building company opened its first office in the U.S.

According to GreenBuildingElements.com, the decision by CREE GmbH to locate its base of operations in the Bay Area was primarily influenced by existing cleantech and energy efficient building technology in the region. The company has already erected several multi-story commercial buildings in Europe, but are looking to make its hybrid timber and concrete technology available to U.S. companies as the interest in sustainable building techniques continues to grow.

Known as the LifeCycle Tower (LCT) system, it allows energy efficient buildings to be designed up to 30 stories high. The combination of wood and concrete reduces the length of time on a build, with the company believing that a maximum story construction could be completed in 30 days or less. The innovative centerpiece of the technology is in the support structure for a commercial building, with an LCT project reportedly taking half the time to build as a traditional reinforced concrete and steel construction.

"San Francisco is a great place for us," said Michael Zangerl, CEO of CREE Buildings in a press statement. "Tall wood buildings are the future of sustainable urban development." 

By combining the two materials, it allows the structure to be lighter and reduces the amount of concrete required, with CREE claiming that up to 39 percent less resources are needed for an LCT build producing 90 percent lower CO2 emissions. The structure is put together using prefabricated components which are assembled on site into a skeleton structure, with construction taking place over a pre-laid concrete foundation and central elevator shaft. This allows green architects to design a variety of layouts and provide the building owner with a degree of freedom.

After a recent article in USA Today focussed on green building innovation and whether energy efficient building technologies benefit from too much federal support, the arrival of CREE shows that improving commercial real estate is a global business. The Obama Administration has made no secret of its support for innovative solutions to reducing energy consumption, with initiatives such as the Energy Efficient Buildings Hub (EEB Hub) in Greater Philadelphia dedicated to bringing existing building technology into the 21st Century.

"Green buildings save energy, water and precious resources, reduce waste and carbon emissions, create jobs, save money, drive innovation and provide healthier, more comfortable spaces to live, work and learn," said Rick Fedrizzi, founding chair of the U.S. Green Building Council and the organization's current President and CEO.