USGBC North Dakota Board Members David Crutchfield, Rodney Bischof and Yao Yu
There are many steps you can make to improve your working environment. Here are some things to think about from the U.S. Green Building Council – North Dakota.
• Access to daylight – Well-designed offices with generous windows and daylighting reduce lighting bills while improving mental health, especially with our short/cold winter days.
• Audits, Benchmarking and Setting Goals – Most utility companies provide general advice or even a customized audit to evaluate an existing building and report on how to reduce energy waste. Some also provide optional programs to purchase renewable energy. Data is key to help guide your office to make and achieve sustainability goals
Metering and tracking utility usage (even from bills) can provide a baseline and track changes over time – and if your space doesn’t have its’ own meters, now is a great time to get them added.
There are online benchmarking tools, such as Arc, that can help in recording data in energy use, water use, waste generated, transportation and the human experience (a.k.a. what is it like to work in the space). Visit arcskoru.com to learn more.
• Building Certification – A building that is LEED-certified provides an internationally recognized third-party verification on green buildings. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. More info can be found at new.usgbc.org/leed.
• Energy Reduction – Use the data to determine areas where energy reduction can occur. This can be accomplished by using LED lighting or more energy-efficient heating and cooling systems like geothermal heat pumps (ghp). Research of North Dakota facilities shows this reduces actual energy use by an average of 23 percent in the 24 buildings studied.
• Water Use Reduction – Check the plumbing fixtures to see if they are low-flow or water-reducing fixtures. Looking for the EPA WaterSense Certification is a good start. Also, look at the landscaping around the office and try to choose native species of plants or drought-tolerant species to reduce – or eliminate – the need for an irrigation system.
Make ‘corporate social responsibility’ (CSR) a part of your business mission and ethic. If possible, designate a knowledgeable and enthusiastic sustainability officer or committee to develop team consensus on related goals and strategies. Establish the goals and priorities that fit your company (this is where the data comes in handy). Then systematically integrate them into the office and business culture. Measure efforts and then celebrate your successes. Recognition for various goals achieved or special team/personal efforts goes a long way. It also provides an opportunity to proudly promote your efforts.
To better achieve your sustainability goals, everyone in the office will have to help.
• Waste Reduction – What does your office throw away – and how much? Completing a trash/waste audit can provide this data and can show where improvements can be made – maybe to accomplish a goal of zero waste so that trash is diverted from landfills.
• Energy Use Reduction – Reduce energy waste (and overhead) in the office by doing some simple things, such as turning off lights (maybe by changing to automatic light controls) and turn off computers or other electronic equipment when not in use, especially since they produce excess heat.
• Transportation – Encourage alternative transportation options, such as walking or cycling, and consider rewarding behavior changes, such as providing free bus passes, electric vehicle charging stations or preferred parking for carpools or electric vehicles.
4. Health and Wellness
Provide (and incentivize) healthy snack or drink alternatives for breaks. Provide water filling stations and encourage the use of reusable containers. Reward walking at lunch or breaks when reasonable (this is Fargo after all). Ask if your insurance plans provide incentives for health/exercise programs or other preventative care.
5. Materials and Waste
The elegant simplicity of the 3R’s (reduce, reuse and recycle) still applies. When making office renovations or purchases, consider the upstream and downstream life-cycle impacts of the products purchased. Where do they come from? (Are they made regionally?) How durable are they? What happens to them someday? Can you utilize pre-owned items (like cars)? Do they give off-gas toxins (like volatile organic compounds) into the office (adhesives in furnishings and cabinets, printers, paints, etc.)? Can you donate things that have reached the end of their usefulness?