Corrections or additions?
These articles by Kathleen McGinn Spring were prepared for the
April 25, 2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Building Green Saves Money, Boosts Morale
Here’s an innovation for you: Put a lamp on each
desk. At first blush that sounds oh-so-19th century. But it is an
example of the kind of idea being put forward by the sustainable
movement in corporate architecture. Like many sustainable design
the lamp on the desk, replacing expensive, glare-producing, energy
gobbling high-wattage recessed lighting, is just common sense.
logic and beauty," says Frank Sherman, an architect with
the Hillier Group and a sustainable building advocate.
Sherman appears at the New Jersey Technology Council on Thursday,
May 3, at 4 p.m. at the Somerset County Environmental Education
His subject: "Designing, Constructing, and Maintaining Healthy
Buildings for People in a High Tech World" Cost: $70. Call
Sustainable design runs the gamut from siting an office building (not
on a bulldozed plot surrounded by asphalt parking, please, Sherman
urges) to the glue used in its doors. Roof color, exterior finish,
interior colors, lobby temperature, work station design, landscaping,
and even the distance from work stations to the nearest copier machine
can be elements of sustainable design.
The goal of sustainable design in a work setting is to create
workplaces that add to the health — mental as well as physical
— of the employees who spend their days (or maybe nights) in them.
Sustainable design (also called "green" design) is getting
a push right now from the California energy crisis and rising energy
prices around the world, but Sherman explains it is about much more
than heating and cooling efficiently.
Sustainable design creates buildings that will last longer, cut down
on interior and exterior pollution, and make their inhabitants happy
(happier?) to go to work. But won’t these high-functioning buildings
be more expensive than their ner’do well neighbors? "One of the
misconceptions is that sustainable design costs more," Sherman
says. "That is only so if you layer in green features. But if
you start from the beginning, and think of it as a set of integrated
designs, approaching building from a sustainable point of view doesn’t
Part of the equation, Sherman says, is looking at cost over the useful
life of a building. Sustainable design may indeed cost more up front
— as higher quality materials and internal machinery are used
— but it saves money over time. In addition to tangibles like
cutting the cost of cooling by including windows that open,
design saves in ways that are harder to quantify. Retention is likely
to improve where employees work in an airy, stimulating, comfortable
environment over which they can exert some control, he says.
rises too, and absenteeism goes down.
Sherman says the best space in which he has worked was probably the
Syracuse office of Sherman Associates, the firm he founded and left
to join Hillier two years ago. There he had large, south-facing
He describes his new digs as "typical corporate office," but
nice enough. "As I’m talking, I’m turning in my chair to look
out the window," he says, emphasizing how important it is for
office workers to retain a connection with the physical world.
Sherman describes sustainable design as a chain of synergies, perhaps
a lamp saving energy, and also cutting the need for overhead lighting,
which in turn reduces the temperature of the office, and thereby
energy needs, which means a smaller heating unit. And so on. His
also draws on synergies. He graduated from Syracuse University with
a degree in architecture in 1988. He enrolled in 1974, and proceeded
on the "14-year degree program."
He abandoned his studies in the final semester of the five-year
degree program to work as a potter. "I still had some rebelling
to do," he explains. "I became a craftsman, got into the
business, and had my own gallery." Somewhere along the line he
began to work with Syracuse’s Public Arts Commission. "It made
me want to finish, to become an architect," he says. His work
in the arts has stayed with him. "It’s a business, I acknowledge
that," he says, "but I still look at architecture as a
medium." Sherman’s partner, Christopher Darling, is a ceramic
artist. They live in Canal Pointe.
Sherman says these are some of the things that go into sustainable
who is always freezing, perhaps sitting next to a co-worker who has
stripped to within the limits of decency to keep heat exhaustion at
bay? Sherman talks about a new way of keeping both happy. Floors are
now raised in many office buildings, and under them snake all the
wires that keep the computers and copiers humming. That same structure
can be used to deliver heat or air conditioning directly to each
feet. The air comes out of round openings spaced about eight feet
apart. Employees can choose a temperature by typing it into their
computers or "they can use remote controls," Sherman says.
Workers feel good about choosing the temperature in which they work,
and energy costs are cut substantially as air hits the target it is
meant to heat or cool rather than being forced down from an eight-foot
ceiling. Not only is pushing air down inefficient — and unnatural,
too — but doing so requires that it be a few degrees warmer, or
cooler, than it would have to be if it were delivered right to the
humans for which it is meant.
"What is fresh air?" While it seems to be a no-brainer, fresh
air often means that which resides outside of a building. If said
building sits in a smoggy valley or next to an eight-lane highway,
that air may not be very "fresh." So, thought must be given
to where interior air will come from, and how it will be filtered.
In many cases, the perfect delivery system is that old-fashioned item,
the window that opens. When outdoor air quality is good, and
do not stay in triple digits much of the year, operable windows are
the way to go.
In response to the energy crisis of the 1970s, Sherman says, buildings
were sealed up to trap every last energy-produced heat molecule.
windows went, well, out the window. The result, he says, is the kind
of sick building that gave us Legionnaires disease. Letting the air
in, where possible, should be encouraged.
Beyond air circulation, clean air means an interior free of VOCs,
or volatile organic chemicals. They can lurk in carpets, paint, and
the binders in particleboard. And they give off gases that can be
harmful. "You know that new car smell?" Sherman asks.
off-gassing." Keeping off-gassing to a minimum in office
particularly those that are sealed tight, is a prime goal of
healthy, and sustainable design takes on that problem too. "Copier
machines can be placed at the end of a hall," Sherman says.
can be sited so that going for lunch requires quite a little stroll.
Open staircases can encourage a sprint up to the fifth floor. Simple
things, but effective in getting employees to move more than their
fingers as they go about their work routine.
a fast-growing Route 1 corporation now. "The whole place is
he exclaims. "It makes me nuts. I’m trying to figure out
to add color." Huge office facilities often are designed to look
the same, from one end to the other, he says, declaring that such
thinking creates "a stifling work environment." Workers should
be able to look away from their computers and find something to rest
their eyes on, he says, be it a colorful wall, an interesting texture,
or the changing scene outside a window. Says Sherman: "All senses
should not be numbed."
Corrections or additions?
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