Conservation Measures

This is a fascinating time to take up the challenge of making a new office a smart green office. Compared to just a few years ago, there are now dozens of informed resources, manufacturers, contractor/builders, and trades people who offer environmentally sound choices for building and finish work. But being green is no longer just an environmental statement for an office, it is also good business, good health, and pleasing surroundings.

The choices YES!/PFN made represent a small number of the growing possibilities. In addition to providing rationale and contacts for the choices we made, there are several general resources listed at the end, each of which can open up worlds of more possibilities.

RECYCLE/RE-USE/REDUCE: Following this first rule of conservation, we dismantled bookcases, desks, and storage units in the old office and reconfigured them to the new, thus reducing the need to purchase new wood in many cases. We also gratefully accepted used (recycled) office furniture that we transformed to our color scheme with paint. The divider systems that came with the furniture allowed us to create flexible individual workspaces, thus eliminating the need to waste money and resources moving walls if our future space needs change.

FLOORS: We wanted a low pile (or no pile) carpet throughout the high traffic areas, and hard impervious surfaces in the bathrooms and kitchenette. We also knew we didn't want to contribute - now or in the future - to the enormous amount of floor covering that ends up in landfills across the country.
CARPETS - Carpets seriously considered were Solenium by Interface, and Earthwise Innovations by Milliken. Both employ impressively sustainable, but quite different approaches to manufacturing carpeting. In the end our choice was made on the basis of a pattern and color that everybody liked. It is the Milliken carpet-tile product that is recycled, super cleaned, retextured, restyled, and redyed. And, of course, recyclable when we are finished with it a long time in the future.
Milliken Carpet: 800-241-4826, ext. 5108
Solenium/Interface: 800-336-0225, ext. 0848
HARD SURFACE - Very low maintenance was a very high priority here. The no-wax floor coverings are tempting, but Vinyl is not biodegradable - it never goes away. Natural linoleum was the answer. Linoleum is made today in the same way it was made when it was first produced over 100 years ago- natural renewable, biodegradable raw materials of linseed oil, pine rosins, wood and cork fiber, and natural pigments.
Forbo Linoleum:

PAINT: Federal regulations to reduce Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) emissions from paint products seek to control the formation of photochemical smog and ground level ozone. Several paint manufacturers are producing lines of low (less than 1 gram/liter) VOC paints. We went with our contractor's recommendation of Horizon paints by Rodda. Other choices might have been the non-toxic AFM/SafeCoat or Best Paint.
Horizon - Rodda: 503-521-4300
AFM/SafeCoat: 619-239-0321
Best Paint: 206-783-9938

LIGHTING: We are fortunate to have lots of the best possible source of light - natural lighting through large windows that are Low-e coated (by the manufacturer) to minimize heat transfer. To complement and augment the natural light - especially on those gray, rainy winter days here in the Northwest - we chose a series of direct/indirect fluorescent pendant fixtures. These are electronic ballasts with two 4-foot T8 tubes that hang down two feet from our ten-foot ceilings. A little over half of the light shines up to reflect off the ceiling and the rest shines down to provide task lighting. This combination makes the space seem light and airy while providing more than enough lumens to work by. The electronic ballasts offer a significant energy savings over the old magnetic ballasts, while eliminating lamp flicker and noise, and each T8 tube provides the equivalent light of an incandescent bulb, but uses less than a quarter of the Watts. We specified the same tube throughout the office to make replacement inventory easy, although this is nearly a moot point since the T8 tubes last and last and last...
There are so many lighting manufacturers that it would take a page of small print to include all the ones that were considered. Start at any lighting store, get some catalogues, and you are off onto an "enlightening" adventure.

RESOURCES: Listed here are some helpful places to start, or get help along the way. We would especially like to acknowledge and thank the Seattle-based Environmental Home Center. They have been helpful in advising and directing us from the beginning.

Environmental Home Center
1724 4th Avenue South
Seattle WA 98134
Green building supplies and furnishings.

Co-op America's National Green Pages
202-872-5307 800-58-GREEN

Department of Energy
DOE-Indoor Air Quality Program
DOE-Lighting Equipment Program

The Harris Directory
A national database directory of recycled, pollution prevention materials for home, office, landscaping.

Green Seal
Publishes the Office Green Buying Guide

No Paywall. No Ads. Just Readers Like You.
You can help fund powerful stories to light the way forward.
Donate Now.