Interior eco-decorating

Indoor options are vital to sustainable spaces

<br> Bamboo is a versatile renewable resource.

Bamboo is a versatile renewable resource.

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Sustainable Space columnists Lori Brown and Greg Kallio are professors in the College of Engineering, Computer Science and Construction Management at Chico State University.

Optimal offices
How would you like to go to work each day knowing you were spending time inside an eco-friendly office? A person’s work environment is very important. After all, we spend nearly as much time at work as we do at home.

According to a recent North American Survey, nearly 50 percent of workers rank their work environment as the most critical element of job satisfaction. In fact, they ranked environment above praise and recognition, compensation and benefits, job security and promotions.

Tool time
Based on the intention to provide a healthy environment for the indoor workforce, the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for Commercial Interiors (LEED-CI) rating system provides assessment tools for creating environmentally friendly office spaces.

According to the nonprofit USGBC, “LEED for Commercial Interiors is the green benchmark for the tenant improvement market. It is the recognized system for certifying high-performance green interiors that are healthy, productive places to work; are less costly to operate and maintain; and have a reduced environmental footprint.”

Choose wisely
LEED for commercial interiors gives the power to tenants and designers—who do not always have control over whole building operations—to make sustainable choices.

When leasing office space, commercial tenants have many options during the design and selection phases for choosing interior elements, such as furniture, partitions (the dreaded cubicle), composite wood products (case goods), carpeting, ceiling systems, adhesives, paints and surface coatings.

If not carefully selected, these products can all contribute to reducing the indoor air quality (IAQ). Selecting products with no- or low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) emissions, such as Greenguard Indoor Air Quality Certified furniture, can help to improve an office space’s IAQ.

Choosing materials produced using more sustainable methods, such as bamboo versus oak flooring, is a great alternative. Bamboo is a rapidly renewable resource—it is a grass and grows very quickly. Oak takes 120 years to grow to maturity; bamboo can be harvested in three.

Conscious culture
Incorporating sustainable practices within a company by creating LEED-certified spaces can help create an eco-friendly company culture, which may result in savings on operational costs. Green-building designs and strategies that focus on improving the health and well-being of employees can result in a happier and more productive workforce. In other words, greening the office space can help to put “green” back into the hands of the employer!

Right on point
Of course, creating an eco-friendly office space requires projects to go beyond placing a potted plant on a desk. Like other USGBC LEED-rating systems, the LEED-CI system provides five environmental categories for assessing the greenness of an office space: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, and indoor environmental quality.

Using a points system, an office space can achieve one of four different levels of LEED-CI certification: certified (21-26), silver (27-31), gold (32-41), and the highest rating of platinum (42-57). Projects are awarded points for achieving requirements on the checklist of credits outlined in the USGBC LEED-CI reference guide.

Check for yourself
The reference guide is available for free on the organization’s Web site, Check out the guide to see how your office space measures up to a LEED-CI certified space. I know how mine stacks up, and let’s just say it is best described as “My Brown Office.”