What Life is Like Working in a Green Building?

While this photo may appear to be that of a lush meadow in the foreground of a big city, it is actually a vegetated rooftop on a 9-story building in downtown Denver. When EPA Region 8’s office moved to a new “green” office building in Lower Downtown Denver, I did not know what to expect. I had never worked in a green building before. I really did not think it would be that different from a regular building. Was I wrong… Not only was the building very beautiful, it was the most comfortable building I have ever been in. From the lighting to the indoor air quality, I knew we were in a top quality and healthy working environment.

Our building is environmentally friendly and provides daily opportunities for us to practice environmental stewardship. Some features of 1595 Wynkoop Street our building that help us decrease our environmental impact include:

  • Extensive use of daylight to reduce need for artificial light
  • A vegetated green roof to control storm water and decrease urban heat island effect
  • Waterless urinals and low-flow plumbing fixtures to decrease water use
  • High recycled content materials throughout the building help preserve resources
  • A daytime cleaning crew that uses less toxic cleaning products and allows our building to shut down at time???
  • Proximity to public transit reduces the impact of employee’s commute
  • Redeveloping a site that was an eyesore and underutilized???

But however, it is not enough to simply build a green building; a big part of the equation is how the building is operated and the behavior of the occupants. Region 8’s Environmental Management System helps us improve our environmental performance by quantifying and managing the impacts of our operations (e.g., electricity and water use, waste generation and transportation, to name a few) and taking actions to reduce those impacts.

As a newly constructed building, 1595 received a Gold rating in the Leadership for Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. Now, Region 8 is working toward a Gold rating in LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance (LEED EBOM) to ensure that our building is performing to the standards it was designed to meet (though this was put on the back burner for a while so need to check with Kate).

The green design, construction, operation and maintenance of 1595 Wynkoop, combined with close attention to our collective actions, help EPA Region 8 EPA in our efforts to practice what we preach.

I feel very lucky to be able to work in a green building. We have a lovely green roof we can sit near and have our lunch or conduct a meeting. We have convenient recycling and bike storage. Our building sits right on the 16th Street mall which has a free shuttle we can ride to numerous public transportation options and great lunch spots!

I also enjoy seeing all the tour groups that come through our building. Almost 10,000 people have visited us since we opened. I especially love to see the kids viewing a green building for the very first time, teaching them how a plastic bottle gets recycled into fiber and then turned into products like carpet (??) then challenged to make their school as green as possible when they leave.

Working in a green building is the only way to work in my mind. I can see better with natural day lighting. I have clean air to breathe. I have more energy throughout the day which I attribute to the environmentally healthy aspects of our building. I have the pleasure of knowing my work day has also been less of an impact to the environment. You can find out more, hear an audio tour and see lots of pictures of our green building.

About the author: Wendy Dew has been with EPA for 11 years and is the Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator for Region 8.