Go ‘Green’ for Spring: Guidelines for a Sustainable Office

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Spring is in the air, Earth Day is around the corner and we (the Varsity team) are happily settling into our new office in downtown San Francisco. This seems to be the perfect time to share some more details about creating our new space. We hope to demonstrate that it is a doable process – you don’t have to do everything at once – little by little it is possible to make great improvements. Perhaps we will even spark ideas for some ‘green’ projects for you and your organization to tackle this summer! Before we begin, let’s be honest; designing a green office is no small task. We worried that because it isn’t the way things are “typically done,” we would face a lot of opposition. But with a little planning, strategizing, and communication we were able to achieve our goals. We researched guidelines and regulations for green construction and design, and tracked down organizations in the Bay Area and beyond who practice sustainability and support other sustainable organizations, and we worked with them to design our new office. We know how hard it can be to find the right sources and to even know where to begin. By sharing our experience and highlighting some key elements in our design process, we hope to make it a little easier for you to bring elements of ‘green’ into your office. We hope that you will find this information to be helpful and valuable in your mission to operate in a greener environment. Building basics and guidelines: 

Our ultimate goal in designing our new office was to reduce our carbon footprint and consumption, and we wanted to achieve these goals in an aesthetically pleasing and affordable way. In terms of construction and design, it was very important to not only meet Title 24 requirements (and for our building to as well), but also to be sure that we were doing things in accordance with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) regulations. From the website: As an internationally recognized mark of excellence, LEED provides building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions. 

Cradle to Cradle is another important area of sustainability to be aware of. Simply put, it is a framework for obtaining services and products that are environmentally and socially responsible, with the goal of increasing “eco-effectiveness.” We put this framework at the forefront of the construction and design of our office, and in sourcing our furniture.

Therefore, when looking at products we wanted to be sure that everything met our standards, was sourced sustainably, and also met FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) regulations. For example, we sourced some of our furniture from Room & Board whose products are sourced sustainably from the United States and can be recycled. With our goals for how to construct and uphold the sustainability aspects of our new office in place, we knew of course that we had to find a building that was onboard with our efforts. The Archstone Fox Plaza building was already compliant with the state standards for composting, recycling, and Title 24. Some additional features that attracted us to this building are the computer-controlled elevators – which allows for maximized efficiency and less energy, use of green vendors, reclaimed water, fluorescent lighting, and easy accessibility to sustainable transportation. Our goal was to find a space that encouraged people to think differently about how they are getting to the office and to offer some better transportation options. We accomplished this. There are 12 Zipcars in the garage below the building, with everything from large vans to economy cars. Muni and BART are minutes from our office, and there is even a dedicated ‘green bike lane.’ This encourages people to get Clipper Passes and change the way they get to work, including walking and biking, thus creating a healthier company.

Our downtown location also means that we are more accessible to clients, vendors, and anyone who wants to pop in for a visit. It’s an exciting time for our neighborhood as it is growing and close to farmers markets, the Civic Center, and not to mention our soon-to-be neighbors, Twitter!