A Dozen Tips for the Total Greening of Your Business
During the past several years, the word "green" has taken on new meaning and usage as it has quickly entered the business vernacular in its many forms.
What was once strictly an adjective has quickly evolved into a noun and verb as we use green to describe everything from household products to office buildings to the process of becoming more environmentally responsible.
What does it mean to design and operate a business in the era of green?
To that end, executives from the real estate, legal, technology and design services industries recently joined together for "The Green Symposium; Your office in the Era of Green." The event was hosted by Howard Ecker + Company and panelists from Gensler, Workplace2go, Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber, Schreck, LLP and Ecker Green headed up a focused discussion on new ways to think about locating, planning and tech-ing, and living in office environments in the era of green.
As one of the panelists, the following is my take on the key takeaways from the discussion:
- The time is now for companies to start thinking about sustainable practices. It isn't something we are going to see coming in the future. It is already happening.
- Businesses that align their practices with core values, such as sustainability, are often better positioned to recruit and retain employees. 58 percent of people working in office environments are under the age of 44 (bureau of labor statistics), placing them in the Millennial and Gen X demographic categories. A business's sustainability practices are increasingly important to people within this age group.
- Energy aware real estate strategies, space selection and efficient design can cut energy costs and increase work productivity and employee retention.
- Reducing total energy use by 40 percent (average Energy Star Building reduction) would net savings of $1 a day per employee.
- While LEED-certified buildings are designed to perform based on a set of prescriptive data, it's how you live and occupy the space after the building is built that will ultimately decide the buildings performance. How you live and occupy your space also defines and demonstrates your commitment to the environment and the health of your organization.
- Computers are proliferating and it appears growth will continue to be exponential. Computers use a great deal of power and disposal is a big problem. Server consolidation or cloud computing will reduce a company's carbon footprint and save a lot of money.
- Employees are often looking for a better work/life balance and telecommuting accomplishes this objective and at the same time improves productivity and the bottom line.
- Avoid seeking the elusive environmental "silver bullet." It doesn't exist. It's essential to look out for opportunities to use less. If an asset doesn't improve customer service or productivity, get rid of it.
- Design performance is all about beginning to research strategies on how to measure from four primary drivers: emotional, cultural, economic and environmental. The most important thing to do is to develop an understanding of space utilization and design accordingly.
- The regulatory environment surrounding green building will change drastically in the next year or two, from a market-driven, locally-regulated environment, to a mandated, federally-regulated one.
- Cities and counties, armed with federal funding and resources, are adopting climate change plans and regulations and are not waiting for federal direction, but are moving forward with a wide variety of programs and regulations.
- Developers and building owners who are considering green construction practices or retrofit projects now will be ahead of this regulatory curve.
Carrie Langford is a green advisor at Ecker Green, a business unit of Howard Ecker + Company that focuses on providing green office services to commercial office tenants.
Images of highrise CC-licensed by Flickr user OiMax.