Decoding Design

Three ways to smarten up office space

Posting in Design

Take some cues from Integral Group, an over-achieving building engineering company that has designed the most world�s most energy-efficient office space.

This spring, Integral Group, a building engineering company, shattered a record for energy efficient spaces. Its Oakland office earned 102 out of 110 possible points in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system for commercial interiors, making it the greenest, most energy-efficient commercial interior in the world.

Granted, Integral Group specializes on energy-efficient construction, so it had an inside line on how to sip fuel and conserve electrons. But some of its approaches might help you do the same, whether you are a cog in a huge corporate wheel or the head of a small startup. Here are three of Integral Group's tricks from the trade.

Occupy Your Desk

Most people power down their computers and turn off desk lamps at the end of the day, but what about during long lunches and interminable meetings? WattStopper offers a power strip called the Isole, which uses a occupancy sensor (this device in the photo below) that is placed under a workstation and can be set to automatically shut down non-essential devices, such as a task light, when the user steps away from the desk.

Lower Work Wattage

Since Integral Group moved into its current space, it cut the office's plug load that is, the amount of power consumed by objects plugged into power outlets by half. This wasn't achieved overnight and took many different tactics, including the use of smart power strips mentioned above.

The company is also heavily reliant on daylight to illuminate the drafting tables and computer screens on employee desks. The ceiling was also lined with florescent lighting when Integral Group moved in, but it was able to remove many of the florescent bulbs by using diffusers to amplify the overhead light. For task lights at work stations, the company uses dimmable LED desk lamps (pictured right) that consume between 3 and 7 watts (based on dim setting).

Radiators Aren't Dead

Radiators might seem like old energy relics, but they're reborn in this sunny Oakland office space. Resembling slat exterior walls from an ultra-modern home rather than the ornate cast-iron radiators of yore, Integral Group's radiator pulls heated water from a small, highly energy-efficient boiler to warm the office perimeter during winter. In colder climes, this alone could not keep the space comfortable. But in temperate Oakland, the radiators suffice as the sole heat source, offsetting heat lost through the window-filled building envelope.

But what Peter Rumsey, Integral Group's managing director, is perhaps most proud of is that the firm was able to achieve its remarkable energy savings on a small budget. It spent $25 per square foot on the renovation of its Oakland office. Typical and not necessarily green-focused office renovation costs $50 to $75 per square foot.

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Mary Catherine O'Connor

Contributing Writer

Mary Catherine O'Connor has written for Outside, Fast Company, Wired.com, Smithsonian.com, Entrepreneur, Earth2Tech.com, Earth Island Journal and The Magazine. She is based in San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure