After being invited in 2007 to participate in the U.S. Green Building Council’s pre-certification program for new construction, Wells Fargo spent nearly two years re-tooling the design and construction parameters for its retail banking stores to meet LEED requirements.

By mid-2008, Wells Fargo had been awarded pre-certified LEED-Silver designation by the USGBC based on the company’s adoption of ecofriendly design parameters. Those called for a 20% reduction in energy use and 40% reduction in water consumption, long considered pivotal benchmarks for green buildings.

The bank joins more than 40 corporate members of the USGBC’s streamlined certification pilot program for smaller, new buildings based on expedited volume pre-certification for LEED Silver.

“Participating corporations in the pilot program account for 1,745 buildings totaling more than 135 million sq ft (as of summer 2009), a number likely to continue increasing,” says Deb Kleinman, executive director of USGBC’s Colorado Chapter. “It was because of organizations like Wells Fargo, which are committed to ensuring that their facilities are sustainable and which hold enormous portfolios of various types of commercial real estate, that this program came about.

“The pre-certification program is intended to streamline LEED-certification processes in order to help businesses ensure that their buildings are performing at peak efficiency and providing maximum benefits to occupants and the environment,” Kleinman adds.

“We first heard of the USGBC program through Chong Partners Architecture, San Francisco, with whom we were working regarding ways to green our new stores,” says Sheri Elbert, head of LEED standardization for Wells Fargo. “When Chong mentioned the USGBC program, we made inquiries to USGBC and were subsequently invited to join.

“I describe the driving force behind the LEED effort at Wells Fargo as a triple bottom-line: people, planet and profit. It’s a means of setting Wells Fargo apart from more conventional businesses,” she says. 

Elbert says that LEED also is a way for Wells Fargo to keep ahead of mandates such as the California Green Building Code, set to become mandatory on Jan. 1. “Because none of the local standards will ever get ahead of LEED, we will always be on the leading edge,” she adds.

Wells Fargo’s first retail-bank stores completed under the pre-certification program are in Colorado Springs; Manhattan Beach, Calif., and Waco, Texas.

In Colorado, two additional stores, one in Denver and another in Boulder, are currently in design, while others are expected to follow across the state.

Two former Wachovia locations in Colorado Springs were recently re-branded Wells Fargo and retrofitted under the LEED for Existing Buildings Operations and Maintenance program.

“The pathway to achieving certification, even under volume, is quite rigorous,” Elbert says. “We needed to design internal and external design-quality assurance and education programs. Everyone who touches the project has to be educated on LEED and knowledgeable about the ways in which Wells Fargo satisfies LEED requirements.”