If You Don’t Ask, They Won’t Tell

Searching for office space at first seems a lot like selecting a college. You build some high level criteria, and tour a number of options. But at some point, you have got to make your short list. Our team has finally narrowed down the list of buildings that we want to “apply to” to 3 or 4, perhaps including a “safety school.”

This is the RFP phase of our search, where we explicitly invite the top choices on our list to compete for our rent dollars. We get a plan of each property, and have our space planner create a “test fit” to see how our organization might align with the building’s available space. Where do the offices go? Coffee and break rooms? Conference rooms? How might different parts of the staff interact in the space?

But in starting this phase, we are consciously signaling our desire for sustainability and energy efficiency. We want to know what the building will provide, how they will measure it, and what will happen if goals aren’t met. We’ve also made a point to give buildings the option of being energy efficient now, or in the future – just as long as they eventually meet some level of energy efficiency. Thus, we included the following language in our RFPs sent out to the short list:

17. Landlord’s Sustainable Operating Practices. As an extension of their philosophy for social responsibility and mission to promote energy efficiency, NEEA will be seeking high levels of operating performance for their new Portland office. Sustainability goals, operating procedures, performance indicators, and certifications will be negotiated in a “green” lease. As a starting point, the BOMA Commercial Office Lease with green lease language, copy write 2008, shall be the base lease document for purposes of documenting sustainability and energy efficiency performance. A copy of this lease agreement shall be simultaneously transmitted to the Landlord’s attention with transmittal of this offer to lease. Please provide detailed information as to how your building will help support NEEA’s goals, as well as provide a list of building standard sustainable practices (such as separate metering of NEEA’s space for utility usage, use of green cleaning products, recycling programs, etc,), current or projected building certification or performance indicators (ENERGY STAR ratings, LEED-EBOM, etc.) and tracking and reporting mechanisms to document building performance levels. Tenant will work expeditiously with the Landlord to clarify all practical performance requirements, expectations, and other “green” requirements prior to lease signature.

Responses are due soon, it will be fascinating to see what kind of ideas and proposals we see. Tell us what you think – did we ask for the right things?


Open vs. Closed Office Space?

One of the unique opportunities – and challenges – when moving your office location is the chance to redesign the layout.  Where does everybody sit?  Who is near the windows?  Are there private offices or not?  Our senior management has recently begun wrestling with this question while we narrow down our list of potential new homes.  Paul, our space planner, recently gave a presentation and discussed the pros and cons of different design strategies to the senior management team.  The discussion ranged from noise levels, privacy, cross-functional productivity, and how teams can collaborate together more effectively.  A big issue that also emerged was that of corporate culture, and our staff’s capacity for change.  Moving too far to the extremes of either option could simply be counterproductive.

From an energy efficiency perspective – the question has some interesting ramifications.  If closed offices are on the perimeter, will daylighting be diminished?  Access to daylight is a big issue for our staff. Can that be moderated by glass versus solid wall construction?  Is there an energy penalty due to closed offices?  What lighting strategies are deployed – task lights at each desk or standard ceiling illumination – or both?  The choice between an open versus closed plan seems to be a major crossroads – once we choose a direction, some energy saving opportunities open up while others may close.  It will be fascinating to work with Paul and his team to understand the implications of this decision, and how we can still get energy efficient space that meets our work style.

A Sneak Peak at Potential Homes

Last week, our broker took a few of us on a tour of several Portland buildings. This wasn’t really an official part of our selection process, but more of a primer on things to look for, questions to ask, and how to imagine ourselves in a new space. We walked through four buildings and were pleased that the property teams were eager to discuss their energy performance and sustainability plans. We learned about ENERGY STAR ratings, LEED certification potential, and general views on how each property team is looking to meet our desire for efficiency and sustainability in our new office.

It was an encouraging sign. Perhaps it was simply good salesmanship on their part, knowing our core mission. But hopefully when we begin narrowing down potential buildings, we will have a wealth of choices and hard data on the energy performance of each building.

Seeking High Performance Office Space


Photo © Office Now/Flickr Creative Commons

The Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA) is on a mission – mobilize the Northwest to become increasingly energy efficient for a sustainable future.  It’s a big job, and we’re ramping up to meet the challenge.

To that end, we are searching for new office space that will enable our work, embody our values and spread the word of high performance to others who lease office space.  NEEA is growing in terms of the size of our staff and the scope of our responsibilities, and our new home will be critical to our success.  To us, high-performance is defined across many levels – financially responsible, productive and healthy for our staff, and of course – energy efficient.

We don’t expect to get everything on our wish list, but we do hope to encourage the real estate market – tenants, building owners, property managers, appraisers, architects, etc. – to have deeper discussions about what it really means to occupy a high-performance, “green” or sustainable building.

Join us on our search, and follow our progress here as we find our new home.  Whether you are a tenant, leasing agent, building owner, or just curious, we hope you’ll share your thoughts, and use your experience to foster your own discussions on high-performance office spaces in the Portland market.

Find out what we are asking for by checking out the How We’re Requesting Green Office Space page.

Have an idea for our search?  Send inquiries to Jack Davis (NEEA) or Mike Holzgang (Colliers International).