Business Response Conference 3.0 – The Evolving Energy Profile – Success!

By: Eugenia Gregorio, LEED AP BC+C, Sustainability Manager, The Tower Companies

In addition to being the Sustainability Manager at The Tower Companies, I am also a part-time MBA student at George Washington University and a volunteer on the GW School of Business Net Impact Board. (  I started the MBA program in August 2011 and plan to complete my graduate degree by December 2014 – I’ve got a long road ahead! I’m excited to focus my degree in Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability.

As part of my involvement with Net Impact, I was on the lead planning committee for the 3rd annual Business Response Conference took place on February 24, 2012. This is a student-organized conference with a different topic revolving around sustainability topics each year and the focus this year was “The Evolving Energy Profile”. It is a known fact that global demand for energy will continue to increase substantially in the short and long term. The Business Response 3.0 was a conference that offered a candid discussion on the most responsible path towards meeting rising demand.

Energy has been a hot topic in the past year and continues to be a major discussion point not only in the real estate industry but also in the political world, which we in Washington, D.C. hear about on a daily basis. There have been a lot of innovative strides in the technology and financial worlds with regard to energy project, policies and business models – I can’t wait to see what comes next!

The conference offered three panels to attendees that focused on policy, finance, and competitive advantage. For more details on the conference, please visit Among the keynote speakers, panelists, and sponsors were well-known companies that have good relationships with The Tower Companies including Clean Currents, Greening Urban, Constellation Energy, AtSite, NRDC, and Urban Energy Advisors. Overall, the event was a huge success with over 200 people registered and thought-provoking conversations about where the industry is going!

The GW Net Impact President recognized my efforts in the closing remarks and referred to me as a “Rising Star”! I was thrilled to be a part of such a passionate and motivated group of students and professionals. The conference focus for next year has yet to be determined but I’m sure it will be just as good as this year!

The Tower Companies understands the importance of tackling the issue of energy demands and resources, which is why we recently implemented an intensive real time energy management program. To get a better sense for this program, please check out my first Blog titled – “What’s all the buzz about”.

Exciting New Building Information Modeling (BIM) Tool for Builders

By David Borchardt, PE, LEED AP BD+C, Chief Sustainability Officer, The Tower Companies

Recently, I was invited to provide four presentations: two in January as part of the AIA 2030 professional series and two in March on Energy Benchmarking at the DCBID 2012 Building Energy Summit (DC Business Improvement District) and at the GSA Office of the Chief Architect. While the topics of the presentations were varied I realized that a common theme emerged. That theme was twofold, you can’t improve what you can’t measure and you must make that information usable for the people who need it.

Let’s start with a new or renovated building a design and construction team will build what the client wants get the building up and running with all the bells and whistles fully commissioned and with a brand new LEED certification. However, once that team is gone the building is left in the hands of property managers and building engineers who may or may not have been part of the design and construction process. The people left to run the building are now asked to keep what is usually a state of the art building running in top condition while keeping tenants or residents in a comfortable and clean environment. This staff does not have the time to go hunting for information on maintaining the building and to tracking performance this information needs to be at their finger tips.

What’s the solution:

The design and construction community can make sure the information is readily available to the people operating the buildings, with the design and construction tools of today such as BIM (Building Information Modeling). BIM  allows for storage and dissemination of information of virtually every building system and can be used as a repository of that information from the beginning to the end of the design and construction process. For example, a piece of equipment in the building can be graphically displayed on a computer screen allowing a building engineer to select it and find out everything about it such as maintenance requirements, replacement part information and warranty information, along with detailed drawings.

We haven’t reached this level of sophistication yet but as we develop new buildings we will take advantage of these tools. Today, we are creating a database of maintenance information on our existing buildings which will take years to complete but has already allowed us to start to put maintenance information at our finger tips. This is an essential tool for our building engineers.

Finally, we are now tracking building performance real-time to be sure the buildings are the operating optimally which empowers our building operating staff to make continuous improvements.

