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Green Workplace Challenge #1: Hidden Plots

The people at Sustainable Pittsburgh seem nice. They’re friendly, smiley, and always have their arms outstretched to give you a handshake. But behind their gleaming facades hide a dangerous motive–they are secretly trying to make everyone sustainability experts.

I know this, because GASP has joined their Green Workplace Challenge (GWC), a “friendly” competition that pits like-sized organizations against each other in a battle-to-the-greenest. By performing sustainability actions, organizations receive points (and save a lot of energy and money in the process). Most points wins, Yogi Berra style. And the only way to achieve victory in the triple-bottom-lined arena is to know…everything. From water meter sub-metering, to carbon offsets, to software tools that help you track your office’s energy usage, we are studying the fine-grained details that fill in the shadows or make the highlights gleam on the canvas of sustainability. Oh sure, there are plenty of simple Challenge tasks that are quick, simple, and will save your workplace money immediately. But we want to win, darn it.

Our office has a lot to love, like some rooms with great natural lighting, indoor bike parking, and a fresh, airy, white-and-blue decor theme. This tin ceiling tops the front room and always drops jaws:


However, the same room has a not-so-desirable feature as well that also drops jaws. That feature is our hideous plastic-bubbly-window-things. Behold:


They’re thin, they’re dim, and they’re grody. In fact, state government won’t allow us to use that room due to its high grodiness levels. And since we’ve commissioned a new mosaic sign for the front of the building that will go near these windows, we know we must replace them pronto. Otherwise our beautiful new sign will just be shoe shine on grandpap’s old house slippers.

This fruit isn’t low-hanging–it dropped from the tree last year and has been rotting ever since. In our GWC-spurred study, we have learned about double- and triple-paned argon-filled glass, glass block with glass pane inside, Energy Star ratings, R-factors and U-values, and on and on. Lots of learning, but how to make sense of everything?

Enter AJ Stones, Master Green Remodeler and longtime friend of GASP. After a brief walkthrough of our workspace, we discussed redoing these windows with energy efficient glass pane or glass block, and mulled over much, much more. If our budget allows, you’ll see more improvements as the Green Workplace Challenge progresses. To get an idea of what green renovators can do for your home or business, take a look at a recent case study done by AJ and others with Diagnostic Energy Auditors, Western Pennsylvania, on a Park Place Victorian beauty of a home that needed a fresh look treatment of its energy systems. And let us know if you’ve done any energy upgrades recently that you’d like us to feature. You might even inspire us to figure out how to squeeze a few more GWC points out of our place!

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