Monday, May 16, 2011

Life in a LEED Certified Building

A few years ago, the company I work for moved us into a building that was certified LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver. I'm all about doing everything I can to save the planet. I suspect I'll never get back the sizeable portion of my manhood I traded in when I bought my hybrid; I use the Water Miser setting when I do dishes; and I nearly electrocuted myself installing an energy effient ceiling fan light. If I could afford it I would buy one of those silly Dean Kamen devices that turns Doritos, rocks, mud and basically anything that's not baby poop into drinkable water. It's more manly for me to stick my 6-month-old daughter's little lion squeeky toy out the window and squeek it at someone than to lay on the horn in my hybrid. You get the point.

I don't know the corporate benefits of LEED certification, but I suspect there are some nice tax breaks and it makes for a nice HR press release. We even have a nice LEED logo declaring our high level of environmental friendliness on the front door. But, over the course of a few years, I've noticed a few downsides to working in a LEED building that I think everyone should be aware of.

1) Toilets: Our toilets have two buttons on them: a green button with one drop of water on it, and a silver button (for the rebels among us) with three drops of water on it. The icons on these buttons are life size representations of exactly how much water will be used to flush the waste. You couldn't flush a fly with either of them. If you think low-flow toilets are stupid, these things are a crime against humanity. I'm pretty sure people have missed meetings because they spent an hour in the bathroom hitting the flush button. I think the green icon should be replaced with the text "Play Again" and the silver icon should be replaced with the text "Not Quite."

2) Sink and Soap Sensors: The sink and soap sensors really save the big bucks; they not only regulate the water, they also cut down on the power bill -- because only about half of them work. It's quite the circus in the bathroom in my wing. You literally have to do the Macarena to wash your hands properly, because the faucet sensor works on the left side and the soap sensor works on the right side. You have to literally criss cross your hands or migrate between both of the sinks to wash your hands. And God help you if the towel dispensor is acting up. It's not uncommon to come across a guy who came into the bathroom having a bad day in the first place who had to press the pathetic flush button 58 times and do a triple toe loop to wash his hands, banging his fists against the paper towel machine screaming "Why, God, why!?!" because he ran into trouble on the final leg of his quest. Indiana Jones had an easier obstacle course in Raiders of the Lost Ark. I'm pretty sure some people have taken off the rest of the day after working the circuit in the bathrooms. And to make it worse, every bathroom in the building has a unique situation with regard to what works and what doesn't, but I haven't found one yet where everything is functional. If Michael Douglas had to deal with this in Falling Down, he would have lost it a lot sooner.

3) The Dump: One of the qualifications for LEED Silver certification is that the building be built in an area that meets the qualifications for "Regional Priority." Given that we're 500 yards from the dump, I'm guessing the way to achieve LEED Gold is to actually build a building on top of the dump and replace the water in the little fountain on the first floor with toxic sludge. On a good day the building smells like a gym sock; on a bad day, it smells like you bottled the farts of every athlete who graced a men's high school locker room over the course of 30 years and then released it into our building. I won't be shocked at all if 30 years from now I have some terrible disease that they trace back to breathing in these toxic fumes.

I often envision the guy who sold my company on the LEED certification as having a lot in common with the guy who sold pet rocks: At the end of the day he made a few nickels and 30 years later the idiots who bought the rocks wound up in therapy. Apologies if you owned a pet rock.

1 comment:

  1. You forgot to mention that to encourage recycling, they took away the waste baskets and expected us to leave our desks and walk to a communal waste basket to dispose of used tissues--good for reycling but unfortunalely bad for health, sanitation, and work production.