Contract - April 2011 - (Page 24)
from the inside out
Greening your practice is an ongoing process of evaluation and reﬁnement, rather than a one-time action
By Jonah Cohen, AIA, THA Architecture Inc.
Now that green design and LEED certiﬁcation are household terms, architects and interior designers are, by necessity, more ﬂuent than ever in sustainable design strategies. But how well are we walking the talk? Firms of all sizes increasingly are putting their businesses under the microscope and asking how they can do more to align their practices with their design principles. While ﬁrms entering this new territo of greening their practices can choose a variety of paths, some helpful guidelines are emerging. Thanks to municipal programs and simple pragmatism, basic practices such as recycling and the use of energy-eﬃcient lighting are second nature for most businesses. Many ﬁrms go a few steps further, replacing paper cups with mugs, purchasing environmentally friendly oﬃce supplies, and allowing for telecommuting. But realizing meaningful reductions in a business’ carbon footprint requires a deeper commitment and, o en, outside assistance. If there is one point to make about greening your practice, however, it is that the beneﬁts for your business—in terms of oﬃce morale, cost savings, and marketing—will clearly outweigh the investment.
In 2001, THA bought and renovated the historic Balfour Guthrie building in Portland, Ore., for its oﬃce, which has achieved LEED Silver certiﬁcation (above, photo by Lara Swimmer).
meeting travel). We also own our LEED Silver–certiﬁed historic oﬃce building, which gave us much broader control over building operations. Climate Smart’s training and Web-based tools helped us document and calculate our GHG emissions for 2009 and to identify strategies for further reducing our carbon footprint. Not surprisingly, we found that business travel, though mostly limited to the West Coast region, comprised more than half of our emissions. We achieved carbonbalanced status by purchasing carbon oﬀsets through San Franciscobased TerraPass, but we clearly had room for improvement. We saw this challenge as an opportunity to engage the entire oﬃce and to further cultivate the leadership of the younger staﬀ members who had guided the initiative from the outset. Our sustainable design team mapped out a year-long action plan that included encouraging car-free commuting, composting, implementing sustainable purchasing practices, and further reducing our use of energy, water, oﬃce supplies and air travel. Of course, there have been some bumps in the road—for example, convincing architects to replace their preferred pens with a reﬁllable alternative or weighing the environmental costs of tablet readers, a quickly outdated device, against printing on recycled paper. But when we recalculate our
Aiming Lower and Lower
Documenting a business’ practices is essential for setting goals and assessing progress, and while free online tools exist, third-party programs can save time and give added credibility. Programs va from a checklist of green practices to detailed analysis, both audited and not, and many include indust benchmarking that recognizes, for example, the diﬀering water demands of hotels and oﬃces. In addition to considering program costs, which range from none to thousands of dollars, we were interested in obtaining solid data about our emissions since our goal was to be carbon balanced. We chose to work with Climate Smart, a Vancouver, Canada–based company that helps businesses monitor, reduce and oﬀset their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. As a close-knit, medium-sized ﬁrm, we already had a range of sustainable business practices in place, including making notebooks from used paper, providing bicycle facilities, holding family-style oﬃce lunches (to reduce packaging waste), and Web conferencing (to reduce
contract april 2011
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Contract - April 2011
Contract - April 2011
Table of Contents
Resources: Nature Inspired
Focus: A Difficult Birth
Practice: From the Inside Out
Full of Grace
Contract - April 2011