Tech industry giants place high priority on sustainability for new facilities

A few recent news stories, primarily out of Silicon Valley, highlight the growing trend among technology companies to embrace cutting edge green building practices. The rapid growth of companies such as Google, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft also means some growing pains for facilities managers.

Google

The search and advertising behemoth is awaiting environmental review for plans to build a new campus in the Mountain View area, where the company is currently located. The new project will incorporate vast expanses of landscaped roofs, as well as a blackwater recycling system. While expensive, blackwater recycling will transform all waste water (including sewage) into a readily available source of landscape irrigation water, or at least clean it enough for dumping into San Fransisco Bay.

Unfortunately, until the new campus is operational, Google’s facilities team has other, more pressing concerns. According to SFGate:

For at least two months, Google employees were exposed to excessive levels of a hazardous chemical after workers disabled a critical part of the ventilation system at the company’s new satellite campus on a Superfund toxic waste site, records show.

From mid-November to mid-January, levels of trichloroethylene, or TCE, exceeded concentrations considered safe by the federal Environmental Protection Agency at a Google office complex in Mountain View, according to a detailed report to the EPA obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting. The buildings sit on a Superfund site 3 miles from the company’s headquarters.

Apple

Prior to his passing, Steve Jobs commissioned Norman Foster’s design team to create a truly unique design for its new campus. Affectionately referred to as the “spaceship,” the project takes the form of a large circular ring. The Cupertino landmark is slated to rely on a combination of solar and fuel cell technology to achieve net zero energy usage. Apple’s campus will also include the planting of over 6,000 trees on the 176-acre property.

Facebook

As the world’s leading living architect in terms of brand name recognition, Frank Gehry enjoys a fair amount of creative freedom when working with clients. Unless that client is Facebook. According to Wired, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg “rejected aggressive flourishes, like building ends that flared like butterfly wings.”
FacebookElevation
Image courtesy Menlo Park Community Development Department

While some of the design elements have been scaled back, the sustainable design components have not. Like Google, Facebook plans to make extensive use of landscaped roofing. Unlike most green roofs, Facebook’s will include full-grown trees, requiring up to 4-feet of soil. Hopefully the new green roof performs better than other large green roof installations…

Microsoft

While certainly not the darling of the tech industry it once was, Microsoft continues to dominate the marketplace. One problem that corporate facilities management must regularly contend with is balancing supply and demand with regards to office space. An innovative practice that Microsoft adopted long ago is to charge rent to vendors that are working on campus on Microsoft projects. According to GeekWire, Microsoft is netting $25M annually from the practice.


Source: Business Week

Images courtesy Gehry Partners LLP via Menlo Park Community Development Department

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