Boulder Associates, a 90-person architecture and interior design firm, specializes in creating healthcare and senior living facilities. When the firm's Colorado neighbor, Boulder Community Hospital, decided to build a new campus, Boulder Associates was brought in to help design it—and to make the building green. By the time the project was completed (it received LEED Silver certification in 2003), project architect Kristi Ennis knew she wanted to make green design her specialty. She spent a semester at the Ecosa Institute, in Prescott, Ariz., learning about sustainability, a subject that had received short shrift in her earlier training.

In 2004, when she returned from Ecosa, the firm named her director of sustainable design—a new position—with responsibility for "greening" all of the firm's projects. One of her first accomplishments was making sure the firm's main office in Boulder, completed in 2005, and its satellite in Sacramento, Calif., completed earlier this year, are as green as they can be. (Both were certified LEED Gold.) Here are some of her tips on reducing your office's environmental footprint.

Reduce water use.

The firm has used both waterless urinals (in its Boulder office) and ?-gallon-per-flush urinals (in Sacramento). Its toilets are dual-flush models. Bathroom sinks have faucets that turn off when you take your hands away. The firm also put water filters in its kitchens, so employees don't feel the need to drink bottled water. "You wouldn't believe how many bottles we save," says Ennis.

  • Small steps, big difference: Kristi Ennis, director of sustainable design for Boulder Associates, scrutinizes everything from lightbulbs to garbage pails in her effort to limit the firm’s impact on the environment.

    Credit: David Mejias

    Small steps, big difference: Kristi Ennis, director of sustainable design for Boulder Associates, scrutinizes everything from lightbulbs to garbage pails in her effort to limit the firm’s impact on the environment.

Stop wasting wattage.

The days when architects needed to light their drawing boards are over. "I think we have one traditional drafting table left in the office," Ennis says. The firm has been able to get by with 13-watt fluorescent bulbs in swing-arm desk lamps. And all of the office appliances, including computers from Dell, plotters from Océ, and "business hubs" (copier/scanners) from Konica, have Energy Star ratings.

Cut down on travel, both intercity …

Boulder Associates has invested in "some pretty sophisticated" videoconferencing equipment, Ennis says, "so we don't have to travel for every meeting." And when drawings are needed in a remote location, the firm (using online file transfer protocols) has them printed near that site, rather than ship them from Boulder or Sacramento.

… and intracity.

In Boulder, there's a firm bicycle, available to employees who need to make pickups or deliveries, or just to run to the library or the dentist, Ennis says. In addition, the firm gives all its employees monthly bus passes.

Steer clear of toxic materials.

The firm has a model-building shop with a separate ventilation system but uses nontoxic materials whenever possible. For informal study models, "most people do them at their own desks, with leftover cardboard and Elmer's white glue."

Recycle whenever possible.

Under each desk, where there would normally be a garbage pail, there is a recycling bin—"so you have to think twice not to recycle." (The actual garbage pail is a "sidecar" barely big enough for a couple of coffee cups, says Ennis.) And more than paper and plastic gets recycled. The firm gets lots of product samples and either returns them to the manufacturers or finds another way to use them. Recently, Ennis says, "My son's day care took 12 carpet tiles for the kids to sit on during reading time."

Use your office to advertise what you can do for clients.

In designing its own offices, the firm's goal was to feature green materials prominently. Those used include wheatboard, which is made from rapidly renewable materials; formaldehyde-free MDF; and cotton insulation, made from surplus denim. Clients, says Ennis, are more likely to accept green products once they've seen and even touched them.