In the 1970s few believed in the dangers of carbon emissions. Those who did were, at best, branded alarmists or left-over hippies. Mostly, they were just ignored.
These days the cause of championing the environment is so popular that the entire movement has nearly trademarked the color green. The staunchest conservative naysayers are starting to embrace the idea that the planet really is warming up and the Vatican has placed disregard for the environment on par with greed and gluttony in the Catholic Church’s canon of cardinal sins.
Such sensibilities make people like Dan Dunzik giddy with hope. An architect who “designed green buildings before green building was cool,” Dunzik is the main force behind an unusual storefront, Studio Green Design Center. This business is part service outlet, part retail center, part construction office, and part living philosophy lesson. Comprised of eight businesses focusing on aspects of building and construction, Studio Green is Dunzik’s vision of a one-stop environmental shop for anyone looking to build, design, or redesign in the most eco-friendly ways available today.
Located in the Princeton North Shopping Center, Studio Green features EcoFinishes Flooring, the Cucina Bella kitchen store, System Furnishings, which helps companies relocate to more efficient or environmentally sound space, Sunburn Solar and Wind, Central All Services, which offers geothermal services, John’s Windows, Mythic Paint, and Dunzik’s architecture studio, which he calls “my dream of what an architect’s office should be.”
The businesses, separate in name but common in approach, are all located together inside Suite 2 of the complex. The full-service nature of the studio is such that someone could set forth a nearly beginning-to-end project with the products and services offered here, but Dunzik emphasizes that all parts work independently as well and are not beholden to any one contractor. You could design a new house or office through the studio, or you could just stop in for a light bulb.
If the whole idea sounds like a co-op, you guessed correctly. “The co-op is the way things need to go,” says Dunzik “We need to get synergistic relationships happening.”
With synergy in place, Dunzik says environmentalism can move past political debate and into the way things just are — the way it is in Europe.
“They don’t call it green building in Europe,” Dunzik says. “They just call it building.” His perspective on, and deep appreciation for, how far ahead Europeans are from Americans was born of a trip he took in the 1980s. Twenty years before they even started to make their way in from the fringe here, solar panels, windmills, and geothermal energy generators were an everyday fact of life in a number of European countries. Nations were able to supply endless power across the continent without pummeling the atmosphere with carbon-heavy coal emissions and no one considered it a crackpot liberal pipedream.
What historically has kept the green movement a far-out idea here is, ironically, green. “It’s the dollar that’s kept us behind,” Dunzik says. The rush for cheaper products, value-based (not to be confused with values-based) design plans, and maximized profits, he says, historically have taken precedence over most everything in the United States, even if it is at the expense of the air we breathe and the water we drink.
Dunzik says he remembers designing buildings that tilted toward the winter sun and hearing from his boss: “Get more parking in there!” Today, in part due to the publicity generated by former Vice President Al Gore, the “greenies” of this country are making headway in numerous areas, ultimately allowing us to catch up to the rest of the world, he says. “We are all behind the learning curve still,” Dunzik says. “But we’re heading in the right direction.”
The direction he is speaking of is one of cooperation — which of course cannot be spelled without “co-op.” Dunzik’s purpose for uniting so many types of goods and services under one roof is based in his unshakable belief that working together toward a common goal turns insurmountable obstacles into answerable questions.
One of the potential ironies of the space Studio Green inhabits is that it is an old building, not at all up to the rigid environmental standards Dunzik and his tenants embrace. But while the building itself cannot be changed, Studio Green’s interior space can. Overall, the interior space will meet exacting Leadership In Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards issued by the U.S. Green Building Council.
Dunzik says LEED standards, some of the toughest in the world, are the only way to make the studio’s mission a credible one. Akin to the laissez faire approach traditionally taken by the American government toward pollution standards, the grab bag of green design “standards” many companies follow is a motley array of self-imposed rules that let company call itself “green” so long as it stays within its own lines. “There are a hundred different definitions for what “green” is,” Dunzik says. “LEED standards are worldwide standards.”