We’ll keep you posted on our progress!

In Memoriam: Albert ‘Sonny’ Abramson, 1917-2012

Inside Tower is being brought to you to keep you informed on the happenings inside and outside the company. I would like to thank my sister-in-law, Anne Abramson for her idea and Gina Beckmann and Linda Schoengold who organized our year end celebration.

Our first edition of Inside Tower brings news of joy, achievement and sadness. Achievements and joys for the company and for our employees, and, at the same time, sadness that our company founder, and my father, Albert Abramson, known to the outside world as “Sonny,” passed away on March 6.

Needless to say, there has been an outpouring from all who knew or wished to know him in his capacity as a father, grandfather, business owner, philanthropist and veteran. He was a great man and certainly left a lasting legacy in many of his signature developments, such as The Blairs or Washington Square, the latter which he co-developed with his life-long friend, Ted Lerner. But one truly outstanding legacy is his contribution to the building of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Later, you will read the message sent by former President Bill Clinton.

I would like to begin by sharing part of my eulogy in my dad’s honor.

“When someone lives as long as my father did with such strength, power and love for living, it’s hard to imagine a time without him. It is not easy to capture the essence of our lifelong relationship. But, if I had to sum it up, I would say the last nine months gave the finest expression and experience of it.

What an immense honor to see my father pass through the evolving stages of the lifecycle and be there to support him, give back some of that priceless wisdom that he graced me with and more than anything, just to love him for who was, and who he had become.

To see his enormous intellect give way to a softer, emotional side and to allow him in his own pace and in his own sweet way, share his love and bring closure to his beautiful life, was touching.

My father as many of you know, was an independent man. As the Washington Post stated, he started his business with a five hundred dollar contract in his hand and to that I would add, an empty bank account and gut instinct. He loved the game of the deal and built a business that spanned over 60 years and was founded on trust and a handshake—his lifelong friendship with Ted Lerner was the finest example of that.

He raised his sons with our dear Mother Ruth, as she would say: “to make men of their boys.” They did so with courage and relentless attention to every aspect of our lives, and Dad, managing to skillfully guide us without closing in and always upholding our individuality while maintaining family unity—nothing was more important than that. He was a skillful guide, a loving, and ultimately, deeply compassionate father.

I think I learned as much—and perhaps more—from his silence as from the things he said. It was not uncommon for him to sit quietly, above the fray of a spirited discussion, leaving you wondering in the car ride home, what was he thinking about, what was going through his mind, and trying to sort through his observations by to seeing it through his eyes and piecing it all together.

This kind of second guessing evolved over time, into an attunement to his inner world and deeper thoughts, much of which would come to be confirmed in due time and under the perfect circumstances, in the relaxed calm of his library at home, where we gathered more times then we will ever be able to count.

As everyone knows, Dad loved the discussion. There was no topic off limits, the feistier and more heated the debate; the happier he was. “Jeffrey and I had a good fight tonight!” he would nudge Rona as he walked us to the door… and we would laugh and give him a pinch on the cheek and a kiss… and he would give us a smile that was pure mischief!

This endless ritual of debate, reflection, and action became the pattern upon which he cultivated his relationship with us and gave us a formula to grab hold of his deep, introspective style. This produced a family culture that in its essence, is harmonizing, trusting, and respectful. I believe this is the heart of his legacy and one that we will always be proud of.

I think from all of his affirming expressions of love, support and votes of confidence in the past year, we can feel confident that he passed on his lifework to us with happiness, an easy heart, clear conscience and more than anything, with a heart full of love and pride for his family.

As long as I can remember, I always loved speaking to others about my father. Because of this, he was known to so many that he never even met.

Last week when Dad and I were having a chat, I asked him what he was thinking about, and he said; “I didn’t change the world.” I told him he was wrong and listed many of his numerous achievements, and he reiterated; “but, I didn’t change the world.” But Dad, I said, you inspired so many who will continue to change the world.”

