Monday, March 22, 2010
Used to be the word “green” had a decidedly negative connotation: green Jell-O; green at the gills; green-eyed monster; Kermit the frog’s famous lament, “It’s not easy being green.”
Increasingly in the 21st century, and especially in the built environment, green has card-carrying cachet. It’s a buzz word; a badge; a blessing; a great big ticket to ride. Being green, or sustainable, buys one membership in a formerly elite but increasingly accessible, not-so-secret society to which more and more aspire; not being green may elicit a strong shaking of the head and that distinct sound when the tongue and the palate click repeatedly.
That said, and once bitten, what remains is to decide what shade - or level - of green fits one’s framework, something Jim Allegro, a founding principal of Fox Architects, took quite seriously in his mission to facilitate the greening of three D.C.-area law firms.
With a dozen law firm projects in Fox Architects’ passbook and at least two more on desk, Allegro said that Reno & Cavanaugh PLLC, Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP and Delaney McKinney LLP were “the first three that had some dimension to them that was sustainable," two being LEED projects where Fox Architects were actually going to certify them through the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The other, which was not a LEED project, “was the most green of the three,” Allegro said, noting the project was “predominantly a recycle of an older design, but made to work for a law firm.” The client’s goal was to do things the right way, and if they could salvage and reuse, or find materials that could be recycled or had a high recycled content, they fully endorsed it. At the same time the three firms were all very different projects with three very different looks. “Each is a testament to what that individual client’s goals were,” Allegro said.
Reno & Cavanaugh PLLC – Preserve and Protect
Using their own management and employee survey to determine what mattered most, the D.C. office of the 10,000 square-foot Reno & Cavanaugh PLLC focused on preserving resources for employees, clients and the community, in the kind of environment that would reflect their work in the affordable and public housing arena. The process resulted in pending LEED certification, components of which include optimized performance lighting control credit by allowing employees to control their own workstations and lighting.
A reported 37 percent of Reno & Cavanaugh’s materials were sourced regionally, with 50 percent of the construction diverted from a landfill. While 30 percent of the furniture and furnishings were reused, new features were Green Guard certified. Carpet, paint, adhesives, sealant and building materials are made of low-emitting materials and have a high recycled content.
Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP – Scrap and Silver
Among the goals for the 37,000 square-foot D.C. office of the Kansas City-based behemoth Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP was to continue sustainability, a component in creating an environment that attracts and retains cutting edge talent. Moving from 14th Street to the revitalized Penn quarter, materials for the structure - a confluence of history and modernism where four historic buildings flank an atrium-connected, newly constructed glass tower - included low-VOC paint, composite wood, recycled millwork and carpet, reused furnishings and Virginia Mist (a local entity) stonework. The firm made sure more than 75 percent of construction waste was recycled or sold as scrap, diverting it from a landfill. Shook, Hardy & Bacon ultimately achieved LEED-CI silver certification.
Delaney McKinney LLP – Coffee and Consequences
For the 14,000 square-foot Chevy Chase, Md-based Delaney McKinney LLP, a coffee bar Fox Architects had formerly designed for the Mills Corporation that was already in the building was initially located where the entrance to the suite would be. “It was probably going to end up in a dumpster somewhere,” Allegro said, consequently moving it around a pillar in the coffee area location to become a centerpiece. The firm, which specializes in domestic relations, wanted an environment that was warm, subdued and relaxed, the café feature emblematic of that.
Eschewing LEED status in favor of maximizing best practices, results for Delaney McKinney included recycling centers in the café and workroom as well as reusing and salvaging much of the existing space. The inclusion of an atrium and outdoor terrace where people can gather precludes the need for indoor lighting on those occasions.
“It’s about doing what’s right and trying to specify things in a very diligent and responsible way,” Allegro said, anticipating Fox Architects’ sustainability work on the next two law firms this year.