Dunzik grew up in North Brunswick and studied architecture and engineering at NJIT. Graduating in 1988, he took a job with a Nassau Street firm and ultimately found the experience unfulfilling. He left to hang his own shingle from a home office in Skillman eight years ago.
A licensed architect for 17 years, Dunzik is a veteran of both private and public projects, and, from an entirely environmental perspective, he says that private projects tend to be more sound.
Growing up with an artist for a grandfather and an accountant for a father, Dunzik says he has always been tied to both halves of his brain. Studio Green was put together with colleagues and friends Dunzik has made over the years. A notable — and serendipitous — exception is Ronica Sethi, proprietor of Mythic Paint.
“It was uncanny how this worked,” Sethi says. By sheer coincidence, Mississippi-based Mythic Paint was looking for its first dealer location in New Jersey and Dunzik was looking to buy Mythic Paint for the studio’s interior walls. A chance message from the relentlessly enthusiastic Sethi solved both problems and the relationship was born.
As environmentally friendly paints go, it is undebatable that Mythic is at the top. Manufactured from scratch to never include a single toxin or odorant, it is the only paint sold in this country that is not required by law to carry a warning label — except the one that warns you about the lead in the paint you’re scraping to make room for Mythic. In fact, says Sethi, “you could paint the baby’s walls pink with the baby asleep in the room.” Such a boast is what gives her the hubris to call her product “a level above environmentally friendly.”
But despite her disavowal of the word “green,” the former Manhattan-based investment banker says the company’s vision of a toxin-free world jibes perfectly with Studio Green’s. And though Sethi just sold her first bucket of paint on April 3, she already is envisioning a chain of centers that will rewrite commercial and residential construction. “We plan to replicate this,” she says. “There really should be hundreds of Studio Green Design Centers out there.”
Though its sights are set on the big picture, Studio Green is meant to stand as an example of how even small steps are important. Resuscitating the planet and undoing the damage wrought by carbon-heavy footprints, Dunzik says, starts with something as simple as installing more energy-efficient lightbulbs. “It’s all about little changes,” he says. “Even dimmer switches can make a big difference.”
— Scott Morgan
Studio Green Design Center, 1225 State Road, Suite 2, Princeton 08540; 609-921-0200; fax, 609-921-0228. Dan Dunzik, principal. Home page: www.studiogreendesigncenter.com.
Mythic Paint, 1225 State Road, Suite 2, Princeton 08540. 609-921-0011. Home page: www.mythicpaint.com
New in Town
Amerindia, 666 Plainsboro Road, Suite 415, Plainsboro 08536; 609-662-0513; fax, 609-662-0591. Amit Masand, business development manager. www.amerindia.net.
Amerindia, an IT software consulting company, has opened on Plainsboro Road.
PhotoSound, 103 Morgan Lane, Plainsboro 08536; 609-514-5366; fax, 609-514-5377. Patrick Defeo, senior vice president. Home page: www.photosound.com.
PhotoSound, a U.K.-based advertising and design firm specializing in health and medical fields, has opened an office in Plainsboro. The 36-year-old agency works with more than 80 clients around the world, including some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical and health firms.
Publicis Clinical Health Partners, 2000 Lenox Drive, Suite 100, Lawrenceville 08648; 609-896-4717, . Diana Crawley, executive director. www.pclinicalhealthpartners.com.
Biopharma marketing agency Publicis Selling Solutions Group has launched Publicis Clinical Health Partners to provide behaviorally-based education programs for patients and health care professionals. Publicis Selling Solutions is a Publicis Healthcare Communications Group company.
According to Rick Keefer, COO of Publicis Selling Solutions, the agency reviewed key literature on adherence, retention, and behavior change, and analyzed the industry efforts in clinical health education to date. This effort led to the development of Publicis Clinical Health Partners, along with best practices for direct-to-patient adherence and retention and peer-to-peer behavior change.