Thursday, July 29, 2010

Interview with Sara Graham, HOK's Firmwide Sustainability Manager

Sara Graham has a particularly challenging job managing HOK's ever-expanding knowledge base on the subject of sustainability. How she stays sane I have no idea. But to say that she is an informed subject for an interview on sustainability trends is an understatement. Here's what she has to say about


Q: What is your current role at your organization?
A: Firmwide Sustainability Manager – focusing on knowledge management, practice leadership and sustainable reporting.

Q: What would you say are current “trends” when it comes to organizations adopting green strategies or principles?
A: Starting 10 years ago, leaders in the field were jumping on the LEED bandwagon – it’s been hard work, but finally LEED has now become relatively commonplace (as well as other rating systems worldwide). What is becoming increasingly important today is performance – of a building, of employees, of a company. Standard metrics are being defined for a whole host of topics to help the general public, employees, potential clients and investors truly understand how a company is performing in any given area.

Q: How have recent legislation or corporate/federal mandates changed the way your organization addresses environmental issues?
A: Legislated mandates are definitely helping to rapidly establish many sustainable goals. Whereas sustainability has gotten fairly far over the last 10 years on interest alone, the rest of the market is now paying attention because they have to.

Q: What green / sustainability-related project are you working on now that you are most proud of?
A: I spend much of my time collecting and reporting energy and carbon performance data for HOK’s projects and our own offices – as modeled in design and as performing in real time. Energy efficiency certainly isn’t the only important element to sustainable design, however, it does present an extremely useful benchmark in understanding how a variety of systems work (or don’t work!) together.

I am also presently working on a campaign to recognize leaders in sustainability across HOK – see our series on HOK Life!

Q: What has inhibited you or your organization from making more progress on the sustainability front?
A: Until recently, it really has been a cost and effort issue for many of our clients. Now that sustainability is being mandated for more and more markets, we are obviously seeing an uptick in demand.

Q: What advice would you give others in your position trying to make a difference for the environment?
A: A colleague of mine uses this phrase often and it definitely rings true for me just about every day – “You can’t change what you don’t measure.” Clients are increasingly wanting more assurance that buildings are performing as designed.

Q: What is your favorite source for sustainability/environmental trends or information?
A: For design issues, Buildinggreen.com is tops. For general sustainability issues, I try to get my information from a variety of sources – stories of every kind and from every angle are out there. Mostly NPR, email-delivered newsletters and RSS feeds and even Facebook!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Interview with Chris Hood, Hewlett Packard

Chris Hood has overall design responsibility for Hewlett Packard's global office portfolio. He's got his fingers in all kinds of major projects and initatives, and is particularly insightful and passionate when it comes to sustainability.


Q: What would you say are current “trends” when it comes to organizations adopting green strategies or principles?
A: Increasing interest and participation but still a great deal of standing on the sidelines due to unfavorable timelines for ROI in making changes to improve performance. Most initiatives still seem to be project lead with emphasis on LEED certification (in the United States) and less on systemic project focus on a whole range of actionable environmentally sound design and implementation practices. Building operations seem to support a limited number of green initiatives but there is lots of room for improvement (recycling, energy reductions etc.)

Q: How have recent legislation or corporate/federal mandates changed the way your organization addresses environmental issues?
A: Not yet. We believe we are trying to take a leadership position and get ahead of any government mandated programs

Q: What green / sustainability-related project are you working on now that you are most proud of?
A: There are two: one is the very aggressive reduction in space that we are currently making. Getting rid of space is the most effective thing we can do to improve our overall carbon footprint. The second is to introduce a sustainable design checklist for use in each and every project across the company. This gives us a scorecard for every project and a natural focus for improving performance over time. The checklist is ultimately practical and does not carry the burden of proof which formal certification systems (such as LEED) require, but nonetheless does cause us to “do the right thing.”

