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The 2015 Sustainable Action Celebration: Transformation

Every year around Earth Day, SERA invites staff, clients and partners to explore our commitment to sustainability over the last year, and to see how we can make advances in our industry.

The Sustainable Action Celebration is a SERA tradition in its ninth year, spurred by an extensive backcasting of the firm that underscored sustainability as a chief tenet behind our business policies, practices and strategies. The event reminds us of our advancements and pushes us towards bigger, broader sustainable goals.

2015’s celebration theme was Transformation – moving from small, incremental change to broader strategies that improve our data, create healthier projects and meet the challenges of climate change. Transformation also represents a shift in thinking for SERA. Like most firms, in the past we have thought of sustainability in strict terms of building performance. Today, sustainable design is much more comprehensive and includes indicators like occupant health and well-being.

In sum, presenter Matt Piccone asked, “How can we transform buildings, the environment, our processes and ourselves?”

We begin by looking at the past year of projects – some developing and others completed – including Google’s IEQ, the Collaborative Life Sciences Building, Argyle Winery, AC Hotel, the University of Oregon’s Erb Memorial Union and more. Preview our illustrated advancements below or download our SAC boards (4 MB .pdf) for a closer look.

Highlights of the festivities..

Our Sustainable Action Celebration is a chance to connect with our clients off the job site and away from the drawing boards. Staff and guests mingled over food and drinks, and got a first glimpse at SAC boards and the discussion topics ahead.

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This year, SERA Visualizer Brian Stevens created an Android app allowing attendees to dig deeper into the facts and figures behind our work. Guests who downloaded the app needed only to aim their smartphone or tablet at the boards to view related infographics, charts and text snippets.

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Don Eggleston, SERA’s president and founding partner, revealed to guests this week’s big announcement: the Collaborative Life Sciences Building & Skourtes Tower, achieved AIA COTE Top Ten honors this year, making the collaboration with CO Architects one of the most successful green projects in the nation.

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In simultaneous discussions on the first and second floors, employees were asked to gauge where they believed our firm existed on a spectrum between unsustainable design to regenerative. Blue dots indicate where employees feel SERA is now, and where it should be in 5 and 15 years. Collecting these impressions creates awareness about where we are, while helping determine our next steps.

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Finally, employees and guests learned more about our year in accomplishments and our short-term next steps, and helped us set a course for 2030  – the year in which our industry is committed to carbon-neutral buildings and renovations. Employees at our new Silicon Valley office joined us via Google Hangouts, weighing in on our presentation in real time.

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So how do we move forward? Here are just a few actions proposed in the discussion:

  • Maintain a database to track the energy use of our entire portfolio.
  • Guide clients through healthy material choices early on and throughout the design process.
  • Require water to be used at least three times before leaving the project site.
  • Create spaces in all projects that provide refuge, delight, foster communication and allow people to come together, and feel comfortable.

Even if you didn’t attend, we’d love your input! Tell us, what steps should all firms take to reduce their impact on the environment?

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