George Denise: Achieving Sustainability Means Starting Small

April 1, 2008
Adobe's approach to sustainability is all about reducing operating costs and improving efficiency

Portfolio: Adobe Towers—three platinum LEED-EB high-rise office buildings totaling one million square feet.

Challenge: We're focused on achieving the highest possible performance through sustainable practices. Our client, Adobe Systems Inc., has always had a strong environmental ethic, so the foundation for green has always been there. But initially, our approach to sustainability was really all about reducing operating costs and improving efficiency. Over the past six years, we've implemented a number of practices, procedures and processes that save energy, resources and nearly one million dollars per year in operating costs. Our challenge is to stay focused, keep the entire team involved and keep finding ways to achieve greater efficiency.

Strategy: For us, the key to success has been starting with a single project. In the beginning, we'd present one project at a time to Adobe's top decisionmakers—the low-hanging fruit that is easy to approve. When the results proved successful, we were able to establish our credibility and keep adding more and more projects. We've now done 64 projects, including 26 load management projects to optimize equipment run times and temperature settings. We have more than 200 meeting rooms that are only in use 30 percent of the time, so now we have the HVAC in those rooms on motion sensors. It's a lot of common sense, very basic stuff, but it makes a huge difference. We've also done 19 lighting projects and six projects retrofitting major equipment. And we've done projects on water and waste management with a goal of reducing waste by 98 percent.

The way we put our teams together also makes a difference. Getting buy-in from all the players—not just our top executives, but also our key vendors and even our janitorial staff—is a top priority for us. As an example, when we first approached green cleaning, we brought in green cleaning guru Steve Ashkin to do an initial orientation with the entire staff and a few key vendors. After the orientation, I asked our staff if this was something they were ready to undertake. I wanted them to understand the commitment and take a stand either way. We started small, selecting a few volunteer janitors for extra training and green cleaning equipment. After a week or so, we got back together and they shared their feedback. It was easy to get everyone on board after that.

Today, all three buildings are platinum LEED-EB and we've received numerous accolades and honors for our work, including the BOMA International Earth Award. But it all started with a few manageable projects and a team committed to putting in the extra effort it takes to reach the next level.

Conference Perspective: Another key aspect to our success has been staying on top of new green innovations. There are new technologies and techniques being developed that will help us continue to improve efficiency...the trick is finding them. To that end, the BOMA International Conference and The Office Building Show has been a key resource for us. A lot of important innovation is coming from the service providers and industry leaders who attend. Meeting face-to-face at the conference and tradeshow helps us connect with experts who can guide us and recommend ways to create even more efficiency.

It's also a terrific forum for us to provide leadership, share our success stories and help guide other real estate executives toward sustainable practices. The more of us who are out there doing it, the more we can learn from one another and drive market innovation. At the BOMA International Conference, we're able to add to the momentum.

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