It has been just over a month since we started our green initiative around the office. We have focused on changing our daily routines and product usage. To date, we have been quite successful. Yes, there have been a few naysayers but most everyone is pitching in.
Greening the Office Accomplishments:
- Recycling program in conjunction with Recycle Ann Arbor. We now collect, sort and deliver white paper, mixed paper, newspaper, magazines, books, cardboard, plastic, and styrofoam.
- Electronic recycling with Recycle Ann Arbor and Best Buy. Best Buy will accept our old monitors, computers, etc for a $10 fee but they give us a $10 gift card.
- We have been in the process of switching out lighting throughout the office with compact fluorescent light bulbs. The only notable difference is in our main conference room – the existing dimmer switches are no longer effective.
- Normal copier and printer paper (letter, legal, ledger and letterhead) have been replaced with recycled paper products. Not are we being environmentally friendly, the cost per ream of paper has been reduced by about $0.25.
- Additionally, we have set the default on our copiers to the duplex setting. Multi-page documents will be printed on two sides unless otherwise changed by the user.
- As our existing cleaning supplies have dwindled and needed to be replaced, we have switched to green cleaning supplies for the carpets, bathrooms, windows, and countertops/surfaces.
- We have also switched to recycled paper products for napkins, paper towels, and toilet paper.
Hopefully, we are just beginning and can sustain the current momentum. Other changes we are looking at include: motion sensor light switches, recycled paper for a large format printing, and more. Please leave a comment if you have other ideas that have worked at your office.
The amount of attention that “Green” building and design has received lately has really made it seem that going green is a new concept. It has actually been around in some form or another since probably well before I was born, but in today’s world the items that were new back then are so commonplace these days that no one realizes just how important and green they are.
Renewable energy such as geothermal, wind and solar while getting larger headlines today has been around for over 2 decades. Iceland is poised to become the first country that does not use a single fossil fuel for its energy production or vehicle transportation. Turning an entire country over to renewables didn’t happen over night and has been slowly taking place for years. Elsewhere in Europe green roofs have become incredibly commonplace in Germany and wind farms have now moved offshore as opposed to being located on solid ground.
These green elements are only now gaining such interest in the US because of the increase in fuel prices. What has become commonplace in Europe is only now beginning to scratch the surface in the US. And things that have become commonplace in the US are often ignored because they’re not a 200 meter tall wind turbine that is easily noticeable.
How many people drive past a detention basin or retention pond and only see a water feature that is an aesthetic focal point for a property? They don’t even realize that detaining runoff and using sediment forebays helps a project to qualify for 2 LEED-NC credits and has a large impact on the water quality and quantity that eventually exits the site. They help to prevent runoff from further degrading the water system downstream of a development.
Using lighter colored materials for paving and roofing, native plant species that don’t require sprinklers and limiting the extent of new grading for a project are all ways of making a development more green and no one even realizes it. All of these types of practices are used everytime a new project is started here. I can remember the first ever engineering work I did was for a detention basin. This was before I had even started any of my engineering classes where I learned the what, where, when, why and how of environmental design. Once I did take those classes I was able to understand the full impact of a detention basin, but it is something that has been around awhile and no one gives second thought about.
Green planning and engineering is nothing new to MCLLC and has been occurring for years. This is partially because it is required by many review agencies, but it is also because it often makes sense from both a design perspective and for a client’s pocket book. A project may not have anything as noticeable as a wind turbine, but that doesn’t mean there are other elements to making the project green.
On July 20, 2009 the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) announced that they had received Platinum certification for their new headquarters under the new Version 3.0 requirements for Commercial Interiors (CI). Under these requirements the new building received credit for 94 credits out of a possible 110 total, far exceeding the required 80 credits necessary to achieve the Platinum rating. And of particular note was the compliance with all 11 Water Efficiency credits and 36/37 Energy and Atmosphere credits.
The LEED-CI section of design is interesting because it focuses on re-using what is existing and it can furthermore have an impact on occupied buildings. While most building owners/tenants will not try to achieve LEED-CI certification much can still be done to have a positive impact on the environment. Such small things as changing fluorescent light bulbs to energy efficient LED’s or other bulbs can not only save in the pockets of the users but consume less energy and thus reducing power demands which can lead to fewer green house gas emissions. While lighting is one of the simplest and most apparent ways to go Green for existing buildings there are countless others. These can include replacing old single non-insulated windows to save on heating and cooling costs, replacing regular toilets with low flow models to reduce water usage, or using paints and floorings that have low VOC counts to increase indoor air quality. The list goes on and on. While some of these are obviously more expensive to the owner than others, even the smallest change can have a large impact in the long run.
By not only using an existing building and thus reducing the use of raw land and virgin material, but also attaining such a high level of certification the USGBC has shown that they not only talk the talk but also walk the walk. In trying to do the same Midwestern Consulting has begun our own small Green practices of replacing light bulbs with energy efficient ones and re-using office supplies rather than purchasing brand new. While these may not seem to make a large impact if everyone in the world did the same the change would be noticeable.
To learn more about the new USGBC headquarters click here.