Natural Leaders

June 1, 2001
Green Grows Up - Three companies share the secret to being green
Green design. Sustainability. The interpretations are vast, and implementation varied. To facilities professionals actively pursuing the continual protection and preservation of the environment – individuals bringing these principles from concept to completion – the bottom line comes down to one defining rule: Be responsible.Three companies identify the actions, strategies, and products that outline and reflect their corporate commitments. Through partnership, membership, and award-winning initiatives, SC Johnson, Nike Inc., and IBM have maintained a position of environmental stewardship for more than 100 years collectively. The ideas and ambition behind the policies governing facilities operations within each of these organizations is exemplary. In a world where “follow the leader” isn’t always applauded, BI encourages you to learn by example. Make goals, exceed expectations, and watch out for the built environment Mother Earth created. These three natural leaders may be able to jump-start your operations toward an eco-friendly future.SC Johnson and Son Incorporated
With some assistance from architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Racine, WI-based SC Johnson has been thinking (and working) sustainably for many years at its corporate headquarters. “We are helped a great deal by Mr. Wright himself. His buildings stand and stay because he built them with a sustainable goal in mind,” explains Cynthia Georgeson, director of corporate public affairs at SC Johnson. Built in 1939, the 61,000-square-foot Administration Building epitomizes the principles and theory behind Frank Lloyd Wright’s design philosophy. Although the terminology has changed, Wright’s “organic architecture” closely mirrors the ideas behind today’s sustainable design principles. “Wright wanted to have the building be harmonious with the natural environment,” explains Robert Evangelisti, environmental manager, corporate facilities, at SC Johnson, Racine, WI. The building’s Great Workroom, with 60 dendriform columns opening into lily-pad shapes at the 21-foot-high ceiling, is one of Wright’s most extraordinary interior environments.With 17 skylights in the Great Workroom and Administration Building’s lobby, SC Johnson is a champion of daylighting. “When the building was built, and I think still today, we have tried to use natural light,” says Evangelisti. Glass tubing in place of windows provides transfused light and, because of its tube-within-a tube design, minimizes heat loss and is energy efficient. Forty-three miles of glass tubing are utilized in the Great Workroom alone. Automatic blinds have been added to reduce glare and prohibit heat from penetrating to the building’s interior, consequently decreasing the level of air-conditioning (and energy) necessary during the hot days of Midwestern summers. Additionally, other facilities on the Racine campus have undergone a rigorous recycling plan. Old concrete has been ground up and recycled for use in roadway construction. Also spared from the landfill are ceiling tiles, metal conduit, piping, and lamps. SC Johnson even donates its used furniture to churches and schools for re-use. “We recently did some recarpeting in an older building that was at one time manufacturing and was converted into office [space], and we recycled carpet there. Who knows?! We may buy it back in a few years,” Evangelisti comments.A new building designed to accommodate overnight guests at the campus’ Wingspread Conference Center also exemplifies the company’s commitment. Slated for completion in January 2002, the new construction project specifies low-flow fixtures for water closets (1.6 GPF); utilizes a gas-fired chiller, which reduces energy consumption, CO2 production, and incorporates CFC- or HCFC-free refrigerant; maximizes daylighting opportunities; and uses LED lamp sources in emergency light fixtures at all egress points.Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1939 plan was one of many steps jump-starting the company toward a long legacy of environmentally motivated actions. “The company’s legacy is really built around earning the good will of people – people who work here, people who buy our products, people in the communities where we do business. So operating sustainably is extremely important to us, because that’s the only way we earn that good will. As it relates specifically to our facilities, we have not only a commitment to our employees, but we also have a commitment to our communities and the world at large,” explains Georgeson.The 115-year-old company has continually re-evaluated goals and strived to implement successful business practices and facilities operations that are designed with the environment in mind. “In 1990, we wanted to bring more structure and a specific guidance to what it was that we were going to do from an environmental standpoint. We set specific and measurable environmental goals. We knew they were stretch goals, but we felt that unless you mark that point in the sand from which you will begin, you will never know if you are going to get to the next point. We felt that what gets measured, gets done,” Georgeson elaborates.The popularity and business success of SC Johnson’s line of household products has not overshadowed the company’s relentless commitment to reducing its impact on the environment. Future-driven, this family-owned company continues to set goals, measure progress, and redefine expectations.

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