It showed what a high standard he had set for himself and how deeply introspective he was about his life in his last days.

However, Dad, in a rare instance, I would like to prove you wrong, and share with you some of the sentiments that have come from friends from around the world, who were moved by you and who prove that you have indeed inspired and changed your world.

“I feel fortunate to have met Mr. Abramson. He was truly a gem of a human being, who lived his life and met all of its challenges with such great dignity and graciousness. He was a good, good man and the world is a better place for him being here.”

“Every moment with him was uplifting and brought forth our best selves. He embodied a deep wisdom and aliveness, the essence of the true American spirit.”

“He was a person of immeasurable intellect, unshakable integrity, enormous vision and courage, and with a charm that endeared everyone to him, particularly his very close and loving family.

Mr. Abramson will be missed by many, but his legacy will endure for generations to come through his family and the enormous impact he has had on the people and places throughout the Washington DC area and the world.”

“It is so beautiful to think back on the very first time Jeffrey, you told me about your incredible dad, walking along Lake Lucerne- in 1975, your heart filled with love, pride and respect—then– and always.”

May we all be inspired by my father and my father’s life and continue the work to change the world.

With best regards,
Jeffrey S. Abramson

Message from Former United States President Bill Clinton

I was deeply saddened by Sonny’s passing, and my heart goes out to all those gathered in Potomac to honor his legacy of service and philanthropy.

Sonny’s life was guided by an abiding vision that our tomorrows will be brighter than our yesterdays. He brought this belief-along with an unshakable strength of will-to his brilliant planning of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Thanks in large part to his devoted efforts, the Museum stands today as an eternal monument to the triumph of hope over hatred, reminding millions of visitors of our common humanity and our profound obligation to the future.

It was a true honor to award Sonny the Presidential Citizens Medal in 1998, and I will be forever grateful for his contributions to our nation and world. As you remember a selfless leader, I join you in celebrating his remarkable lifetime of accomplishment.

You are all in my thoughts and prayers.
Bill Clinton

Tower Companies Accepts President Obama’s 2020 Better Buildings Challenge

By: David Borchardt, Chief Sustainability Officer at The Tower Companies

President Obama’s Better Buildings Challenge requests that companies volunteer to commit to reducing their energy consumption by 20% by the year 2020. Many large organizations with a much larger portfolio have risen to the challenge. We fully support this initiative. However, as a small business leader with a 4.5 million SF portfolio, we’ve been implementing energy reduction strategies since 2000.
Before I joined Tower in late 2005, this is what the company had achieved.

At The Millennium Building at 1909 K Street in DC, we added 4 floors and did not increase energy use.
In 2003, we achieved Energy Star at 1909 and Tower 1. In 2004, Blair Towns was the first apartment in the US to be LEED certified, which required a certain level of energy efficiency.

When I joined Tower, in late 2005, our first year with Climate Leaders, we began auditing our record of energy efficiencies. Prior to that, everything had been done manually. Since late 2006 early 2007, we began reporting all the commercial office buildings in Energy Star, which now tracks every building. This is what we’ve been able to accomplish:

  • We are carbon neutral.
  • We offset our brown energy.
  • We performed energy audits of all our buildings.
  • We certified under EB every office building that qualified. This required retro commissioning.
  • We are in the process of certifying our multifamily portfolio.
  • We are tracking all LEED buildings using Energy Star.
  • We have used and continue to use PEPCO rebates to fund VFD drives, lighting retrofits, refrigerators, and 1 chiller replacement.
  • We have initiated a real time energy monitoring program.
  • Our commercial leases require exceeding the lighting energy code requirement by 16%.
  • Our commercial leases require Energy Star rated Appliances.
  • The Blairs only use Energy Star rated appliances for replacements.
  • When we replace equipment at building we look to use energy efficient equipment.
  • We have used tax deductions to help fund chiller and boiler replacements at 3 Blairs buildings.

