During this installment of the Green Line Series, we had the opportunity to interview Kati Kallins of Google’s [e]Team: Environmental Design and Construction Projects. She will be joining us on March 30 during the session, The Business Case for High Performance and Deep Green Buildings.
Kallins is on Google’s Real Estate and Workplace Services [e]Team, which is charged with delivering exceptional environments, experience and ecology on Google buildings. She has led sustainable design and construction projects with teams in North America, Europe, and Africa. Using her in-depth expertise on healthy building materials, indoor environmental quality metrics, and strategic communications, she works with project teams to deliver innovative office spaces that promote health and productivity.
GoGreen: There is a lot of buzz around high performance or “green” building right now. What high performance projects has Google completed recently in the Seattle area/WA state?
Kati Kallins: In 2016 Google open two new buildings and doubled the size of our Kirkland Campus, now totaling over 375,000 square feet. Google leases the space from SRMKII, LLC, who built the new space to Google’s sustainability specifications, including targeting LEED platinum certification.
The new building is on a site that formerly housed a chemical mixing and packaging plant. After completing an environmental cleanup in 2012, Google’s property developer, SRMKII, at Google’s request, conducted a second cleanup to voluntarily surpass state standards and remove all detectable remaining contamination at the property, even small pockets of chemicals, at concentrations safely below state cleanup levels. The Washington Department of Ecology has called the cleanup “cleaner than clean” and plans to remove the area from the state’s contaminated sites list.
The new high performance office buildings in Kirkland are designed with a focus on indoor environmental quality (IEQ), efficient resource use, and superior user experience. The new buildings were designed to “bring in the outdoors” because these design features have been proven to improve the health and productivity of occupants. Since people spend 90% of their time indoors this focus is paramount to creating Google’s exciting workplaces. With features like a sky bridge, public park, green roof, vegetative screens, and patios the building achieves Google’s goal to be a vibrant and restorative place to work. A portion of wood used in the office also was harvested from timber felled on-site during construction, so local natural materials can be found throughout. All interior office furnishings also meet Google’s stringent IEQ Healthy Materials Program that vets building products for health and transparency criteria. The office uses resources efficiently onsite through a rainwater cistern that will reduce potable water use by 76% and a chilled beam HVAC system that will save 55% more energy than a traditional building HVAC system.
GoGreen: How do Google’s goals and values align with its green building strategy?
Kati Kallins: Google has always aspired to be a globally conscious company that is focused on improving the lives of our users and contributing positively to the world’s toughest issues. Doing the right thing and a standard of excellence are part of our fabric at Google – and our green building strategy is an extension of those values.
We work hard to create the healthiest, most productive work environment for our employees. To do that we approach buildings as living systems, designing for natural light and clear air, designing out harmful man-made chemicals, and using natural resources more intelligently. Our approach goes hand-in-hand with our commitment to designing buildings that are sustainable for local and global ecosystems.
We believe that a healthy work environment and a sustainable world begin with transparency and cooperation. Our focus on creating healthy environments begins with vetting building materials through our Healthy Materials Program. At Google’s offices worldwide, we put all building products through a rigorous screening process to determine which adhere to our healthy building standards—and we purchase the products that best meet our stringent criteria.
Yet our green building initiatives don’t stop with the building materials in our offices. We make every effort to address the factors that impact people’s experience of indoor environments, such as thermal comfort, daylight and access to views. We also provide aggressive performance benchmarks for energy and water consumption. We use sophisticated building control technologies to ensure systems are on only when we need them. We’ve installed solar electric and solar hot water panels on our roofs, treated water on-site for reuse, and used recycled municipal wastewater for other applications (e.g. toilet flushing and landscape watering). We have the aspirational goal of diverting 99% of construction waste from our projects. Google’s green building strategy is focused on cultivating extraordinary human experiences in the built environment through focusing on the experience of building occupants to optimize health and performance of employees.
GoGreen: Google places a lot of emphasis on helping employees perform at their best. How can small and medium size businesses apply a similar focus to their green building strategies and/or office environments?
Kati Kallins: The strength of Google’s green building program comes from its foundation in our company’s unique philosophy and values. Our initiatives and real estate philosophy are really an extension of our core values as a company. We value our employees as a key part of our success as a company. So it makes sense that many of our green building initiatives are focused on helping our employees be their best. Our goal as a company is to have happy, healthy, high -performing employees.
For example, at Google our employees work hard to write software code and solve user problems with our products. To help reduce stress in their already chaotic lives we focus on building an office space that improves their health and productivity. For example, research has shown that access to views reduces cortisol levels in the brain (a stress hormone), so we strive to give employees access to daylight and views wherever possible. Our Healthy Materials program also focuses on optimizing indoor air quality by reducing off-gassing materials in the space – a major health impact for employees. By using water efficient fixtures and purchasing renewable energy for our building operations Google signals our belief in conservation of resources. This is a company principal that many employees take pride in, so the benefits are wide-reaching. Our green building strategy is built around this goal of optimizing the workplace for employees and acting as stewards of the natural ecosystems we live in. This strategy is synonymous with our company culture and aspirations to make the world a better place.
To find out more about sustainability at Google’s Campus Operations, visit their website.
Event Details: GoGreen Seattle, brought to you by King County, will take place Wednesday, March 30, 2016 at the Conference Center located at Eighth Avenue and Pike Street in Seattle, Washington. Tickets are available at seattle.gogreenconference.net or via phone at 206.459.0595.