State Farm Insurance Cos. owns or leases approximately 2,500 facilities, ranging from 2,000-square-foot storefront offices in strip malls to its 3.1-million-square-foot headquarters in Bloomington, IL. Although the organization has primarily office space, State Farm also has specialty buildings for data collection, billing, training, and research.
With 30 million square feet of commercial space, State Farm takes its interior design and maintenance responsibilities seriously. By integrating its facilities management and interior design departments, both groups collaborate better and the buildings are maintained more efficiently. State Farm facilities are now improved from the carpet up.
So Happy Together
Originally, the facilities management department worked occasionally with the interior design and purchasing departments. “After I [became part of] the design department, we became aware of each other’s expertise and value to the organization,” says Steve Spencer, facilities specialist, cleaning/interior maintenance for State Farm’s facilities management services. For example, during vendor meetings, maintenance questions became as prevalent as aesthetic and installation concerns.
“We started recognizing the value each of us brings to the table,” notes Kristi Zook, interior designer, interior design department, facilities management, at State Farm. “Our clients are happy and we get less call-backs on problems.” The facilities management and interior design groups are under the company’s administrative services department, which supports all of the offices nationwide.
State Farm has 13 major zones with a manager in each zone who funnels information on product performance back to the administrative services department. There is some standardization of interior products; however, the design is not cookie-cutter. “We do allow some freedom. If you want a more regional look,” explains Zook, “we try to be sensitive to location.”
“Our employees do not want vanilla; they want to feel involved in the selection. At State Farm we are very sensitive to that,” says Zook. Instead of extravagant or trendy designs, the professionals involved in the company’s interior design/facilities management focus on creating timeless looks.
In the past, the insurance company would use the same carpet product throughout its facilities. Now, State Farm has learned to define aisles, breakrooms, and traffic flow patterns. The organization uses larger-scale pattern carpet in areas subject to staining and crushing.
Carpet tiles also allow the design and facilities professionals to inject color and pattern with ease. In recent years, the company’s design professionals have been assigned to certain zones. This encourages relationships and builds trust. “It is a good feeling to know they value our expertise and understand we are adding value to the project,” says Zook.
Sneakers and other non-smooth-bottom shoes can carry more soil into buildings. Walk-off carpet tile incorporated into the overall carpet scheme helps the installation last longer as well. These walk-off tiles extend well beyond the entrance. “Because we worked together from a design and maintenance standpoint, we are getting buildings that are maintenance-friendly and aesthetically pleasing,” says Spencer.
Interiors that Last
State Farm has a long history with environmental consciousness in the management of its facilities. In addition to the extensive use of carpet tile, reconfigurable wall panel systems, and recycled content in carpet, the insurance company is analyzing recyclable fabric.
The company’s inherent commitment to preserving the environment leads to a more comfortable environment for its employees. The cushioned carpeting is easier on employees’ legs and lasts longer in heavy-traffic areas. Adds Spencer, “If you can work together on the front end, you avoid a lot of finger-pointing down the road.”
Regina Raiford Babcock (firstname.lastname@example.org) is senior editor at Buildings magazine.
Green on Carpet Maintenance?
“Remember a green building is also a healthy building,” says Steven Lewis, technical director, MilliCare, LaGrange, GA. Carpet can trap particulates, bacteria, dust mites, and mold spores. Adds Lewis, “The carpet is a filter, and you want to clean that filter.” He encourages facilities professionals to avoid cleaning processing that can leave a detergent residue in the carpet since this retains pollutants and soils.
“You want to make sure that a building looks good and you want to make sure the IAQ and the health of employees is optimized,” says Lewis. “We are finding those things go hand-in-hand.”
By removing soils from carpet before the fiber is abraded also helps the flooring system last longer. Having a planned preventive maintenance program is part of having a green building. “Many facilities managers are in the reactive mode and they wait until the carpet looks dirty,” says Lewis. By the time a carpet looks dirty, soils have already damaged the fibers.
A Passion for Green
Amongst double espressos and recycled ceiling tiles, this year’s Greenbuild convention in Portland, OR, was a hectic, information-filled whirlwind. I managed to snag a few minutes with Rick Fedrizzi, president of the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Green Building Council, who said, “We are more intensely focused on the needs of the marketplace for financial metrics when it comes to green design.”
Sustainable design proponents have been hammering home the message that green design is good business sense. Here is a property manager who is a true believer: “Three years ago, I thought a green building was one encased in green-colored glass,” jokes Craig Sheehy, director of property management at Thomas Properties Group, Sacramento, CA. Thomas Properties Group (TPG) was challenged to embrace sustainable design by the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA) for its new build-to-suit office building.
TPG is a full-service real estate company with 7.5 million square feet of commercial property. Inspired by Cal/EPA’s mission statement to “reduce their environmental footprint in and around their facility,” TPG incorporated sustainable design operating practices into this downtown Sacramento facility.
All janitorial, maintenance, tenant improvements, and equipment replacement initiatives incorporate practices and materials that improve air quality, reduce energy usage, and maximize resource re-utilization, reduction, and recycling/recyclables. “To my surprise, my operating expenses were dropping like a lead weight,” says Sheehy. Completed in 2001, the 950,000-square-foot Joe Serna Jr. Cal/EPA headquarters is considered one of the most energy-efficient facilities in the country.
Built on time and on budget, the facility has several sustainable products, such as carpet made with a high recycled fiber content, carpet tile, and zero-VOC interior paints. Currently, TPG is installing a power conditioner on its lighting panel to improve efficiency. “Our bottom line savings are approximately $1-per-square-foot less than downtown Sacramento averages. That is $1 million per year and with a 7-percent capitalization rate that’s more than $14 million of value added to the building,” says Sheehy.
The building has an extensive recycling and waste reduction program. The average cost for waste removal in downtown Sacramento is 5 cents per square foot; in this project, the cost is zero.
Due to the energy crisis, TPG decided to slash energy costs by using daytime janitorial services. The cleaning staff and tenants welcomed the change, and the turnover rate is very low. “In most buildings, the turnover for janitors is very high. Here, we do not have that loss of training,” says Sheehy.
In addition to educating their tenant on the building’s environmental measures, TPG also celebrates unconventional measures so that the end-users feel involved. Believe it or not, individual worm bins at employees’ desks are wildly popular.
TPG also promotes large-scale worm composting of organic waste for the café space. The vermin-composting program has diverted 10 tons of waste from landfills and the compost is used for the facility’s landscaping. The Employment Achievement Rewards System, for example, rewards employees financially who invent quantifiable operational saving ideas.
Although not originally designed as a green building, this 25-story facility recently received a USGBC Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum rating. The building’s operating expenses are significantly below those of other local buildings. TPG has found that this project has become a perfect laboratory to determine if these practices can work in a Class-A environment.
Excited by such success, Sheehy says, “Some people still think green design is a fad. It is not a fad, and I always tell people to be a champion now.”