Contract - April 2011 - (Page 24)

practice 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 24 contract april 2011

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Contract - April 2011

Contract - April 2011
Table of Contents
Editor's Note
Resources: Nature Inspired
Focus: A Difficult Birth
Practice: From the Inside Out
Pure Spirit
Sensory Experience
Market Watch
Sibling Revelry
Screening Sophistication
Winter Wonderland
Full of Grace
Designers Rate
Ad Index

Contract - April 2011