BIT Building connects you with Subject Matter Experts to gain advice, suggestions, and real life examples to help you transform your building into a more efficient, healthy building! We are pleased to introduce the BIT Building Community Call. The monthly webinar provides a place for the BIT Building Community to learn about best practices and strategies to drive better building performance. Engage with industry experts and other facility managers!
With just over to 50 people on staff – plus dozens of visitors to our campus for meetings and tours each week – it’s easy to see how our office’s trash can quickly add up. As an organization focused on sustainability, we realized that we could be doing even more to reduce waste.
With that in mind, this year Southface is taking the first step toward becoming aTRUE Zero Waste-certified office, an ambitious goal that’s certainly a marathon, not a sprint. TRUE-certified spaces meet at least seven requirements to divert all solid waste from the landfill, incineration, and the environment.
For many years, we have been utilizing designated bins for recycling, reuse, and compost. However, like most workplaces, we found room for improvement: half-empty soda bottles placed in recycling bins, crumpled printer paper in trash cans, compostable napkins tossed in a plastic garbage bag — you get the picture. Our hearts were in the right place, though our recyclables were not.
We realized that getting to zero – to divert 100% of our office waste from landfills – is a team effort, where everyone has a stake in helping us reach the goal. Some of us are avid recyclers both at home and at work, while others may be a bit overwhelmed with where to even start. No matter where a team member is on their recycling journey, we provided education that’s clear and easy to understand, showing how collective small steps can get us closer to our bigger goal.
Though TRUE Zero certification is not for everyone, every office has the ability to take advantage of low-stakes and easy changes that are more sustainable.
Here are five easy steps that your office can take today that will pay off for the future, and potentially lower your operations costs:
Meet expectations: We host a lot of meetings and events at Southface, and roll out the reusable products for our guests. Instead of plastic cups, plates, and cutlery, our cupboards are stocked with plenty of glass tumblers, ceramic mugs and plates, and silverware. That means less stuff going to landfills, and fewer items we have to purchase over and over again. If disposables are necessary, consider using compostable items.
Brew better: We drink our fair share of coffee throughout the day, but instead of K-cups, we get our beans in bulk and brew pots the old-fashioned way. We also put creamer and sugar in reusable containers instead of buying individual packets, and rather than single-use, plastic stirrers, we use dry pasta instead (fettuccine is a favorite), which can later be composted.
Scratch paper: At most meetings, we each bring laptops and take notes on shareable documents that can be edited without printing. Of course, sometimes printing is necessary, and in those instances, we print on tree-free office paper made from sugarcane waste fiber.
Refill and refresh: With a built-in water filter, our office fridge doubles as a water cooler so we can stay hydrated throughout the day — without using bottled water. From mason jars to Nalgenes, you’ll find a wide range of reusable items on nearly everyone’s desk. In fact, we make it easy for new Southfacers to get in on the act, by welcoming them with a branded travel tumbler on their first day.
Talk Trash: This summer we’re spreading awareness about workplace waste, by inviting everyone to #TalkTrash. Through this initiative, we show you how to organize an office green team, understand where your office trash goes, and much more. When you pledge to #TalkTrash, you take the first step to getting your office out of the dumps!
For more tips on making your office (and planet) a bit greener,click here and take the pledge to #TalkTrash.
This article originally appeared in the SaportaReport on July 30th 2018. It has been edited for clarity and content.
Each year millions of tons of plastic waste pollutes our ecosystem and kills thousands of animals. Plastic pollution is our planet’s defining challenge and the focus of this year’s World Environment Day. On June 5, we join the UN and hundreds of countries in the effort to Beat Plastic Pollution.
By 2050 an estimated 12 billion tons of plastic will go un-recycled, littering our environment and taking thousands of years to decompose, according to the UN. As consumers we can all take steps to turn the tide against one major cause of plastic pollution: single-use items. Here are five ways that you can #BeatPlasticPollution today:
If You Can’t Reuse, Refuse:
If offered plastic cutlery with your takeout meal, just say “no, thank you,” and keep your own reusable utensils on hand. When shopping, bring along a reusable bag, or skip bagging altogether. Packing a picnic? Don’t forget the reusable cups, plates, forks, and spoons.
Watch Your Sip:
Be flawless and go strawless! Rather than using a plastic straw, opt for an eco-friendly equivalent made of stainless steel, glass, paper, or bamboo.
