Our Office

officeplantsLEED for Commercial Interiors Gold

  • Floor Space: 1878 sf
  • Budget: $23 – $25 per sf
  • Occupancy: 12 employees
  • Move in: October 2006
  • Owner/Developer: Pinnacle Properties
  • Real Estate Agent: CBRE
  • Architect: JPC Architects
  • General Contractor: DP, Inc
  • Mechanical Engineer: Interface Engineering, Inc.
  • CxA Agent: Interface Engineering, Inc.
  • Lighting Consulting: Lighting Design Lab

Achieving Gold on a Budget

In late 2006 a growing O’Brien & Company moved into renovated offices in the historic Colman Building in downtown Seattle. Relocating from Bainbridge Island to Seattle reduced the commuting footprint of its staff and improved the firm’s linkage with key services and partners. The goal was to create a low-cost but sustainable office environment and experience LEED-CI from the perspective of a business owner and tenant. The project budget was very tight, $23 to $25 per square foot.

Bringing a Green Ethic to a Historic Landmark

Built originally in 1890, the Colman Building was designated a historic landmark in 1972 and restored in 1985. Its history proved attractive as the building’s historic design provided a narrow floor plate and large operable windows offering natural light and ventilation. Also attractive was the location close to the Bainbridge Island Ferry Terminal, Seattle train station, and over 30 bus lines, as well as the shower and bike racks provided in the building. Neither the property manager nor contractor were familiar with sustainable remodeling at the start, but were willing to negotiate and work with us as long as the bottom line wasn’t affected. Pinnacle allowed O’Brien & Company early access to the space to hold an eco-charrette which Pinnacle, the real estate agent, and the architect all attended. In addition to the green features inherent in the building, our interior features a variety of sustainable strategies: reuse of existing partitions by adding relights to offices, painting the walls a light color and adding task lights to optimize the use of natural light, adding plants to improve indoor environmental quality, and showcasing green materials.

Sustainable Strategies

Natural Cooling

With plenty of operable windows no air conditioning is needed, even during record-breaking heat. In the first two years of occupancy the AC has only been used once: during the open house where many extra warm bodies needed extra cooling.

Buying Recycled and Local

Local and recycled materials played a major role in our LEED-CI strategy. Recycled-content materials include Squak Mountain Stone countertops donated by Tiger Mountain Innovations, Paperstone counters, molding and trim locally made of Medite and SkyBlend, ceiling tiles with water-felted mineral fiber by Radar, and wheatboard flooring from Dow Wheatstock.

Air Quality via Indoor Plants

Building products can introduce harmful chemicals to building interiors. Indoor plants were carefully selected and placed throughout the office to help clean the air of formaldehyde and other common air contaminants. Not only did this strategy earn a LEED Innovation Credit, it helped create a lively and welcoming office.

Transit, Car Sharing, Walking & Cycling

By locating downtown near bus routes, ferry terminal, and train station, the company helps staff and clients get to the office and services without a car. When needed, staff drive Zip Cars to local meetings. Bicycle storage, a changing room, and a shower make it easier for people to bike or walk to work, and many O’Brien & Company staff do.

Lessons Learned

Even Consultants Need Consultants

Even green building consultants need advice on sustainable strategies. O’Brien staff sought help from the City’s Green Building team, local Lighting Design Lab and invited its staff, the project architect, and real estate agent to the eco charrette. The result was a variety of low-cost sustainable strategies. A commissioning agent was hired for commissioning services.

Low-Cost Solutions can be High Value

With a low budget, a major goal was to minimize demolition and construction through reusing what’s there. Low-cost salvaged windows became space dividers between work stations. Existing carpet was kept. Some walls were repainted a lighter color to improve lighting quality. This and upgrading the fluorescent lighting’s efficiency were inexpensive retrofits suggested by Seattle Lighting Lab staff.

Leasing Structures Matter

The property manager was not able to comply with our request to modify the lease and submeter our space so we could pay our own utility bills. Fortunately, energy-saving strategies like natural ventilation, efficient lighting and controls, and reduced plug loads due to Energy Star office equipment do help reduce the building’s carbon footprint and savings are shared with other tenants.

Sustainable Operations & Maintenance Takes Teamwork

The entire O’Brien & Company team contributes to continuing the sustainable strategies through our daily operations including: opening and closing windows and blinds to manage light and heat gain, using paper efficiently, turning off equipment every night, composting food waste and purchasing green office supplies.