Making workplaces 'greenspaces'


Practicing what we preach is more than just a mantra for Syska Hennessy Group —it's our essence.

Joining the ranks of the office buildings we design, Syska recently has adopted a series of significant sustainable initiatives that promise to impact our firm's internal culture and the world we live in on a daily basis. From recycling and producing less waste to cutting energy expenditures and greenhouse gas emissions, Syska has rolled out a two-phase plan to color our 19 domestic offices green by 2010.

Phase I: Visible impact

Phase I initiatives are cost-neutral and will visibly impact the firm on a daily basis. Beginning with an overhaul and reduction of office, kitchen, desk, and janitorial supplies, Syska will produce less waste overall. Printers and copiers will, by default, produce double-sided copies, while documents will be scanned and saved instead of photocopied, and misprints will be re-purposed as scrap paper. The firm will provide each employee with a coffee mug and cup for personal use, while only biodegradable, 100% paper kitchen and packaging materials will be used.

Recycled and recyclable desk supply products, including plastic/vinyl binders, envelopes, and toner cartridges will be available from predetermined vendors that will also supply nontoxic and ozone-safe highlighters, markers, and correction fluid. Offices will employ green janitorial supplies, including plastic trash bags made from recycled materials and bleach- and chlorine-free, post-consumer bathroom tissues and paper towels.

As with any successful environmental initiative, recycling will play a large role in meeting Syska's goals. The first step in achieving this is to educate our staff on the importance of recycling, with a narrative of all relative policies and procedures at meetings and new hire orientations. Individual offices will station recycling receptacles throughout each facility.

The final step in Phase I will upgrade water procedures and reduce water bottle waste, a major source of firm-wide refuse. Nondisposable glasses and cups will be provided for employees, and water tap filters will deliver clean drinking water without the use of disposable, single-use water bottles.

Phase II: Operational impact

Phase II initiatives will impact the firm on an operational level, saving electricity and trimming the bottom line. Employing Energy Star products, setting all computers and monitors to “standby” mode when not in use, and using surge protectors and LCD monitors is just the beginning. Taking advantage of available daylight and the use of fluorescent, instead of incandescent, bulbs and reducing ambient lighting levels by using efficient task sources will aid the efforts. Purchasing and phasing in use of Green Power or renewable energy will be initiated when applicable.

Syska also recognizes that its carbon footprint begins outside of its four walls. Providing transit reimbursement checks or purchasing pretax transit cards directly from the local transportation authority will encourage employee use of public transportation. When possible, Syska will provide shower and storage facilities for employees who choose alternative transportation in accordance with U.S. Green Building Council LEED guidelines. Carbon offsets for calculated business air travel will be purchased, while individual “air cleaning” plants will improve indoor air quality and all new firm offices will be LEED certified.

Creating “greenspaces” out of workplaces needs to be more than just a Syska Hennessy Group initiative. Take the Syska challenge, fellow engineers. Pick up your paintbrushes and start coloring your offices green.

Author Information

Callan is senior vice president, director of sustainable design and high-performance building technology, Syska Hennessy Group. Callan serves as a GSA Design Excellence National Peer and authored GSA's Facilities Standards PBS P100 Mechanical and Electrical Engineering chapters in the most recent (2005) edition.

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