The Green Office Building of Tomorrow Is Here Today

I have seen the office of the future, and it makes me believe that cubicle thermostat wars might be coming to an end.   The headquarters of the Syracuse Center of Excellence (SCOE), a conglomerate of partners who aim to bring jobs and sustainability to New York State through research and education, have recently unveiled their new building – and it is nothing short of impressive.  I don’t care if you carry cloth bags to the supermarket or bury your plastics under the rest of your trash, a single viewing of this structure and you’ll start to believe that you WILL commute on a hoverboard fueled by water – in this lifetime.  And I thought my previous office buildings were dumps before this visit!

But being eco-friendly is not cheap.  It took $41M to build the five story, 55,000 square foot building.  So hold your breath if you’re looking for your company to upgrade.  Even if they are killing you slowly.

The Syracuse building is Platinum LEED Certified, that’s as “green” as a building can be according to the U.S Green Building Council.  To qualify, a building must show remarkable energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.

Read on as I paint a picture of the “old school” office buildings I’ve worked in, and see how this modern architectural marvel compares.


Old School:
Our elevator hums and hisses, as it struggles to bring people up a single level.  Aside from those with special needs, people unwilling to walk a single flight of
stairs really don’t deserve better.

New School: A regenerative elevator generates electricity on the way down, that energy is then used for the trip back up – or fed back to the grid to be used elsewhere.


Old School:  The urinals and sinks stream water all day long.  Drip drip drip.  Hand blowers run well after the user has exited.

New School:  Waterless urinals and low-flow toilets/faucets use a minimal amount of water.  An 8,000 gallon tank fills with rain water from the building’s roof and is used for flushing toilets, therefore conserving drinkable water and reducing sewer discharge.


Old School: A boss a long time ago found out the hard way that if the windows opened, people might jump.  For people who sit near windows, the sun makes it hot in the summer and the chill cuts through their skin in the winter (but they are still lucky to have windows!).

New School:
Electronic blinds that adapt to current conditions ensure the sun stays out of workers’ eyes while generating solar heat.  Tiny ceramic dots on the windows reduce sun glare.


Old School: 
Sneaky employees bust the lockbox on the thermostat and either make the place a sauna or an icebox.

New School: 
Individuals set personal temperature preferences via an “Air Treatment Module.”


Old School: Mold.  A musty smell if you’re “lucky.”  Black mold if you’re unlucky.

New School:
Demand-controlled ventilation adjusts the amount of fresh air delivered to a room depending on the number of people present.  Ventilation below the foundation prevents vapors from entering the building, thus eliminating potential indoor air contaminates.


Old School: 
A stained polyester Berber carpet that has been down since the Carter administration.

New School:  Individual carpet tiles made from recycled materials and installed with minimal adhesive.


Old School:  A fake plant, company logo, and some magazines,

New School:  Pipes under the floor generate heat via water.  The reception desk is made from renewable fibers processed with a soy-protein based resin system.

Currently being tested is the Rensselaer/Harvard-backed photovoltaic system, a small device that tracks the sun and uses lenses to concentrate sunlight 500 times.  This ain’t your mommy’s solar panel.

And you thought your office building was lame before, eh?  Check out more details on the green building.  Share any archaic building attributes that your office has in the comments section below.

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