News Brief

Do-It-Yourself at Sasaki Associates

The new open plan at Sasaki promotes collaboration and allows deep penetration of daylight.

Photo: Sasaki Associates
When designers at Sasaki Associates urge clients to pursue green strategies, they can point to successes at their own building in Watertown, Massachusetts, which recently achieved a Gold rating in LEED for Existing Buildings (LEED-EB).

Until LEED-EB was released, according to Meredith Elbaum, AIA, sustainable design director for the firm, it was hard for the company’s internal green team, dubbed GreenLAB, to set priorities for renovations, purchasing decisions, and site maintenance. LEED gave GreenLAB, formed in 2003, a framework and metrics to measure its success.


  • By adopting an open plan, painting ceilings white, and choosing energy-efficient lighting fixtures, GreenLAB reduced electricity usage in the building by 35%. After the changes, the utility company called, wondering if the building’s meter was broken.



  • A 2007 “dumpster dive” showed that 50% of trash could have been recycled. The team also found half-used rolls of toilet paper that the maintenance company had been prematurely replacing. Clarifying the cleaning contract and replacing some paper products with hand dryers cut down on paper waste.


  • Adding renewables to the building seemed like a laudable goal, but consulting engineer Nico Kienzl of Atelier Ten said that “putting renewables on this building would be like putting a hybrid engine in a Hummer!” Sasaki focused on improving energy efficiency instead.


  • GreenLAB decided to use Green Seal-certified paper products. Says Elbaum, “We noticed that one company was putting Green Seal stickers on their boxes. We thought they looked fishy so we checked and, sure enough, they were not certified.”


  • Elbaum notes that pursuing LEED-EB certification is an ongoing process and that Sasaki will need to recertify in 2013 at the latest. She notes that there are three keys to successful LEED certification: the support of top management, the support of the facilities director, and the integration of all of the operations changes into a regular process of evaluation. It’s a lot to stay on top of for a company that occupies a little over 75,000 ft2 (7,000 m2) and, Elbaum says, may require a full-time position.



Published January 2, 2009

Wendt, A. (2009, January 2). Do-It-Yourself at Sasaki Associates. Retrieved from

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