Q: What has inhibited you or your organization from making more progress on the sustainability front?
A: Simply the burden on precious resources (incremental capital and the extra demands on the time of very busy people). Despite that we are making strong progress.
Q: What advice would you give others in your position trying to make a difference for the environment?
Don’t be hamstrung by the arduous process of formal certification of green building programs: just do the right thing, regardless. Much of the certification process does not actually add any environmental value, it simply proves what has been already been done. Surely this is the most important thing. The bragging rights for high level certification are something we can largely do without. Especially when some of the measurement criteria are flawed and incite the wrong behavior.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Walking & Biking...It's for Real!

Check out an awesome infographic in GOOD that shows the increase of bicycling and pedestrian activity, as well as the increase in investments for bicycle and pedestrian-friendly projects:


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Interview with Anica Landreneau, Sustainable Design Practice Leader with HOK, Washington DC

Anica Landreneau is a regular blogger for The Green Workplace and a real dynamo at HOK. It's incredible she has the time to blog given her reponsibilities... stewarding hundreds of LEED Certification projects across our practice, helping elevate sustainable thinking at the firm and writing green policies for the General Services Administration, the District of Columbia and others. Here are some of her thoughts...


Q: What is your current role at your organization?
A: Sustainable Design Practice Leader at HOK. My team has both internal clients (design teams at HOK) for whom we provide sustainable design guidance, and external clients (e.g. GSA, DC government, private companies) for whom we provide guidelines, policies, implementation strategies and tools.

Q: How have recent legislation or corporate/federal mandates changed the way your organization addresses environmental issues?
A: Sustainability is no longer a feel-good option. It is mandated by law or driven by market demand to a point of contractual obligation. Every project we work on has sustainable targets. This means that the workforce in this market is starting to be pretty knowledgeable about green buildings. This translates to building occupants starting to know more about how the built environment can be green and asking about workplace behavior and practices that they can employ to do their part.

Q: What green / sustainability-related project are you working on now that you are most proud of?
A: We’re developing educational materials for the U.S. Green Building Council on how to green existing schools. It’s a tremendous feeling to think we’ll be indirectly improving the learning environment for students all over the U.S. through our work. Most jurisdictions have tighter budgets right now and there aren’t a lot of new schools going up. We’re addressing the millions and millions of square feet of all those old, unhealthy and inefficient schools out there!!

Q: What has inhibited you or your organization from making more progress on the sustainability front?
A: A lot of our owners don’t want to be the first project to try something new (or new in the market region) so there is a perceived barrier to adoption for new products, materials, and technologies. Our industry also tends to worry about trying new materials out on a building if we haven’t seen them in performance on another building for 20-30 years! This makes what we do as individuals – through changes in our behavior – even more important since we can have an immediate impact while the market is slower to adopt new technology.

Q: What advice would you give others in your position trying to make a difference for the environment?
A: Keep at it and savor the small victories!! This is a social movement and sometimes just influencing a small number of people or projects in small ways has enormous impact over time. it’s easy to get frustrated when we think we’re not getting enough done – but every new project is a new opportunity to go a little further. It adds up!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Interview with Craig Arnold, Real Estate at BMW

Craig Arnold, responsible for Real Estate Building Projects in Americas for BMW, shared with us some insights about sustainability at BMW...


Q: What would you say are current “trends” when it comes to organizations adopting green strategies or principles?
A: We recently added an Energy Manager position to my department. The real cost of energy today and the in the future coupled with the opportunities to pursue alternative energy makes this a viable position with a substantial ROI. The Energy Manager is responsible for all direct and indirect energy consumption meaning he has input into the suppliers we choose based on their energy practices. Progressive companies are learning about new opportunities but trying to chase these with the existing staff. A dedicated professional charged exclusively with developing the energy strategy is a current trend for large companies.

Q: What green / sustainability-related project are you working on now that you are most proud of?
A: Even in South Carolina where our electrical energy is one of the cheapest in the country we have been able to use landfill Methane Gas to generate our own electricity and save millions of dollars annually. It has been a huge win for the financial and environmental departments without artificial sources of funding, assistance or external incentive to do so.

