This old building

George “Bud” Arquilla, president of the Burnside Construction Co., may be based in Chicago, but he’s a big fan of Northeast Ohio.

“In Chicago, you have to go through 123 departments to get a permit,” he says. “(In Cleveland) you still have to get a permit and it still takes a while, but at least they support you … and it’s not lost in bureaucracy.”

Arquilla’s construction firm is leading the $68 million renovation of the W. Bingham Building in downtown Cleveland in the Warehouse District. The building will offer 340 loft apartments, an 8,000-square-foot grocery store and a staffed fitness center.

The redevelopment of the 88-year-old building carries a big price tag — the largest renovation in the state this year — but projects like this in historic urban areas don’t necessarily need to be much more expensive than starting from scratch in the suburbs.

“Basically, what you’re buying is the shell, and then there’s good news and bad news about that,” Arquilla says. “The bad news is, it’s old, and the good news is, they usually built them quite well in those days.”

For those who don’t remember, W. Bingham Co. used to be the largest hardware distributor in the country, so its headquarters had to be sturdy. The building has 13-inch concrete floors, surrounded by four inches of compacted sand, with maple floors on top.

“It’s very attractive in terms of renovation due to the wood flooring,” Arquilla say. “In other words, that would cost you a fortune to do that new today. In an older building, you can pick that up at a lower price.”

Since the Bingham Building is on the National Register of Historic Places, Burnside qualified for several forms of government financing and tax breaks earmarked for urban redevelopment.

The Bingham renovation was primarily funded through the U.S. Housing and Urban Development’s 220 Urban Renewal Program. Locally, National City Bank invested $16 million in historic tax credits and conservation easements for the project, and the Cleveland Development Partnership provided a $1.25 million bridge loan during acquisition and construction.

However, all those financing sources do carry a burden for historic renovations.

“Basically, what you have to do is restore the building to its original luster to the best of your ability,” Arquilla says. “We had to dig out all of the original drawings from this building from 1915. That means cleaning, tuck pointing, there’s steel reinforcement and all that kind of stuff that has to be an exact replica.”

Despite these requirements, Arquilla estimates that a restoration similar to that of the Bingham Building would cost an owner $60 to $70 a square foot, while new construction in the suburbs could cost as much as $100 a square foot.

“There are the benefits,” Arquilla says. “If a CEO is smart to figure they want to be in a renovated area, what are they saying? They’re saying things like, we want to be where our employees are, and they’re willing to drive into the inner city to do it.”

“In the case of where the Bingham is, it’s actually kind of a hip place to be. It’s a lofted look. What does that mean? It implies a wood floor, typically exposed electrical and duct work. In the suburbs, we hide all that behind dry wall.” How to reach: Burnside Construction Co.,

Lights out

Lighting accounts for 30 percent to 50 percent of a building’s energy use, or about 17 percent of total annual U.S. electricity consumption.

Simply turning off unneeded lights can reduce the amount of energy used for lighting up to 45 percent, according to Bethesda, Md.-based Earth Share. At the same time, using less energy reduces air pollution, global warming and other environmental impacts associated with electricity generation.

In an effort to reduce lighting bills and cut energy costs, more offices are installing occupancy sensors, devices that automatically turn lights on and off in response to the presence of a person in a room.

Most occupancy sensors work in response to motion or sound: infrared sensors detect the infrared radiation — also known as body heat — that people generate, and turn lights on or off depending on whether they detect infrared radiation.

Occupancy sensors are generally installed on ceilings or walls and come with a controllable switch so they can easily be deactivated if necessary.

However, the “old” ways of reducing electricity use still work.

* Turn off lights when leaving a room. Get into the habit of always turning off the lights, even if you are only going to be away for a short time.

* Use low wattage bulbs to save energy.

* Install compact fluorescents. Source: Earth Share,