LEEDing your office
This article is part of the Building a Sustainable Business series about starting and running a sustainable business. Read all the articles here.
Once again, the San Francisco Bay Area LEEDs the way to greener, healthier living, this time in your office. Too many workspaces are sick-making with their sealed windows, release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like formaldehyde, low volumes of air return, and wimpy filters. We’ve all experienced this in airplanes and we’ve all heard about sick-building syndrome. But the bad stuff is invisible so it’s hard to know how healthy a building is just by looking at it.
So, when the CEO of a green, socially responsible business needs office space, what should he or she look for and whom should she or he call?
Benjamin Osgood, Vice President of Office Brokerage Services at NAI Kilpatrick has always been an environmentalist concerned about energy use. When he started working in commercial real estate about seven years ago, he saw a way to combine his interests and developed one of the first green leasing strategies in the country. He says, “Renting an office involves a lot more than price per square foot.”
Commercial building owners prefer to deal with professional brokers because they typically know each other and are used to working together. Lease terms are worked out fairly to avoid pitfalls or to include benefits that an innocent entrepreneur doesn’t even know exist. The cost of using a broker is paid by the landlord and is included in the rent so if you choose to go it on your own, you’re still paying for the broker’s service.
During negotiations, the tenant has leverage. Once the papers are signed all those little things you forgot to add are no longer on the table. A good lease will cover every eventuality, like making sure promises are kept. If the landlord says he will un-stick windows painted shut and a year later, they still don’t open, a good lease will either get you a refund or action.
Your building should reflect the persona of the business. If you are a Birkenstock-wearing, bicycle-riding, dog-loving progressive liberal, he can find you a building with showers (yes, you must shower after riding to work), a place to store your bike – and your dog — in a building with open brick work or railroad beams in a neighborhood with like-minded people. Or if you have a super-slick image, he can match you with a high-rise building with glass-enclosed offices on the 40th floor.
Regardless of which office you rent, there are a couple important issues to keep in mind: interior air quality and access to public transportation and good cafes. Buildings with windows that open allowing our clean Pacific blasts to roar though are best for health. Research on sealed environments shows that bad microbes thrive, while the good ones pack their bags and leave. If you choose a high-rise with sealed windows, he will be sure that the building has MERV air filters with high air return ratios to counterbalance the lack of fresh air.