Athena Institute office move cuts environmental impacts

ID=3199 :: post_name=athena-institute-office-relocation :: post_title=Athena Office Relocation :: post_status=publish :: post_type=page :: post_category=Array

Athena Sustainable Materials Institute Office Relocation

“By right sizing our Ottawa office, we are reducing our environmental impacts and with a total primary energy payback period as short as 2.2 months, this is a great example of how enterprise can save money and cut environmental impacts drastically.”

                Jennifer O’Connor, President – Athena Sustainable Materials Institute

Our headquarters in the Wellington West neighbourhood of Ottawa served us well for several years but was bigger than we needed. At the end of 2018, we moved to a smaller space in downtown Ottawa. We’re not just saving rent – we’re also saving energy and carbon emissions.

We used life cycle assessment (LCA) to calculate the net benefit of downsizing. With less space to heat and cool, we are consuming less operating energy. But we created some embodied environmental impact through new partitions, paint, carpet and ceiling tiles in our new space. To properly assess the environmental benefit of our energy reduction, we must net out the impacts of our tenant fit-out. To do that, we apply LCA for comprehensive results.

The Athena Impact Estimator for Buildings software gave us LCA results for the new walls and paint, and incorporated utility inputs for the energy use in our old and new spaces. For LCA data on carpet and ceiling tiles, two products not available in the Impact Estimator, we consulted representative EPDs. We estimated energy consumption based on utility data for the new space.

Our results:

Impact indicator units Impact due to fit-out Impact avoided due to annual energy savings Payback period
Global Warming Potential kg CO2 eq 2,182.94 6161.25 4.3 months
Acidification Potential kg SO2 eq   20.26   27.29   8.9 months
Eutrophication Potential kg N eq   2.65   0.51   5.2 years
Ozone Depletion Potential kg CFC-11 eq   negligible negligible n/a
Smog Potential kg O3 eq 113.97 163.77 8.4 months
Total Primary Energy MJ   30,691.87   169,254.46   2.2 months

The embodied impacts of the tenant fit-out are mostly negated by the energy savings in less than a year. After paying back the initial environmental debt, the energy savings continue to accrue environmental benefits indefinitely.

A cautionary note on our results. Our energy savings calculation was a back-of-the-envelope estimate. And we ignored the impacts of our new kitchen cabinets and countertop, because this comprised very little material and LCA data for the products isn’t readily available.

Two other aspects of the move with beneficial environmental implications that we didn’t include in the results: we did not buy any new furniture (in fact, we had excess furniture to get rid of, and we donated it rather than dispose of it). And the move shortened the commute for the primary occupants of the space.