NRDC Sustainability Efforts Contribute to Healthier Workplaces

Jennifer Butler's picture
Jennifer Butler
Interior Designer
July 18, 2018

Following sustainability leadership of organizations such as the NRDC, businesses can dramatically benefit from making environmental improvements to their workplaces. Learn more about how this applied to LEED certification!

NRDC Sustainability Efforts Contribute to Healthier Workplaces.
NRDC Sustainability Efforts Contribute to Healthier Workplaces.
Credit: NRDC

Strategies for creating a healthy organization might include a matrix of goals including shared vision, financial incentives, rewards and recognition, employee involvement and personal ownership. The physical places of business where we work can either be a catalyst or a thorn in the process of fostering the healthy organizations we aim for.

Naturally, organizations that fundamentally value sustainable decision-making and are made up of professionals who have devoted their careers advocating for environmentally sustainable practices.

These are the same organizations that are leading ecological change in the workplace.

Pioneering the face of the future commercial workplace is the National Resource Defense Council.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the NRDC is:

“...by many accounts, the most effective lobbying and litigating group on environmental issues”.

Like the NRDC, environmentally minded advocacy groups are aligning their mission and purpose with workplace design as an integral and persuasive catalyst for change.

Demonstrating their aggressive commitment to “safeguard the earth”, NRDC’s offices in San Francisco and Chicago were both awarded LEED Gold certification under LEED ID+C Commercial Interiors v4 in March and April, respectively. Additionally, both projects also achieved certification through the Living Building Challenge.

NRDC Chicago Office

Several features of the existing 3,300 square foot Chicago office located in the historic Civic Opera House guided the focus of NRDC’s efforts for achieving certification.

Located downtown and overlooking the Chicago River, the building’s existing assets included windows on all four sides of the building, access to public transportation and access to local manufacturers. Additionally, the office had previously been awarded Living Building Challenge certification.

 

Hendrich Blessing

Yet, as standards had become more stringent under both LBC and those required by LEED with the launch of version 4 in 2013, NRDC recognized that new solutions would need to be researched and implemented to satisfy requirements for certification.

Energy & Atmosphere – Optimize Energy Performance

Under the Energy and Atmosphere category, NRDC Chicago garnered 4 of 4 possible points for exceeding lighting power density requirements under Option 2 Prescriptive Compliance.

Lighting power density, or LPD, is a screening method that measures the potential for energy savings in a given space. LPD is measured in watts of lighting per square foot (W/sf).

To satisfy LPD requirements for credit, NRDC reduced connected lighting power density by 50% below that allowed by ASHRAE/IESNA Standard 90.1-2010 by providing that “all lighting systems use energy efficient bulbs that automatically adjust to the surrounding light conditions”.

Indoor Environmental Quality – Interior Lighting

In addition to dramatically reducing lighting power density, NRDC Chicago provided lighting controls in work areas that can be adjusted to meet individual user lighting comfort after automatically dimming light emission to mid-level 50%.

High quality lighting and controls aid in promoting occupant productivity, wellness and comfort, thereby contributing to Indoor Environmental Quality, Interior Lighting Option 1 and is awarded 1 point toward LEED certification.

Option 1 – Lighting Control - requires that “at least 90% of individual occupant spaces, provide individual lighting controls that enable occupants to adjust the lighting to suit their individual tasks and preferences with at least three lighting levels or scenes.”

NRDC Chicago implemented several other strategies contributing to certification including daylighting and the use of operable windows to bring in fresh air, reusing existing materials and implementing new materials that were vetted for and free of hazardous Red List chemicals, and decreasing their carbon footprint by sourcing local products and reducing shipping needs.

The Chicago office was also able to divert a whopping 98.4% of total project construction waste from landfills. By achieving 60 of a possible 110 points, the NRDC Chicago Office was awarded LEED Gold certification. The Gold LEED rating level is rewarded to projects earning 60-79 points.

High Workplace Performance

While we applaud and perhaps expect organizations like the NRDC with strong sustainable missions and purpose to pave the way for environmentally sound building systems, many other types of businesses can also dramatically benefit from making environmental improvements to their workplaces.

Ultimately, a workplace culture that places value on organizational health can benefit from healthier buildings. Measurable outcomes including enhanced employee work performance, employee comfort and wellness, reductions in operating costs and of course a light footprint on the environment are just a few of the reasons why sustainably minded healthy workplaces are better places to work.

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Photo by Hendrich Blessing for NRDC.

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