Also, we are working with our commercial and residential tenants to teach them how to save energy and are tracking those who have volunteered to report their success. When we combine our past efforts with additional work we’re undertaking, we will achieve the President’s goal as we are well underway and more than half done!

Real-Time Energy Management – What’s the buzz all about?

By: Eugenia Gregorio, Sustainability Manager at The Tower Companies

As the Sustainability Manager for The Tower Companies, I am very fortunate to be part of an exciting new initiative that will help us to meet company goals and continue as a leader in the industry. “Real -time energy management” is a buzzword, just like the term “green building” about 10 years ago. A real-time energy management program allows a building owner, operator, or manager to track energy usage on a daily, 15-minute (or less) basis. The ability to monitor energy usage at the same time in which a building is consuming energy is extremely helpful in determining system inefficiencies and areas for improvement to building operations as a whole. Otherwise, you have to wait until utility bills arrive, which can be up to 60 days after energy is consumed.

After over a year of researching different vendors, installers, and technology available, we selected our hardware and software team in August 2011. HVAC Concepts, Inc. of Ijamsville, MD is responsible for installing all of the required hardware, connecting to our existing building automation systems (BAS), and coordinating with the software team. DC-based AtSite, Inc. is responsible for collecting and analyzing our electricity and gas usage and managing the software. AtSite will also be meeting with our building engineers on a monthly basis to help set energy reduction goals and implement best practices for each building in our portfolio. Our engineering team and building owners will be able to view this energy data online at anytime with a username and password.

We’re kicking off this program the week of January 16, 2012. It’s a great way to start off the New Year and everyone involved is eager to see significant results!

We’ll keep you posted on our progress!


Inside Tower
Message from The Tower Companies’ Jeffrey S. Abramson

In December we gathered our employees for a year-end celebration. It was the most heartwarming experience, in recent years, I can remember. Why? Well, my 94-year-old dad, Albert Abramson, who founded The Tower Companies over 65 years ago, and other family members, were in the audience. Dad listened intently to these dynamic men and women sharing their accomplishments throughout the year to deliver to you, our customers, the healthiest, LEED certified and Energy Star rated commercial and residential properties in the market, and to deliver to us a successful enterprise! gathered our employees for a year-end celebration.

The Tower Team (Team Tower) exhibited humor and candor as they shared personal stories about their colleagues and families, challenges and accomplishments; all beyond what my father could have ever envisioned when he started the company as a young veteran in 1947.

So, we’re launching “Inside Tower,” an online newsletter, brought to you throughout the year, to highlight the wonderful men and women whose dedication help make all of us a success!

I would like to thank Anne Abramson, my brother Ronald’s wife, for suggesting, “Inside Tower,” Gina Beckmann and Linda Schoengold, for organizing a classy and fun end-of-year event, and to all Tower employees, from our family to yours, our sincerest appreciation for your achievements, creativity and commitment.

Finally, to you, our clients, thank you for choosing The Tower Companies for your residential and commercial sustainable property solutions.

With best regards,
Jeffrey S. Abramson

Tower Companies Announces 2011 Transcend Awards
The Transcend Awards have become an exciting and meaningful Tower family tradition. Previous recipients of the Transcend Award include Rory Dechowitz and Ramiro Vergara and we also recognized the outstanding achievements of Ronald Totress, Marvin Atwell, Jared Gigliotti, and Ed Murn.

2011 was another great year with some exceptional achievements by individuals who helped maintain Tower’s commitment to service and excellence. Winners each received a plaque and $500. Congratulations to Tower’s 2011 Transcend Award winners!

