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.