Q: What has inhibited you or your organization from making more progress on the sustainability front?
A: Our largest facility is in South Carolina with substantial but smaller facilities on the West coast and Northeast. The availability of inexpensive energy is both a blessing and a curse for our South Carolina facility. Our global sustainability targets are based on consumption. Justification for energy per/unit reductions often comes with a conflicting budget target. You can imagine an energy saving project in Europe making perfect sense on all fronts (consumption, budget) while in the South Carolina the project cannot fly with an energy rate as little as one third the European rate.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Interview with Melissa Perlman, Public Relations at Office Depot

We interviewed Melissa for The Green Workplace book a while back and took the opportunity to find out more of what Office Depot is doing today...

Q: What is your current role at your organization?
A: Manager of Public Relations, Office Depot. In my role, I focus on developing messaging, materials and programs to highlight Office Depot’s environmental initiatives to a variety of stakeholders, including media, associates and customers. Some examples include Office Depot’s annual Corporate Citizenship Report (www.officedepot.com/corporatecitizenship ), the Environmental Website (www.officedepot.com/environment ) and press materials (available at http://mediarelations.officedepot.cc/environment and http://socialpressofficedepot.com/environmental-initiatives/ ).

Q: What green / sustainability-related project are you working on now that you are most proud of?
A. In recognition of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22, 2010, Office Depot joined with the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce to launch the Office Depot “Green Office Makeover Contest.” With the contest, Office Depot was looking to identify and reward the businesses taking actions to be green. Entrants were asked to submit an official entry with essays related to their achievements in the area of environmental sustainability. We received a number of entries from small and medium sized businesses (Office Depot’s primary customer base) in the South Florida market and utilized a judging panel to choose a winner and two runners-up. The winner of the Office Depot Green Office Makeover Contest received a prize package worth over $4,000, including greener office furniture, technology, supplies, and a consultation with Office Depot’s Director of Environmental Strategy.

This program garnered local and national attention and did a fantastic job to highlight what businesses are doing and can do to reduce their environmental footprints and save money at the same time. Office Depot received feedback from chambers and other organizations across the country hoping to roll-out the program with their respective constituents – and we are looking to do just that!

Q: What advice would you give others in your position trying to make a difference for the environment?
A: It is critical that professionals in the communications field are aware of what their companies are doing to be green first and foremost. At Office Depot, I spend a significant amount of time talking about how Office Depot is implementing green practices in our own operations (i.e. building LEED certified stores, piloting fuel-efficient vehicles for deliveries, purchasing and using recycled paper and other supplies in our facilities, etc.) Once it is clear that Office Depot is taking the steps to increasingly buy green and be green, we can talk about how we are selling green to our customers…and how we can help them be green (and of course save green)! Some of those latter conversations incorporate Office Depot’s selection of 9,200 products with environmental attributes, variety of environmental solutions (tech recycling, ink and toner cartridge recycling, tech trade-in, etc), and our catalog of green products (The Green Book). Customers can learn more at www.officedepot.com/greeneroffice .

Interview with Colin Rohfling, Sustainable Design Leader with HOK Chicago

Colin Rohfling, Sustainable Design Leader at HOK Chicago, has many talents and made significant contributions to the design and building industry. Not the least of which was his critical role in facilitating the LEED NC Platinum Certification of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia. For those of you who doubt you can save significant amounts of water and energy in tough climates, think again. Colin took a few minutes out of his very busy day to share with us some thoughts about the state of sustainable design:


Q: How have recent legislation or corporate/federal mandates changed the way your organization addresses environmental issues?
A: They have made my presence necessary in every one of our (HOK's) marketing meetings. Whether the sustainable scope of a project is minimal or comprehensive, there is always a sustainable project requirement mentioned in the majority of RFPs that we receive.