2011 Founders’ Award Winners: Downtown Office Buildings: Van McKinley
Raju Luitel
Accounting/Information System
Specialist; hired in 2008 was born in Nepal

Downtown Office Buildings: Van McKinley

The Blairs: Garvin Robertson

Honorable Mentions:
Eugenia Gregorio and Marvin Atwell
Special Recognition to The Turnover and I.S. Teams Beth Hasson, Cassandra Drinnon, Brian Abramson, Ed Murn, Jose Amaya, Jonathan Laukhuf, Rodney Atwell, Saujanya Bhattarai, Jake Kamon, Jose Umanzor, Jason Faunteroy, Huy Nguyen, Ramiro Vergara, Raju Luitel, Umesh Upreti and Jerry Freed.

Tower Ranks #16 on EPA 2012 Green Power Partnership 100% Green Power Purchasers List EPA just released their 2012 Green Power Partnership Report, and Tower is ranked number 16 for purchasing 80,500,000 kWh of wind-generated energy credits (RECs), ahead of ING, Port of Portland and Nokia. Green power purchases help reduce the environmental impacts of electricity use and support the development of new renewable generation capacity nationwide. In 2003 and 2006 Tower received EPA Green Power Leadership Award.

And on a personal note…
At the Blairs — Beth Hasson will soon give birth to her first baby in February, Jared Gigliotti got engaged, Raju Luitel married Nisha Dahal, a Blairs associate, Jose Amaya became a father in 2011, and Cassandra Drinnon had her second baby.

At Tower Corporate Offices – Eugenia Gregorio started grad school part-time, Nichelle Hicks got married, Rory Dechowitz’ two oldest children, Brett and Kelly, got married in 2011, Brian Abramson announced he will have his 2nd child in 2012, Ina Goldstein’s daughter got married, Mike & Ana Tyler are expecting and Gina Beckmann’s daughter, Lynn, graduated from college!

And now from our team…

At The Blairs we
Renewed 100 Balconies at House and East
Renovated nearly 200 apartments into Ecopads®
Replaced 36,000 sq ft of carpet and painted 120,000 SF of hallways. To put this into perspective, this is nearly 3 football fields or 2.25 soccer pitches; football fields do not have residents or doors. We probably inconvenienced every resident at the Blairs at least once. This just kept the Blairs staff real busy! And, at 1828 L Street, we renovated the main lobby and storefront, so our Property Managers were also busy with clients.

We achieved 4 more LEED certifications bringing Tower’s total to 11.
We achieved LEED for Existing Buildings (EB) at 1707 L, 1828 L and Blair Towns, which was the first EB Multifamily Platinum in the world! Working with Ellen Lederle, we achieved our first LEED Commercial Interior at 1909 L Street.

For the 3rd year in a row, we earned Energy Star at 1828 L, 1909 K, and Tower 1.

Luann S. Sinclair, GENERAL COUNSEL and LEED® Accredited Professional
We worked on approximately 28 leases covering approximately 224,000 rentable SF: 51,448 rentable SF in 1707 L Street, 38,036 rentable SF in 1828 L Street, 76,307 rentable SF in 1909 K Street, 3,250 SF in Blair Office Building and 54, 155 rentable SF in Tower I.

We entered into new leases with 7 new tenants at 1707 L, 3 new tenants at 1828 L, 4 new tenants at 1909 K and 1 new tenant at Tower I Existing Tenants’ moves, expansions and lease extensions were all documented by lease amendments prepared by the legal group. We also worked on 4 loan transactions to secure financing for Tower’s projects. And, on a daily basis, we review vendor and other third party contracts and answer miscellaneous legal questions as they arise.

Beth Hasson, TURNOVER MANAGER, LEED Green Associate
In 2011, we turned over 566 apartments, 193 of which were renovated into Ecopads®, and completed it within 7 months! The beginning of this year, we were doing what we call the “Ronnie Beth Turns” and I remember when Ed, Brian and Jeffrey came to me and said, “Ya know what…We’ve decided to have you take on all the renovations of the Ecopads® and all I kept thinking was…”Hey guys, I’m pregnant.” But we did it! The team did an amazing job and is ready to do 250 in 2012. We have an awesome team and I can’t thank them enough for everything.

