Jarmel Kizel Architects and Engineers Inc. Advises Lawyers to “Define Green” When Making Workspace Decisions
NEWARK, N.J. (MARCH 17, 2009) -- Law firms looking to go green should define what green means to them before making decisions about greening their office spaces. That definition could include such goals as improving the environment because it is the right thing to do, lowering operating costs to save money and branding their company.
That was the advice offered by Matthew B. Jarmel, a principal of Jarmel Kizel Architects and Engineers, at “The Green Office Panel” at the Law and Office--New Jersey conference held March 11 in Newark, N.J. The conference, which was sponsored by ScheinMedia Conferences, brought together law firm tenants and building owners, leasing brokers, architects and space planners.
“There are many shades of green that mean different things to different people,” Jarmel said. “Law firms first have to figure out why they want to go green.”
Corporate interiors are one of the many specialties for Livingston, N. J.-based Jarmel Kizel, which is one of the state’s largest and most well-established architecture and engineering firms, and is known for providing one-stop shopping for architecture, engineering and interior design services.
Though Jarmel Kizel has considerable experience in designing office space for law firms, including green office space, Jarmel noted that the principles for creating green office space apply as well to any kind of end-user.
Once a firm has defined what green means to them, they can sit down with their architect and decide how to implement their ideas, Jarmel said. The role of the architect or design professional is to educate the client on their options with regard to such potentially green features as lighting and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, he said.
The panel, which was moderated by C. Bradley Cronk of New York City-based LePatner & Associates law firm, was one of four panels at the half-day conference. About 110 attended the event, which was held at the IDT Building. Panelists focused on topics such as landlord-tenant relationships; broker-law firm compatibility; law firm needs in growing, downsizing, moving and staying in place; and design.
With tenant occupancy at more than 100 million square feet, law firms are one of the biggest office space users in the United States, and, although green options are more limited for law firms that lease, as opposed to those that build and own their own buildings, even tenants can make decisions with regard to interior fit-outs that make their office spaces more sustainable, Jarmel said.
For instance, by designing for shared private offices, law firms can reduce the overall amount of space required and hence their carbon footprint, Jarmel said. Also, by designing the space so that open work areas, rather than private offices, occupy the locations closest to the window walls they can increase the amount of natural daylighting, thus saving on lighting and energy costs.
In cases where a law firm is building or retrofitting their own building, the number of green options is greater. One of the major decisions is whether or not to seek LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the non-profit organization devoted to green building that developed the LEED rating system for buildings.
The LEED rating system is a voluntary, consensus-based international rating system for developing high-performance sustainable buildings. The system addresses all building types and emphasizes state-of-the art strategies in five areas: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, material and resources selection and indoor environmental quality.
LEED certification can be cumbersome and costly to achieve as well as to maintain, Jarmel said. But it can also create an attractive “brand” that can serve as an effective marketing tool, if that’s what the law firm is seeking. On the other hand, law firms that are seeking only to save on operating costs can achieve a similar degree of sustainability without taking the time and trouble to pursue LEED certification.
Though green building is generally considered to be more costly than conventional construction, Jarmel noted that much of that cost can be offset by the energy efficiencies of green features, as well as by state-sponsored rebates. In order to qualify for such rebates, however, firms must register early in the planning process, which requires that a design professional be involved in the planning process from the beginning.
One of the most effective energy-saving features is controls, Jarmel said. Though controls add to the up-front cost, they save in the long run by allowing the lighting and HVAC systems to be adjusted to the needs of the occupants and to be turned off when not in use. These systems should be properly maintained and regularly audited to ensure that they are operating at maximum efficiency, he added.
Indeed, one of the first things that law firms should inquire into when they are looking for leased space is the condition of the HVAC system, particularly in an older building, he said. Prospective tenants should look into whether the system has been upgraded to improve energy efficiency, as well as to optimize indoor air quality, which is important to the health and comfort of the occupants.
About Jarmel Kizel Architects & Engineers, Inc.
Headquartered in Livingston, N.J., Jarmel Kizel Architects and Engineers, Inc. is a full-service integrated architecture, engineering, interior design and energy consulting firm serving a distinguished client base of commercial and residential real estate companies, and a myriad of corporations throughout the Northeast. The company employs registered architects, interior designers, professional engineers, LEED-AP professionals and technical support personnel that provide clients with a single source for all of their facility needs from architectural design, interior design, structural, MEP and civil engineering, to energy solutions and product procurement management services. For more information, contact the company’s Livingston headquarters at 973.994.9669 or visit www.jarmelkizel.com.