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Sustainable Action Celebration 2011

And now, a little about us.

Back in 2002, we officially committed ourselves to being a sustainable business by conducting a thorough, months-long backcasting process. This process outlined a new set of sustainable business policies, practices, and strategies for the firm; it also established what would become the Sustainable Action Committee (SAC) to oversee their execution. Diving headfirst into the new future of SERA, the SAC team got a lot of great things accomplished in the first couple of years following the backcasting process and, rightly so, wanted to have a big party to celebrate the company’s efforts and accomplishments. And so, in 2006, the Sustainable Action Celebration was born.

Nick, Tuan, and Josh at the SAC

Nick, Tuan, and Josh at the SAC

That first Sustainable Action Celebration had all of the regular party-type stuff — organic fruit, locally-made cheeses, Willamette Valley wines, Portland beer, and regional charcuterie. But instead of sitting around patting ourselves on the back for taking on a world-changing paradigm shift, we put up some posters, presented what we were taking action on, and talked about how we could improve over the next year. Everyone at SERA got to chime in on where we should focus our sustainability-related efforts over the next year. And that’s become standard practice: every year we gather to both celebrate our achievements and plot our sustainable future.

Don Eggleston mingling at the SAC

Don Eggleston mingling at the SAC

On 21 April 2011, we held our sixth annual Sustainable Action Celebration to report on the previous year and to present the innovative things we’ve been working on. SAC Chair Becca Dobosh kicked off the party by summarizing what others have been saying about us:

  • That we were ranked the #3 Green Architecture Firm by Architect Magazine
  • That we were acknowledged as a Portland Climate Champion by the City of Portland’s BEST Business Center for having taken comprehensive, concrete actions to reduce our carbon emissions
  • That we were winner in the Innovation in Sustainability category for Sustainable Business Oregon, a publication of the Portland Business Journal
  • And that we’re ranked as one of the 100 Best Green companies to work for in Oregon according to the Oregon Business Journal and The Natural Step

Becca also rolled out SERA’s Sustainability Brochure, which you can download here (pdf, 3.13 MB)

Michael Miller presented SERA’s carbon emissions data and announced that we would be paying to offset our Scope 1 and Scope 3 emissions for 2009 and 2010; we’re looking forward to offsetting our 2011 emissions next year. (Scope 2 carbon emissions (electricity) are automatically mitigated through our use of PGE’s Green Source Renewal Energy program.)

Michael Miller announces SERA's carbon offset program

Michael Miller announces SERA’s carbon offset program

SERA Carbon Emissions

SERA Carbon Emissions

Michael also reported our progress on the AIA 2030 Commitment and how we’re trending with the buildings we’re designing and building today.

AIA 2030 Commitment

AIA 2030 Commitment

Tina Keller talked about SERA’s procurement policies and how we have been able to influence and impact diverse markets such as architectural reprographics services, interior finishes and materials, and the local catering market in significant ways. Priya Premchandran and intern Kai Pannu talked about their experience with the materials list for the Oregon Sustainability Center, which uses the Living Building Challenge as a model.

Green Materials

Green Materials

Kate Turpin talked about what SERA employees are doing as volunteer work outside the office that influence the community and Matthew Schuler presented the Energy Use Intensity (EUI) modeling results for both our buildings and ourselves. A few weeks before the Celebration, SERA employees volunteered their personal household energy data for the SERA Employee EUI contest. The clear winners, Jeff Law and Pryia Premchandran, were awarded fancy organic chocolates for having EUI footprints far lower than the national household average: 9 EUI vs. 44 EUI!

Energy Usage Index

Energy Usage Index

Alison Bane presented the green details of our recent office upgrades in the kitchen, ‘front porch,’ and new multi-media room.

Office Upgrades

Office Upgrades

Finally, Clark Brockman, Tim Smith, and Lisa Petterson wrapped up the afternoon’s presentations by recapping our innovations on EcoDistricts, Civic Ecology, and what we’re calling the Three Sisters: the ODOT Transportation Building, the Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Courthouse, and the Oregon Sustainability Center.

Three Sisters

Three Sisters

Lisa quoted Chris Varney by saying that “the best way to demonstrate the potential and possible solutions for sustainable construction is by concrete example.”  We’ve been able to influence sustainability at all scales over the last eight years: from our own office and business practices to our buildings that will save hundreds of millions of kWhs and BTUs, hundreds of thousands of gallons of water, and hundreds of metric tons of carbon. The Sustainable Action Celebration is a great way to acknowledge our concrete examples and focus our energy on the future.

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