The move to using less space is only one reason it's easier than in the past to create green office space. Another factor is that the market has shifted, so that there are a wide range of green options for things like carpet, paints and lighting that are increasingly available at no extra charge. So, when planning a new or renovated space, experts say facility managers can count on a certain level of sustainability being built in from the start.
What's more, programs like LEED for Commercial Interiors have helped by setting a standard companies can use in leased space as either a baseline or a target for their own sustainable goals.
Another factor that helps contribute to green efforts, even if they do end up costing a little more: corporate culture. Facility managers are no longer acting in an organizational vacuum when they lead the charge for sustainable office design.
"Part of that is due to the fact that companies are much smarter, and many companies do have their own sustainable point of view," says Melissa Mizell, senior associate, Gensler. "You get to the point where it's so embedded into who they are that when it does come time to make some difficult choices, (sustainability) will stay in there. It's going to be different for every company, but it's really important to create that list (of strategies) that's tied to either who they are or what their goals are."
One aspect of this culture change is that organizations are recognizing that it can be worth paying a premium for some green products because sustainability offers long-term cost savings.
"Everybody's first impulse is to assume that you have to put any sort of sustainability measures on hold because everyone's in cost-saving mode, but I think that's too simplistic a way to look at it," says Mizell.
But despite progress in making some sustainable practices widespread, Tom Polucci, director of interiors, HOK, says there's room for improvement.
"It's great that we have a baseline — 'yay, society, we got there,' right? — but it's not enough," he says. "It's not enough that your carpet's got recycled content. There has to be more to the process. We still have to save energy; we still have to think about the quality of the spaces as it impacts people living in them and working in them."
— Casey Laughman
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