True Green Cities / The Greenest Office is a Virtual One – Maybe

Historic Moravian House in Old Salem

My permanent office seems to have settled in our 1839 house in Old Salem, North Carolina, at least for now.

Since my last blog about the possibilities and merits of creating a green office, much has changed in my office plans.  One, I don’t have a real office.  Two, I gave up on my current plans for one. And three, I’m traveling as much as ever.  I’ve been joking that I’m going to get an Airstream and just drag my books, files and cats around with me everywhere, until my sister commented that the amount of gas needed to do that would probably preclude any other green efforts I might be making! Leaving Canine Splash to the Dogs I had planned to set up my permanent office at the historic warehouse my sister and her business partner have secured for their new dog swim recreation center, Canine Splash. While I still think under the right circumstances it could work and be fun, it’s just not coming together for me right now.  The warehouse space works great for their needs – large open spaces for pools and dogs.  But the existing finishes in the office space does not work well for a design firm.  It requires an awful lot of work to make it acceptably beautiful and green to meet my tastes – and using a lot of money and new products my first year in business just to bring the space up to par, didn’t seem to make economic sense in the end.
International Harvester Refrigerator

A working vintage 1950s International Harvester refrigerator painted a sassy cobalt will add some character to Canine Splash's lounge area.

It turns out that removing carpet and the toxic glue that a previous tenant put down in the office space with the hope of just polishing the concrete underneath is far more invasive and expensive than it might seem.  The heavy duty concrete polishing machine uses an extraordinary amount of labor and power.  And even just staining the concrete requires a similar polishing machine to scrape off the glue.  We’re now looking at using recycled-tire rubber flooring which should be a perfect look for the dog swim center but not sure for my office.  But the deal killer was the ceiling.  To replace the dropped ceiling with the Pinta Acoustic recycled wood or glass tile we wanted would have used a good portion of my savings!!  If it were my own building, I would have considered it, but as a subtenant to another lease, not a sound choice. So as Canine Splash finally has a signed lease and we move forward with ordering pools and designing a lounge area and minimal office space, the interesting and green components are all supporting the canine use only and not also a swanky design office.  The uses may not have been compatible to begin with, but you can’t blame sisters for trying! Recycling and Salvaging
Cedar wood gate

The cedar gate we're planning on incorporating into the reception desk at Canine Splash.

The pools need to be new of course, but the decking surrounding it will be made from a recycled composite material, Moisture Shield. We’ve also found reused and reconstituted appliances including a washer/dryer and a super groovy 1950s International Harvester refrigerator that’s been painted a terrific cobalt.  We’ve been struggling over what to do for the reception desk.  We originally thought we’d be able to reuse some fabulous partitions I designed for another project – but turns out the government bureaucracy surrounding retrieving those items was insurmountable and now sadly they are headed to the landfill which makes me super sad and infuriated.  But surprisingly we realized when driving into my sister's garage this morning that two beautiful old cedar driveway gates that my sister replaced with wrought iron, were just sitting and waiting for reuse.  We are now looking at creating a reception desk and lounge area partition using these former gates and some recycled countertop.  It’s turning out to be a lot of fun too. My Office Is Wherever I Am Canine Splash continues to move forward and so does BAC/Architecture + Planning, just not together.  I wish I could happily set up my office in one place, but so far my work is all over the country and I think I really have the ultimate virtual business.  The hard part of course is never quite knowing where anything is and needing those files in North Carolina when I’m working in DC.  I decided not to decide about a permanent location until I get through the first year of business and see how everything pans out.  In the mean time, my office in our house in North Carolina is turning out to be the most permanent work space I have.  And I’ve treated myself to a reused Saarinen Tulip desk chair, a 1950s steel “kitchen cart” for my printer “cart” and my one nod to the sleek lighting I was looking to install at the Buffalo warehouse – the Flos Kelvin LED desk lamp which will nicely complement the Tulip chair.  My desk is a fabulous old oak library table that I inherited from my uncle.
Saarinen Tulip Chair and 1950s kitchen cart

The reused Saarinen Tulip chair and 1950s steel kitchen "cart" I recently bought at a second hand midcentury modern store in Buffalo.

What’s Next? Amusingly, the one piece of technology that’s turning out to be a huge necessity is my AT&T broadband flash drive – lets me work just about anywhere.  My investment in a full Apple suite of items – MacBook Pro, iPad and iPhone lets me connect with anyone just about anywhere.  I can create beautiful marketing pieces and send them off to a new client whether I’m in the USAirways Club or my Subaru!  More and more I'm doing business on Facebook and Twitter.  And I have a full suite of Dell PC equipment in my NC office.  It’s all Energy Star rated of course.  Sadly though, my carbon footprint from travel continues to be a problem.  But unless I decided to trade in my itinerant lifestyle for that of a hermit, it’s unlikely that will change.  So is a virtual business a green one? I may not have a whole lot of new stuff other than technology, but it might take a while to know how to answer that question.  I’ll check back periodically and let you know how I’m doing. And keep you posted on the greening of Canine Splash. And if you’d like to “subscribe” or follow this blog, True Green Cities, please sign up through the “Subscribe” button at the bottom left of this page. You’ll receive a daily recap when new blogs are posted.  
© Copyright Barbara Campagna – True Green Cities - 2011-2013