Cigarette butts are the most common form of plastic waste found in the environment, and are made from a non biodegradable plastic called cellulose acetate. You’ll breathe easier by kicking the habit, and the environment will thank you.
Keep Your Cup:
In addition to plastic lids and stirrers, to-go coffee cups contain a plastic lining that makes them difficult (if not impossible) to recycle. Travel mugs come in a variety of materials made to withstand many, many refills, and your local coffee shop may even offer a discount for getting your joe in a reusable container.
Spread The Good Word:
Curbing plastic waste requires behavior change from everyone — consumers, manufacturers, and governments. Encourage your friends, family, and colleagues to join your fight to beat plastic pollution, and help drive consumer demand that enables change.
Although there’s not a single solution for solving our single-use plastic problem, given the magnitude of its impact on our planet, it’s important that we all take steps to reduce our dependence.
Read the UN’s State of Plastics report, and stay tuned this summer as we’ll share an exciting opportunity to help you make small changes that make a big impact on the environment.
This article originally appeared on Southface's blog on June 4, 2018. It has been edited for clarity and content.
Spring and summer are the perfect time of year for homeowners to boost their home’s energy efficiency. Common outdoor allergens from pollen in early spring to ragweed in late summer affect many, but indoor pollutants like mold also play a role in your overall health. Additionally, higher temperatures lead to higher energy bills, so improvements to residential energy efficiency can drastically improve indoor environmental conditions and, thus, create a healthier home when you need it most.
However, there are many misconceptions about home energy efficiency. Many residents make costly home upgrades that don’t make financial sense or lead to increased energy efficiency.
Below are a few residential energy efficiency “myths.” While this list is not exhaustive, it highlights some of the common misperceptions homeowners have regarding their home’s energy performance:
Myth:Replacing Older Windows With Energy Efficient Ones Will Save Me Money
Fact: Windows are complicated systems. While they are critical features, windows also contribute greatly to the energy usage of the home. Windows are among the most expensive products on a home, so when considering whether or not to replace them, it is important to consider a few key factors. While the age of a window plays a large role in overall energy efficiency (older, single-pane windows are less efficient than newer double-pane and low-emissivity systems), other important considerations that impact energy efficiency are window orientation and exterior shading. However, it’s important to remember that windows, no matter how efficient, are always a path for heat transfer. When planning for your home’s efficiency upgrades, move window replacement to the bottom of your priority list.
What You Can Do: If your home is older, you’ll find a bigger benefit by improving your windows’ air tightness and attic and floor insulation levels. As a general rule, if an existing window is in good condition, it is best to keep it. Instead, investing in storm windows (windows that are mounted exterior to the main window of the house) can improve your window performance for a fraction of the cost to replace them.
Myth:More Insulation Is Always The Answer
Fact: Increasing insulation in places like the attic and floors can certainly lead to improved home energy efficiency, especially because heat loss through ceilings can be a major source of overall energy inefficiency. However, investing in more insulation may not always get at a more crucial component to reducing heat loss: air transfer. Most insulation products, particularly common fiberglass and cellulose materials, are not designed to stop air movement. Ultimately, adding more insulation will not solve for comfort and efficiency concerns that are related to air leakage. Most houses have gaps and crevices around areas like plumbing fixtures, electrical outlets, and exterior openings that allow conditioned air to escape outdoors.
What You Can Do: Rather than installing more insulation, invest in air sealing that can minimize heat loss and drafting, ensuring an increase in overall energy efficiency. The best place to start with air sealing is in your attic, followed by the floors (above a foundation space and/or unconditioned basement), and finally, exterior walls.
Myth:Humidifiers Improve My Indoor Air Quality
Fact: The Southeastern climate is hot and humid, which means we are constantly combatting issues of excessive moisture and mold accumulation. With this in mind, installing a system that is designed to add humidity to a home is not a good idea. It may seem obvious, but humidifiers can dramatically increase a home’s relative humidity levels. Too much humidity can cause mold, which can lead to respiratory illnesses for residents. Often, homeowners justify the presence of humidifiers because of dry air in the home. However, dry indoor air is a sign of a “leaky” house, where humid outdoor air is allowed to enter a home through areas in attics, floors, and exterior door or window frames. Solving for underlying air leakage issues can lead to improved overall energy efficiency (such as sealing up a leaky home), and can minimize the likelihood of moisture buildup during summer months and dry indoor conditions during winter months.