Ed Murn, DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT, The Blairs Campus Redevelopment
Not sexy but necessary! In 2011, we touched up balcony railings in 52 units at the beginning of the year, painted everyone’s apartment door while we were painting the hallways and installed submeters in the kitchens of every unit.

In 2012, we’ll be painting the doors and hallways of Blair House, Blair Plaza and Blair Towers, install the Verizon FiOS product to Blair House and Blair Plaza, and lastly I will install the submeters to all the units in Blair House and Blair Plaza. That’s over 2,200 jobs in occupied units. That will keep the property managers pretty busy.

At Blair House, I’ll add a clubroom, business center, and outdoor amenity area, renovate the fitness center & lobby while doing more unit renovations in Blair House.
It’s been a great year at The Blairs. I thank the property management for their help and really look forward to what will accomplish together in 2012.

In February, we subscribed to a safety-training program. This program offers a wide variety of 60 topics, training our Engineers and Maintenance Technicians to use equipment and perform tasks safely, as well as comply with OSHA regulations.

On the commercial properties, we achieved an accident free work place in 2011 and we
anticipate training more staff this year.

We have successfully expanded use of our existing software, found ways to utilize more of Workspeed and with the assistance of the IS Department we are creating new ways to monitor contract expiration dates and reports to better assist in maintaining our records and notifications, within Yardi. Thank you Raju!!!!

We are working with the IS Department, to develop a similar system tracking boiler certificates, elevator certificates, business licenses, underground storage tanks and others.

These systems will replace spreadsheets and calendars and are constantly looking for ways to be more efficient. And as Jeffrey can confirm, just from looking at my workspace, we have made great strides in paper reduction.

We’ve had a busy year of improvements, heavily devoted in Property Management and Engineering to the “back of the house”. Approximately 47 years worth of outdated stock, clutter and abandoned wires and cabling was removed. This helped us to organize, become extremely efficient and develop a stronger sense of team pride in our buildings. It’s so clean that literally, you can eat off the floor of any utility room you enter. It’s always in show condition. We thank our Engineers who worked tirelessly to make this happen and the commitment from our owners to make this happen which was no small feat.

To prove accountants aren’t always serious and only think about numbers, we prepared a little Q and A game to share our 2011 achievements and fun facts.

Who calculated to discover they save 4,672 pieces of paper a MONTH now that we’ve switched to Yardi? Subodh Dhakal

Who said…after 35 years we finally put vacation and sick time on all employees’ paystubs? Gail O’Donovan

Who expanded the Maharishi Management Grads education to include American activities, such as…going bowling and playing football in the parking lot? Jason Balzer

Lastly…if you add up all the years of dedication given to Tower by the accounting and tax departments, how many years would they represent? Keep in mind, we have the longest working employee, but we also have one of the newest hires as well!

Total = 232 years

Ok…maybe we are always thinking about numbers!!!

2011 has been great year for us. We have continued to introduce more and more technology into our work, making things digital and in order to reduce paper usage.

We now host our own mail, print and blackberry servers and document locator to secure them and make sure they are operating properly.

Our IT guru, Miro went from a one man IT department to a team of 4. I would like to share one quick IT joke that our professor shared with us when I was in MUM University back in IOWA.

He said, if you want to be secured (in terms of hacking, identity theft, credit card stolen stuff), he suggested to do following things.

1. Never buy a computer.
2. Even if you buy one, never turn it on and
3. Even if you turn it on, never join your computer to the network.

This is so true, but we are living in the age of Google, Facebook and Twitter and the joke doesn’t seem practical. Being an IT professional, our job is to make our network and servers secure from attack and keep them functioning 24×7.

On a personal note, I would like to thank everyone for supporting us to make everything we did possible. I would also like to thank Miro for his continuous support and help. I would like to thank Rory, Jeffrey and entire Abramson Family for their encouragement and support.