Offices Designed as a Showcase of Sustainability

Wed, 02/19/2014 - 11:01

A couple of years ago, the momentum of the renewable industry allowed sustainability consultancy ERM to undergo a period of rapid growth. This expansion meant the company had to seek a larger base of operations capable of accommodating the team. Manuel Ortiz Monasterio, Director General of ERM Mexico, notes that this period of change also allowed ERM to become the company it needed to be, seizing the opportunity to lead by example and turn its offices into a showcase of sustainability. “An essential part of our strategy is being sustainable in everything we do, and we found a location to reflect that. Our office is a LEED-certified building and contains many environmental and social features such as water recycling, a centralized air conditioning system, and vertical gardens. The air conditioning uses a chilled water system as opposed to refrigerants and is much more energy efficient.”

In order to fully understand the concept and the design of the new ERM offices, several elements that depict the company’s sustainability philosophy must be taken into account. Transparency is the first element that the company wanted to express through the design of its facilities. “This transparency is physically visible, and from almost everywhere in the office, you can see the whole space,” says Roberto Fraú, Social and Sustainability Team Leader at ERM. “The walls are made out of glass and furniture is shorter creating an open space.” Second, as most of ERM’s clients are coming from the industrial sector, the company wanted to include an element that they would identify with. “Tubing is purposely made visible in the ceiling as we wanted to transmit the feeling of being in a factory of ideas,” comments Fraú. Fraú mentions that collaboration among its teams, across various specialties and disciplines, makes ERM stand out in the market. “With collaboration in mind the office was designed so that our employees do not have a specific assigned place. Sitting next to different colleagues from time to time helps to promote collaboration, productivity and innovation by improving communication,” says Ortiz Monasterio. Finally, the fourth aspect incorporated into the office was sustainability. The first action taken by ERM to become an example of sustainability involved choosing a more sustainable building location in the center of Mexico City. The site had to be conveniently located to be reached by public transportation, such as subway, buses, and public bicycles, enabling employees to reduce their commuting time. “ERM was only considering LEED certified buildings but the company also wanted to promote the redensification of urban areas in Mexico City,” comments Fraú. “Instead of picking a greenfield project, we wanted it to be a reconstruction of a previously used space.” The process sought to foster social sustainability awareness within the company, involving ERM’s personnel in the decision-making process. This was a successful aspect, according to Ortiz Monasterio, since not a single employee left ERM as a result of moving its offices, mitigating the high cost implied by turnover in the company. In terms of its power setup, the office maximizes the use of natural sunlight in order to cut down on electricity as much as possible, but energy efficient LED lamps are used if additional light is needed. One of the most notorious expressions of sustainability at ERM’s office concerns the materials used for the interior design of the workplace. The inside of the office is mostly made up of recycled materials, once headed for the landfill, such as waste marble, glass and wood. “The floor is literally made up of different pieces of marble that were put together,” Ortiz Monasterio explains. “We went to different construction sites and collected broken glass and wood to make our furniture,” he adds. The green transformation of ERM has brought many benefits for the company both by reducing costs and generating savings and by serving to prove its commitment to sustainable solutions. “Such a movement is fairly easy to organize and the returns are immense once a company makes sustainability a priority. If someone says it is difficult to do, it means that they have not tried,” comments Fraú.