Doing Business in a Green Office Building

For a growing number of people, sustainable living means endeavoring as ecopreneurs for organizations with missions they believe in while working in a “green office” space that incorporates green or sustainable design. Typically, “green design” addresses energy efficiency, preservation of resources and the minimization of detrimental effects of construction – if not also improving the health and well-being of the local community as a whole. Some ecopreneurs might work from a home green office, like me, while others find it necessary to gather in office spaces that are, in various ways, ecologically sound and healthier for all.

In State College, Pennsylvania, I had the opportunity to tour the 2,400 square feet Matson & Associates Eco-Building, home to three ecopreneurial enterprises: Matson & Associates, an environmental assessment services company, often engaged to provide “expert witness” testimonials on some of the most timely waste processes issues; Envinity, a green building and home energy audit consultancy; and Matson Biofuels, a company developing a more ecological and non-toxic approach to making biodiesel called Green Biodiesel. For all three of these triple bottom line green enterprises, it’s not just what you create with your product or service — but where you work to create it.

As one of the first examples of green architecture and integrated energy efficient design in State College, the Matson & Associates Eco-Building received the Energy Star certification as a residential office in 2007. The Energy Star certification designates buildings that use 30 percent or less energy than similar code compliant buildings. As an added bonus, the construction cost of this green building was no greater than that for a conventional one.

“It’s a healthy and beautiful building, flushed with sunlight,” says Kevin Gombotz, partner with Matson & Associates who heads up their special projects and new business development. “It’s been landscaped with native plants and embraces its sense of place.” For the building, much of the mixed grade lumber of pine, hemlock and maple used in the framing and finishing were locally harvested.

“I came from an engineering background, working in both a laboratory and cubicle,” continues Gombotz, who lived in a portion of the residential office space for three years before the entire building was converted exclusively to office space use. “This building has a powerful impact on our physical and psychological well being. With daylight pouring in the windows and surrounded by nature on our narrow lot, it inspires our professional collaborations and serves as a canvas for what it possible for either residential or commercial office space.”

In addition to many low or non-volatile organic compound sealers and paints, the Matson & Associates Eco-Building features passive solar design, tongue and grove maple from a local mill, and concrete slab floor which functions as a temperature regulator and also contains an in-floor radiant heating system. The foundation incorporated 35 percent slag, a waste product of iron smelters. Given its four season climate, great efforts were taken to maximize insulation using cellulose made with recycled newspaper as well as polyurethane structural insulated panels, or SIPs, cutting down the use of materials since the framing is included with the insulation.

Heating is provided with an eighty-five percent efficiency, propane fired, tankless hot water heater for both in-floor radiant heat and hot tap water needs. By using ceiling fans and a heat chimney to promote air movement, the building requires no air conditioning, lowering energy needs and eliminating emissions of CFCs and halons. The roof employed 57 percent recycled steel with a fifty to eighty year life expectancy.

As I write about in ECOpreneuring, in an increasingly challenging business environment and economy, not only will the triple bottom line enterprises tend to thrive, they will also be even more profitable than their more conventional competition due to their carefully and sustainably crafted workspaces.

  1. Rachel

    I think this trend of “ecopreneurialism” is really fascinating. Does it refer to those who are working in green and eco-technologies and development, or could anyone who lives or works in an environmentally sustainable building be considered an ecopreneur?

    I live in LA and downtown LA is going through a massive transformation and regentrification that is pretty amazing to watch. New entertainment venues, high rise apartments, shopping, restaurants, and nightlife are reinvigorating downtown, which used to be a place where no one really wanted to be – now downtown is an attraction in its own right. What’s really cool about what they’re doing in downtown LA is that a lot of the new building and development is green and environmentally sustainable.

    I think this rebuilding of downtown with an eco-friendly approach is going to spark a trend in LA and spread throughout the rest of the city, especially since environmental and energy concerns are so prevalent in our society right now.

    I’m wondering if there’s been a big trend in college curriculums and degree programs that more students are going toward degrees and careers in environmental engineering or environmental science. Is green-building becoming a much more desirable and competitive job market?

  2. Tonya

    As Rachel stated, I too find this article and the contents quite fascinating. I am doing some research on how to be green while saving money and I can’t begin to tell you the interesting articles I’m coming across. For some people practicing the three R’s is a big deal, but after reading this article there is quite a bit more that can be done. I will share this link with others as I find it compelling that the building/business in State College not only is green and at the same cost of traditional construction but the benefit the employees who work there get by being in a “natural” environment. Excellent information Thanks!

  3. jack matson

    My wife Elizabeth and I own the ecobuilding and several old houses that we have converted to green rentals.

    The building was constructed in 2002 at no greater cost than a conventional one. Including the land, the cost was $150 per square foot. It was the first eco building in Central Pa. Since that time Penn State has adopted the green building standard (LEED) for all new construction and have three occupied at this time. Also, sustainability and green design courses have become popular. I teach several and they fill up quickly.

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