What You Can Do: Minimize the use of products that add humidity to your home. Essential oil diffusers have been very popular in residential applications, but keep in mind that any time you add steam (emitted from diffusers), you increase humidity levels.
Myth:All Paints Are Made The Same
Fact: Interior paints, finishes, and cleaning products are some of the leading culprits contributing to poor indoor air quality. They can release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into indoor living environments. VOCs are emitted from solids or liquids, and are chemical compounds that can have adverse health effects when exposed to residents. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), concentrations of these toxic chemicals can be ten times more concentrated indoors compared to outdoor air. However, homeowners and residential occupants can take steps to minimize exposure to VOCs by purchasing products like interior paints that market themselves as “low/no VOCs.”
What You Can Do: When considering new carpet or floor finishes, look for products that are listed as having no urea-formaldehyde, another material that is linked to respiratory and skin irritants for building occupants.
This article originally appeared on Southface's blog on April 9, 2018. It has been edited for clarity and content.
By Shane Totten, Director, Commercial Sustainability Services, Southface
July 27, 2015
Human beings are all hard wired to seek comfort, security and connectivity. Our built environments should provide these elements. Most people underestimate the effect that our environments, natural or constructed, can have on health and wellbeing. Our recent experience refreshing the Southface campus challenged staff to make our interior spaces healthier using the principles of biophilic design.
In recent history the healthcare industry began recognizing the value of certain design elements on patient health outcomes, which helped launch the evidence-based design field and practice. Within this field, biophilic design, defined as that which draws on human beings’ innate connection to all living things, emerged, providing strong positive effects on human health and wellness. Bonnie Casamassima, Project Manager on the Southface Commercial Sustainability Services team, says some of the most important aspects of the built environment that affect our health and wellbeing include:
Daylight and views to natural settings connect occupants with the natural world and their own circadian rhythms;
Sense of place gives occupants connection to and pride for their settings;
Sense of security allows occupants to feel comfort and a sense of belonging in their territory;
Sense of choice of different settings empowers people to find spaces that fit their moods, personalities or work;
Dynamic design provides diversity in settings that facilitate investment and interest in the space; and
Products with no/low Volatile Organic Compounds and chemical contents facilitate healthy indoor environments.
These principles are especially important in the workplace, as many businesses spend 80 percent of their overhead on employees. Improving worker productivity, satisfaction and retention is essential to business success.
Recently, Southface applied the principles of biophilic design and environmental psychology to the refresh of our own demonstration workspaces. The refresh aimed to create a sense of unity throughout the campus, which consists of three buildings: the Resource Center, opened in 1996; the Eco Office, opened in 2009; and the Southeast Weatherization and Energy Efficiency Training (SWEET) Center, opened in 2011.
In design and in sustainability, process is important. Southface used an employee survey, observations and interviews to better understand the work tendencies and needs of staff. Surveys uncovered a desire for both collaborative, communal spaces and for private focus areas. These needs influenced new meeting spaces, including a brainstorming space equipped with a standing height table to encourage active engagement, and white board space to collaborate on ideas. Staff hoped to be energized coming in to work, as well. Influenced by research on color theory and human response to various colors, Casamassima and other staff designers selected a yellow hue to infuse our spaces with energy without exhausting occupants.
In addition to choosing finishes that would facilitate appropriate moods and work styles, carpet and paint finishes were selected for their positive impact on indoor air quality. Many manufacturing industries are turning toward increased transparency and information access in their production process and the products themselves, leading to a better understanding of product health impacts. Southface was lucky to partner with Mohawk Industries, a leading advocate for transparency, on the refresh. The movement toward non-harmful products and end-user health is on the cutting edge of sustainability today. A list of all product donors may be found here.
Focusing on biophilic design can enhance the positive effects of constructed spaces on occupants. Today, sustainable solutions place increased value on the health and wellbeing of people, in addition to economic viability and environmental conservation. From finding community endorsed solutions to healthy product usage to biophilic design, Southface strives to identify and incorporate next generation sustainability solutions in every aspect of our work. We bring our holistic approach to the services we offer because we are committed to market transformation for a more sustainable future.
This article originally appeared in the SaportaReport on July 27th 2015. It has been edited for clarity and content.