Taking the LEED
Since then, thousands of companies and communities worldwide have sought and received LEED certification. This is the story of two of them.
The Christman Company
In the summer of 2006, Steve Roznowski, CEO of The Christman Company, looked at an over 75-year-old building on North Capitol Avenue and “kind of fell in love with it,” according to Gavin Gardi, Christman’s sustainable programs manager. Roznowski saw a diamond in the rough, and after Christman’s people invested a year into design work and seven months into refurbishment, the diamond began to shine.
Today, as the only triple LEED-certified building in the world (yes, the world), Christman’s headquarters is a prime example of the right way to go green. Whether it’s the building’s dozen recycling programs, indoor air quality control program, buying green office supplies or using a magnesium chloride product instead of salt on its icy sidewalks, Gardi says they “use a sustainable filter whenever we make decisions.” As a construction management company that is typically brought on board during the design phases of a project, Christman’s people “encourage people to be as sustainable as they can” in all phases of construction, he says.
When clients consider going green, Roznowski says that the typical first question is: “How much extra is this going to cost me?” This was the “primary reason we put the effort into our own building,” he says. “It gives us great empathy. We’re spending our own money and have to rationalize [the expense].” Additionally, because LEED’s been around for over 15 years, there are a lot of case studies showing what the additional costs are, and what the benefits to their clients might be.
“We encourage our clients to use what we call an integrated design approach, where everyone is around the table… talking about the whole building and all the various elements so that decisions are made holistically rather than in a linear fashion,” Gardi explains. “When we do that, we find that a high-performance building doesn’t have to cost any more, or not much more, than a normal, old-fashioned building would.”
Furthermore, Roznowski says that thinking green “just makes too much sense. It’s too logical.” Why? “The cost of operations in a building far exceeds first cost. We can’t design [buildings] in a vacuum and not think about the 40 years after it’s constructed.”
As a self-proclaimed “raving capitalist,” Roznowski said that at first blush it may seem that he and “raving environmentalist” Gardi might clash when it comes to matters of a green nature. However, they’ve discovered that moving in a green direction makes business sense. As Roznowski concludes. “We set out to build ourselves a nice new headquarters and [it] ended up being a real learning experience for us. We think that it definitely helped us understand the position our clients are in now and helped us figure out how to get the LEED sustainable processes into the construction process to where it works economically.”
Peckham Vocational Industries, Inc.
In the process of designing their new manufacturing facility near Capital Region International Airport, Mitch Tomlinson, CEO of Peckham, and Corporate Vice President Jo Sinha met—naturally—with the architect. But there were others on hand; namely, Peckham’s team members (i.e., its employees). Why? “We [wanted to] make sure we captured what the folks working here wanted and what was important to them,” Sinha says. Calling their input “critical,” Peckham’s management and the architect held several town hall style meetings. Because a majority of Peckham’s team members have some sort of physical, mental or developmental disability, taking the time to listen to the workers was “a great learning experience.”
It paid off: Recently, the building was certified LEED silver, one of only 12 manufacturing facilities in the nation to be so designated. One of the building’s more interesting features is what they call “we” space instead of “I” space. They have shrunk the individual space, made open flexible work stations, and used the freed space to “create more common space,” Sinha explains, including a fitness and workout area, wellness area, and “connections zone,” something they likened to the “proverbial water cooler.” The facility also includes a “peace room”—a non-denominational space for prayer, meditation and relaxation which grew out of listening to the workers.
Another exciting feature: daylight! Even though Lansing is notoriously cloudy, skylights and solar shades on the manufacturing floor bring controlled natural light to the workplace. “When we first moved in,” Tomlinson says, “we talked to a lot of the workers [who said], ‘it’s so great to work in light.’”
Other LEED points were scored outside the building. Because a large percentage of team members use public transportation, Peckham was able to reduce the size of its parking lot and use the space for “different types of transportation solutions,” says Sinha. Spec-Tran has a different driveway, allowing its riders to stay safely away from auto traffic. Add a snow-melt system for the sidewalks which reduces trips and falls (of critical importance given the workforce) and it’s easy to see why green is their favorite color.
An open house held prior to the commencement of manufacturing was a huge success, as workers got to experience the building before the staff did. “The results have been great,” Tomlinson adds. “The workers [take] a great deal of pride in where they work.” One worker who has been employed in a number of manufacturing environments said that “for the first time in 30 years he was proud enough [of where he worked] to bring his wife and kids in.”Creating a building that Tomlinson calls “respectful to the workers” has paid off on the balance sheet also, as Peckham has nearly doubled its manufacturing business. While he wouldn’t say it’s all due to the new building, “it’s certainly helped.”