Sustainable building has wide impact

October 30, 2009
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Plante & Moran is beginning to reap the benefits of its new sustainable building at 634 Front Ave. NW, which received LEED Gold Certification for commercial interiors from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Richard Antonini, managing partner at the accounting and finance firm, said that working in a sustainable environment has had both tangible and intangible impacts. The tangible impacts start with savings.

“It’s probably too early in the process to know what our payback in the savings will be, but I know that we’ve estimated some of the water usage to be 40 percent less on an annual basis. We also think there’s a 20 percent or so energy reduction that we experience.”

Plante & Moran reached that Gold level of certification for commercial interiors by doing such things as installing Energy Star appliances, sensors for lights and thermostats, low-flush toilets and low-water volume outtake for the faucets. Paying attention to its choice of fabrics, paints and glues also played a role.

The layout of the interior also contributes, not only to savings but to work flow.

“About 75 percent of our occupied areas are around the exterior of our two floors. There’s a fair amount of limited electric use because of that,” he said, of the building’s interior that is surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows.

“All of our staff are intertwined among different areas and there’s a fair amount of team work that we do … a lot of collaboration that takes place.”

As for the intangible benefits of the new building, Antonini said attraction and retention of its work force is one aspect that has benefited from the sustainable aspects of the space.

“We’re finishing our recruitment season right now, and we’ve had a lot of positive comments from folks. I think some of the younger folks think more about green initiatives and the environment, and they see us as more progressive and forward thinking,” he said.

Coming up on a year of occupancy in December, the space provides an example of how a structure can have an impact on a company’s culture.

“It is intangible. I can’t put my finger on the full benefit of it.  … Even in terms of staff, we’re finding that people are using less paper, people are more conscious of what they print. I think those types of things have been a byproduct (of working in a sustainable environment).

“It’s real. It’s an intangible benefit, but I think it’s been very helpful and beneficial,” said Antonini. “It has created the momentum, and the staff drives the momentum forward.”

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