Google and the tech giants are going green. Only a handful of buildings in Silicon Valley were LEED certified in 2006; that number has jumped to over 100 today. These high-tech companies seem genuinely interested in minimizing their environmental impact but they realize that sustainable design also makes good marketing and business sense. Green strategies save money in the long run, improve employee health and productivity, and even help attract new talent. How could a company claiming to be on the edge of technological advancement create a building that is anything but technologically advanced? “People are really starting to understand the idea of triple bottom line: people, profit, and planet,” says Mike Foster, cochairman of USGBC’s Silicon Valley branch.
Foster feels Google, in Mountain View is quickly becoming the green champion of the high-techs. Their headquarters, “Googleplex”, consists of more than 50 buildings – most of the retrofits of existing structures- show case the benefits of Google’s aggressive worldwide energy policies. The most visible result is the 168,107-square-foot, 1.6-megawatt solar array, which generates 30 percent of the complex’s peak power. A large solar hot water system—consisting of 30 solar collectors—supplies 2,750 gallons of hot water throughout the day. A building management system monitors the entire complex, and most offices have been fitted with materials and furniture that were screened to exclude hazardous ingredients and with Energy Star–rated appliances and electronics.
Google has been targeting LEED certification for all new buildings and projects since 2011. They have 4.5 million square feet of building space worldwide set to achieve LEED certification. The company is working to certify the remainder of the Googleplex; with the hopes to achieve Living Building Challenge certification, which demands, among many other things, net zero energy use.
“There’s a strong business case for everything we do,” says Google clean energy spokesman Parag Chokshi. Anthony Ravitz, who leads the Green Team for Google’s Real Estate and Workplace Services group, says green improvements make for a better workplace environment, and therefore lead to better products. It’s an argument echoed by most of the major tech players in the area, who are looking for every advantage in a hyper-competitive atmosphere.
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