October 20, 2004HOW TO GREEN YOUR ARCHITECTURE (OR OTHER) FIRM The can-do spirit of presenters Meredith Elbaum of Sasaki and Jason Abbey of New York-based Fox & Fowle Architects at GreenHomeNYC’s October forum was contagious. Both presenters shared how they have worked to green their firms and projects through education, demonstration, and recreation. Audience members left ready to green their places of employment.
SASAKI AND ASSOCIATES
Note: You can download the Sasaki & Associates powerpoint presentation here. (File size is approximately 8 mb) The interdisciplinary nature of Sasaki as well as the firmâ€™s history and culture set the stage for Ms. Elbaum to start and grow Sasaki Green – the initiative to educate employees on how they can reduce their environmental impact both through their actions and their projects. Sasaki Green aims to infuse green building practices into the firmâ€™s projects by focusing on the companyâ€™s operations to, leading by example, and empowering professionals with information on the process, resources, research, and education to put green building into practice. Learning how to lead by example requires employees to reflect on their day-to-day actions and office environment and ask
- How much energy do we use?
- What is the quality of our indoor environment?
- What is the impact of our daily commute?
- What is our impact on our site?
- What do we purchase?
- How much waste do we produce?
- What do we need to know?
- What resources are available?
- Within our processes, what needs to change?
- What research is available to help us figure out what can we do?
FOX AND FOWLE
Jason Abbey of Fox & Fowle, a well-known green leader in NYC, has also started a green initiative within his firm to green the culture, practices, and projects of the firm. The first step, he explains, is to get organized. He recruited other interested employees and started Team Green at Fox & Fowle with the aim of educating the firm on green products and design through sharing ideas, trying new products at the office, and bringing in speakers. The appreciation of the benefits of green design has spread throughout the office, as approximately 50 percent of the office is LEED accredited to date and the green education process continues with regular seminars. As part of getting organized, Abbey suggests staying up to date on green building news by subscribing the various publications and websites as well as getting involved with local groups include the local United States Green Building Council (USGBC), the USGBC Emerging Green Builders, AIA COTE, and EBANYS. The Green Team works to keep the other informed of new research or information learned. Similar to Sasaki, Fox & Fowle has a website dedicated to green resources for employees and clients. The website includes projects built to sustainable guidelines, regional information, and possible funding opportunities through NYSERDA and NOAA. Fox & Fowleâ€™s office initiatives are impressive in terms of number and scope. Best of all, there are replicable in most firms, others more easily than others. The initiatives go beyond education and reducing energy and water consumption to include:
- Bringing plants with clean air properties to the office to improve the indoor air quality
- Purchasing green power
- Use of public transit
- Purchasing green cleaning products such as Sun & Earth
- Purchasing other green products such as Marcal paper products
- Paper recycling
- Office composting (on the roof in corn starch bio-degradable bags)
- Avoiding wasting energy after-hours
- Involvement in environmental action groups
- Green investment for company 401k plan
- Attending conferences and conventions
- Green newsletter
- Choose green hotels when traveling
- Buy energy efficient office equipment
- Buy secondhand office furniture
- Develop a plan to reduce carbon emissions
- Offset environmental impacts
- Use eco-friendly pest control
- Resource management
Q & A
Q: How do you deal with in-house resistance to the green initiatives? A: You must understand what the issues those who are resistant have and address those issues. Bring in product experts and increase education opportunities to correct misconceptions. When an idea is a good one, it is quite easy to make your point strong enough because you are right. Remember, small steps lead to big steps and eventually you will find fewer and fewer resistant folks. It is easy to get started. Start small. Both Sasaki and Fox & Fowle started their Green Teams through small lunchtime gatherings. The small steps then steamroll and you attract more people and can get a budget. It costs nothing to start a Green Team and it never hurts to ask supervisors if you can start one and eventually if you can have a small budget. Q: Do clients come to you because you are green or vice versa? A: Both. Some clients have no idea what green building is. Some clients come specifically because of the firmâ€™s green experience. Having in-house knowledge and experience of green building strategies, which really is high performance building, is definitely a positive marketing tool. This is especially true in attracting cultural institutions and college campuses where donors and students are demanding more environmentally-sensitive development.