Building occupants rank America's greenest offices

November 16, 2008 |

Four workplaces in the United States that are both ecologically responsible and well-liked by users are recipients of the 2008 Livable Buildings Awards given by the University of California, Berkeley's Center for the Built Environment.

The top winner and three honorable mentions represent diverse projects that all meet high standards for indoor environmental quality, implementation of green building strategies and overall design - and they also are certified under the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system. The awards are unique among building industry recognition efforts in their selection criteria inclusion of building occupants' preferences. They were announced during the center's recent annual meeting with its industry advisory board.

The UC Berkeley center, whose mission is to improve the design, operation and environmental quality of buildings by providing timely, unbiased information on building technologies and design techniques, issued its highest Livable Buildings Award this year to the SCA Americas Headquarters, the Philadelphia offices of a global paper products company that occupies three floors of the 28-story Cira Centre. Upon its completion in 2006, the building was one of the first projects to earn the nation's new LEED-CI gold certification for commercial interiors.

"Environmental sustainability is a strong feature of the way we do business," said SCA Americas spokeswoman Kirsty Halliday. "So, it was only natural that we chose to implement a LEED gold-certified office space in order to achieve the safest indoor air quality, source building materials sustainably, use recycled products and carefully consider our new office's use of resources, as we already do at our manufacturing facilities."

The awards jury - made up of Center for the Built Environment industry partners - also recognized three projects for honorable mention.

They include:

* Howard M. Metzenbaum U.S. Courthouse in Cleveland, a renovation and adaptation of a historic structure built in 1910

* The Center on Halsted community center in Chicago, a mixed-use project that combines a Whole Foods grocery store with a non-profit community center that serves the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community

* A LEED-Gold Department of Homeland Security building in Omaha, Neb.

Jurors selected the four winning projects from the best-ranked of more than 120 buildings that used the Center for the Built Environment's Occupant Indoor Environmental Quality Survey in 2007. Each project earned highly favorable responses from building occupants about many work environment elements, including lighting, thermal comfort, acoustics, indoor air quality, and overall satisfaction.

A number of factors contributed to SCA Americas' success. One project goal was to move from the firm's location in suburban Philadelphia to a new mass transit-supported site in downtown Philadelphia, without requiring employees to relocate. Today, 90% of SCA's workers use mass transit, including a flexible car-sharing program with an account that allows corporate and personal use by employees. According to Center for the Built Environment surveys, the new office also has enhanced the sense of community among employees, who report bringing friends in frequently to visit the new space.

Survey results and photos of the 2008 Livable Buildings Award winners are online at:

Information about the occupant survey is on the Web at:

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