Q: What green / sustainability-related project are you working on now that you are most proud of?
A: I am most excited about my projects that have the potential to influence the future of their particular industries and locations. They are exemplar projects or large scale and complex program. These characteristics have typically been accompanied by a large carbon footprint. By working on projects of this size, I am able to mitigate a larger amount of potential harm to the environment. Two such projects are the 6.5 millions square foot KAUST project in Saudi Arabia (the world’s largest LEED Platinum project) and the 1 million square foot Ohio State University Cancer and Critical Care Center (which upon completion will be one of the world’s largest LEED health care facilities in the world).

Q: What has inhibited you or your organization from making more progress on the sustainability front?
A: Lack of education and understanding on all fronts, including internal design management, external consultant management and client management. If all parties involved do not have a collective wisdom about the benefits of a sustainable design project, then the project will not be executed appropriately. If only everybody on the team had the time to acquire a degree in economics and run life cycle cost reports for every design decision, it would make things a lot easier.

Q: What advice would you give others in your position trying to make a difference for the environment?
A: Reinvent and re-engage in new and creative ways as often as possible. In a market that is ever-changing, your approach and cache of knowledge needs to change just as often. Be sure to engage different stakeholders in ways that speak to that unique group of people. One rusty old sustainable design benefit presentation may work for design professionals that are new to the movement, but it won’t work for the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, or your engineering partner for the project.

Q: What is your favorite source for sustainability/environmental trends or information?
A: The HOK Sustainable Design workspace. Where else can you find the collective knowledge from 30-40 other design professionals that share the same passions that you do? With over 500 posts in the past 2 years, I still haven’t had time to read and incorporate all of that knowledge into my projects.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Interview with Curtis Ravenel, Head of Global Sustainability Initiatives for Bloomberg

We interviewed Curtis Ravenel for The Green Workplace book a while back and he impressed us tremendously. His energy and passion for sustainability along with a real business savvy are clearly the right combination for making green things happen in any company, but especially a company like Bloomberg. We caught a few minutes with Curtis who shared some thoughts on where he is today:

Q: What is your current role at your organization?
A: I run our Sustainability Group. We manage our sustainability initiatives - aggressively integrating sustainability considerations into all firm operations and leveraging the BLOOMBERG PROFESSIONAL Service to evaluate sustainability-related investment risks and opportunities for its 300,000 customers.

Q: What would you say are current “trends” when it comes to organizations adopting green strategies or principles?
A: The current trend I see is graduation. Firms are graduating from looking at sustainability as a risk management program to one that drives innovation and opportunity.

Q: How have recent legislation or corporate/federal mandates changed the way your organization addresses environmental issues?
A: No. We are headed down this road with or without legislation. It just makes good business sense.

Q: What green / sustainability-related project are you working on now that you are most proud of?
A: We have just completed a contract to install 1.7 MW of Solar power at a facility in NJ and 5 MW Cogeneration Plant in NY. Plus we've developed a robust Environmental, Social and Governance Data offering to complement our Equity platform.

Q: What advice would you give others in your position trying to make a difference for the environment?
A: ALWAYS leverage your environmental work to the objectives of the business. You can't do it alone and if you make that connection, it will all come together.

Q: What is your favorite source for sustainability/environmental trends or information?
A: Bloomberg of course! (OK, I guess this wasn't a fair question)

Monday, July 12, 2010

What if there were no air conditioning?

No joke, it's been MISERABLY hot here in Washington, DC - I'm sure you've heard about our heat wave on the news. But, it's summer in DC, which was brilliantly built on a swamp...that means, every year it is miserably hot and humid for at least a portion of the summer.

We've adapted by developing buildings with air conditioning and massive refrigerators. It's worked out OK for the workers, but it uses unfathomably huge quantities of energy. I ran across a great article in the Washington Post about what would happen if we didn't have AC. I mean, the founding fathers didn't have any when they located the capital city here, so it must be possible, right?

Read on to see just how very possible it might be...and a couple of great tips for how to cool off:

Image Source: Energy Boomer

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