By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

The National Audubon Society headquarters in New York City has distinguished itself as a builder not just of avian habitats, but of green, sustainable office spaces too, earning a LEED Platinum rating from the U.S. Green Building Council.

In fact, the society’s 27,500-square-foot headquarters at 225 Varick Street received the highest point total of any commercial interior in the world that has been evaluated by the USGBC, according to an Audubon news release today.

The conservation group reports that the redesign of the space, which included a long list of energy-saving changes, cost only about 10 percent more than the upfront price for comparable conventional improvements. And most modifications are expected to pay for themselves within 10-15 years.

“Our new home office demonstrates Audubon’s commitment to providing employees with a cost-effective, productive and comfortable workplace that fits our environmental values and also allows us to concentrate financial resources on our conservation mission,” said Audubon President John Flicker, in a statement. “Most importantly, what we’ve done here is a model of cost-effective sustainability that can be replicated by others.”

The building conserves energy through a variety of innovations, including a floor air distribution system that helps lower the cost of blowing warm or cooled air around with fans; Energy Star appliances; daylight lighting that minimizes the need for “polluting lights” (the building already had tall windows, which was a key reason the space was chosen) and a system of sensors and controls to monitor and mitigate electricity use.

Other features that helped the workspace win LEED points include an array of salvaged and recycled materials such as steel, drywall and carpet with recycled content, and locally sources materials, like tables made from fallen walnut trees in the Hudson River Valley. Recycled barn siding became a décor feature of the reception area. (See photo, above, by Kim Phillips.)

Architects FXFowle also used cork and bamboo, which are quickly renewable materials, for flooring and cabinets.

The building also won points for being near subway and bus stations, which allows employees to use greener mass transit.

The USGBC’s certifies buildings under a four-tier ranking system called LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). Buildings that meet basic standards are “LEED certified.” Rankings continue upward from Silver, Gold or Platinum, as the building meets increasingly stringent guidelines for building materials, energy installations, waste management and other sustainable features.

See video of before and after images at the Audubon website.

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