JLG Architects Lives, Works, and Plays Green to Celebrate Earth Week
Community outreach, office events highlight firm’s green commitment
by Russell Boniface
How do you . . . involve your firm’s employees in fun, sustainable activities, both in the community and at the office?
Summary: JLG Architects practiced what they preach about green design by holding an office-wide sustainable program filled with eco-friendly events during Earth Week this year. From April 23–27, employees in JLG's four offices—in Grand Forks and Fargo, N.D., and Minneapolis and Alexandria, Minn.—participated in local community outreach that included talking to third graders about green design, performing park and highway cleanup, and operating a sustainable wellness university booth. Each office also held in-house staff activities involving organic lunches, sustainability-themed movies, eco-emails, walks, carpooling, and biking to work.
JLG Architects’ Sustainable Design Committee was instituted to create a cohesive feeling about the firm’s green design projects. The committee, developed with a mission and goals, encourages employees to “practice what they preach” about their sustainable designs by participating in both community outreach and office activities.
Rebecca Molldrem, AIA, a member of the JLG Architects Green Committee, says it was important to make their sustainable program light-hearted and inspiring. “I think it helps boost your employees’ morale if you can make it fun,” she says. “We wanted to have it so their hearts would be into it while making the whole sustainability effort real.”
Adds Amanda Kosior, JLG’s marketing director: “We wanted employees to live, work, and play green.” The recent result was a shared effort by JLG employees at each of its four offices during Earth Week. JLG employees performed “active” green tasks in each community and “passive” green activities at each office.
Active: Making sustainability fun in the community
“It was important for our employees to get out into the community and think about the people who actually go into a building, such as a school, and learn how it affects them,” explains Molldrem.
At JLG Fargo, employees visited third grade class and spoke about what architects do and why the environment matters. The JLG team gave each student a planter made from a reused milk carton. Sides of the carton addressed land use, water use, air supply, and energy supply. JLG’s Alexandria, Minn., office adopted a highway stretch as part of Minnesota’s “Adopt-a-Highway” program to pick up litter. Staff also participated in the 13th Annual Watershed Cleanup at Nokomis Lake. The Minneapolis office also participated in a cleanup effort, this one in St. Paul.
And JLG’s Grand Forks employees opened a booth for the University of North Dakota’s Wellness Center Earth Week Celebration that presented facets of sustainable design implemented during the design of a new campus hall. The team, attired in t-shirts promoting sustainability, handed out promotional seed packets and offered the students a special free lecture on environmental wellness.
Passive: Making sustainability fun in the office
JLG’s sustainable design program also involved office activities, or, as Molldrem calls it, something passive.
“Each office tried a passive activity every day. Activities included our sustainable lunch and a movie, for which we went to an organic market, got lunch, came back to the office and watched a sustainable movie, such as Who Killed the Electric Car?, An Inconvenient Truth, and Design: E2. We also e-mailed an eco-fun fact each day on sustainability. The Grand Forks office had a 10 o’clock and 3 o’clock walk break and cleaned up things as they saw the need. JLG Alexandria held an open sustainable luncheon to learn about sustainable design within the industry and our firm. And each office set up a day where we had a ‘car strike’ when we would bike, bus, carpool, or walk to work.
“Our sustainability committee is also working on a green operations plan that will go with office project manuals,” Molldrem says. “That’s something we’d suggest for firms—to come up with daily, encompassing ways to be truly sustainable, not just applying guidelines to projects.”
Bringing sustainability home
Molldrem enthuses that the Earth Week activities were a success appreciated by each community and morale-boosting for employees. “It’s something we’ll continue each year, and hopefully it will get bigger and better.” Molldrem suggests that other AIA firms initiate something similar. “It’s definitely about trying to make sustainability a bit more at home for all employees so that it carries over into our designs of the built environment.”