Smarter Business: Green Building

Photo of NRDC's Energy Efficient New York OfficePhoto of NRDC's Energy Efficient New York OfficePhoto of NRDC's Energy Efficient New York OfficePhoto of NRDC's Energy Efficient New York Office

In 1988, NRDC began renovating a former light industrial loft space in New York City's Flatiron district to house our main office. The goal was to put our environmental principles into practice by designing an office that would dramatically cut down on our energy use, while at the same time demonstrating to architects, builders, and businesses around the country (and as it has happened, the world) that "green building" concepts can go hand in hand with pleasant, productive, professional workspaces. In 1989 vision became reality and NRDC's New York staff moved into a bright, airy new home.

When we began our New York office project, green design was a fledgling idea, largely untested in real-life settings. So while NRDC chose an existing building for our New York office, the project broke new ground. But in one aspect of the renovation we decided against innovation: to ensure that our office would be a model others could replicate, we insisted on using only materials and technologies already commercially available and cost-effective.

Major strides have been made in green design since NRDC's New York office opened, yet it remains a model of energy efficiency. The idea: let there be natural light. We chose our office space, the top three floors of a 12-story Art Deco building in a neighborhood with few skyscrapers, for its abundance of natural light. Using a combination of this free-flowing -- and free -- resource and energy-efficient technologies, we have cut our energy consumption by 70 percent compared to conventional offices.

Some of the energy-saving features of NRDC's New York office include:

  • Ribbons of glass around private offices, open-ended hallways, and an open interior staircase all help distribute natural light, captured through skylights and windows.
  • Highly efficient fluorescent tubes in specially designed polished aluminum fixtures are 40 percent more efficient than standard fluorescents.
  • Occupancy sensors, which turn the lights off when a room is empty for six minutes, yield an additional 30-percent energy savings.
  • Sandwiched within each double-paned window is a thin polymer film that admits visible light while repelling ultraviolet and infrared rays, keeping the office cooler in summer and warmer in winter.
  • Because NRDC's efficient electric lighting and thermal-paned windows reduce unwanted heat gain, our air-conditioning system is 30 percent smaller than for a conventional office.

NRDC's New York office won the Interiors Magazine award for environmental design in 1990. The office was designed by the Croxton Collaborative.

NRDC's Green Offices
Overview | New York | Washington, DC | Chicago | Santa Monica | San Francisco | Beijing

last revised 12/2/2003

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