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green@work : Magazine : Back Issues : May/June 2007 : Case Study

Sustainability Matters
Sustainable design starts at home, as one Wisconsin architecture firm demonstrates.

special to green@work


In the design world, sustainability has been a growing topic of discussion for years. Design professionals now recognize green principles as inherent and an obligation to clients and the global community. The idea of sustainability is consistent with the mission of Eppstein Uhen Architects (EUA), which is “beyond design.” It is not only a state of mind, but a responsibility that needs to be addressed on every project no matter size or scope, as the firm believes a commitment to sustainability starts at home.

When EUA decided to expand its firm by opening an office in Madison, Wis., it jumped at the opportunity to raise the bar and set an example for its clients and consultants. EUA selected a 3,500-square-foot space in the heart of Madison and used Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-Commercial Interiors as its guide—an ideal way to showcase sustainable concepts.

The design process for the Madison office began by analyzing the space to develop and implementing a plan that allowed for the recycling and/or salvaging of at least 75 percent of the construction waste. EUA took advantage of the existing beauty of the space, the most striking feature being the generous amount of natural lighting. Two full walls of glass that surround the open-plan work area provides daylight to all staff, and the views of the Capitol and other downtown elements enhance the strong feeling of connection and commitment to the city.

When specifying products, primary attention was given to those products that were manufactured within a 500-mile radius. Gypsum board, rubber flooring and carpeting were included in the list of materials that contributed to high regional material totals.

The recycling of furniture by installing used furniture into the Madison office not only prevented these materials from going in a landfill, but also saved a significant amount of money on the furniture budget. The warm finishes and curved worksurfaces help create a team-based work environment that assists in the creative process of each design project taken on by the architects.

Many of the selected finishes, including the ceiling tiles and flooring, are made with recycled content and/or renewable materials, which help reduce the extraction and processing of virgin materials. In addition, the carpet, paints, adhesives and sealants all have low VOC content, which provides a healthier environment for building occupants.

When addressing energy consumption, EUA looked at ways to offset its power usage. The firm made the decision to utilize wind power and entered into a two-year contract with Renewable Choice Energy for a Green Power. The amount purchased is equal to removing 25 commuters from the road, or not driving a car 87,775 miles—not bad for a 3,500-square-foot space.

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