Renovation for the Future

by David Warwick
Apr 21, 2015
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After celebrating Envirologic's 25th anniversary, Jeff Hawkins (President/Co-owner) and I felt that we needed to shake things up. We realized that what we needed was a better work environment for our employees. The old digs we had were just that - old and dated. Yes, we made small updates along the way; we upgraded some lighting, installed sustainable carpet, added an Energy Star roof, implemented a recycling program and bought locally sourced office furniture. But the tired space just kept getting worn and dated; we needed to renovate!

Jeff and I felt that to realize the benefits of our past sustainable efforts, we needed to create a physical space commensurate with our sustainable philosophy - one that would be fresh, open, collaborative, beautiful, and functional. For the better part of a year, we worked with designers to develop a new floor plan within our existing footprint to create such an environment. The final design was representative of how we felt about our place in the world, our community and our work space. It was characteristic of how we are wired - perhaps being the children of Depression Era parents gave us the mentality to do more with less and make what we have last longer.

What follows is a description of our top ten sustainable renovation elements - the hard side of the renovation and the soft side of how we hope our employees will benefit from a new, sustainable, and better place in which to practice their craft.

1. Think GREEN from the start. We wanted to reduce our environmental impact from the outset. The greenest building is the one you reuse, not build new. Envirologic has owned and occupied our current location since June of 1989; it all started in a shared conference room.
2. Use LOCAL contractors. From the beginning, our goal was to keep it local. We hired both a local design firm and general contractor. They embraced our vision and worked with us to reuse and repurpose as much as possible. We believe by choosing to use the services of local contractors, we were doing our part to support our own community.
3. REUSE existing materials. We were able to reuse many of the original workstations, light fixtures, carpet tiles, doors and woodwork, cabinets, hardware, office chairs, and more. Being deliberate about each item not only controlled costs, but kept renovation debris out of the landfill.
4. Minimize exposure to HAZARDOUS materials. The use of low VOC paints, glues, and adhesives were specified during the design phase. Our staff occupied the building during the renovation so it was important to keep the air safe both during and post renovation.
5. RECYCLE and dispose of materials properly. We recycled a significant amount of debris during the renovation as part of our existing office recycling program. Steel (one of the easiest materials to reprocess) and cardboard/paper (which makes up more than 40% of our landfills) where the two key items recycled. Much of our wood (doors, woodwork, etc.) was either reused, or will be donated.
6. DONATE to the local community. Office furniture that we were not able to reuse will be donated to Western Michigan University's MGRRE Core Lab (Michigan Geological Repository for Research and Education). Items that MGREE does not need or want, will be donated to Habitat for Humanity's ReStore. All of these items will have a second life with a new purpose.
7. Purchase SUSTAINABLE materials and those within 500 miles. We were able to purchase remanufactured furniture panels from Herman Miller, recycled tabletops, and repainted file cabinets. Most items that needed to be purchased came from within 500 miles of Kalamazoo. This included kitchen and bathroom accessories, appliances, carpet tiles, countertops, light fixtures, and HVAC equipment.
8. Install High EFFICIENCY appliances and programmable thermostats. It was necessary to upgrade our HVAC system, which provided another opportunity for big savings in both heating/cooling costs and energy use. Our purchase of high efficiency, Energy Star products - natural gas furnace, air conditioning unit, and water heater - and programmable thermostats, promises big energy savings as we look to the future.
9. LIGHTING, lighting, lighting. The low-hanging fruit of any energy reduction plan is lighting upgrades. We have converted much of our lighting to LED, both inside and outside our building. Although there was an increased cost upfront, the long-term energy savings offset that initial cost. Energy Star-qualified LEDs use only 20-25% of the energy, and last up to 25% longer that the traditional incandescent bulbs we've replaced. Additionally, we have installed occupancy sensors in all enclosed office spaces and our lab. They are inexpensive and effective; manufactures estimate the typical savings are from 35-45%.
10. The GREENEST roof. Although our Energy star-rated, white reflective roof wasn't added as part of this renovation, we felt it was important to include it in our Top Ten updates. ENERGY STAR qualified roof products can help reduce the amount of air conditioning needed in buildings during peak cooling by 10-15 percent.

A few last thoughts...although not a sustainable feature, but one equally important, we upgraded our building to meet ADA Standards for Accessible Design. The bathrooms, kitchen, break room and work spaces were designed to eliminate structural and architectural barriers.

Additionally, we had the opportunity to add a shower to our women's restroom. Now both our women and men have restrooms with shower facilities. Wellness is an important aspect of our culture and providing showers removes the barrier for those that bike to work or exercise before work or at lunch.

And lastly, we made significant technology upgrades. With all of our other improvements, it was the perfect time to enhance our software and hardware. We now have the technological tools and renovated work space to take Envirologic into the future.

By David Warwick, Vice President/Co-owner


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