Pharmaceutical company greens iconic New Jersey building

Roche shares green design learnings for its Roche, N.J., campus, which is registered for a LEED Silver certification.

The building makes use of common spaces such as the exterior lounges, so that employees can "work differently."

Pharmaceutical giant Roche has turned an obsolete laboratory facility in Nutley, N.J., into new green office space by combining elements of intelligent lighting technology and architectural design features that reduce the building's power consumption.

The retrofit of "building 76," which started about 18 months ago, has been registered for a Silver certification under the Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) program run by the U.S. Green Building Council. The project encompassed an overhaul of more than half the floors on the building; the demolished materials were earmarked for reuse by the general contractor. This particular site already had an extensive recycling program: Each year it recycles up to 453 tons of cardboard, 131 tons of paper, three tons of fluorescent lamps, and 64 tons of landscaping debris.

I spoke with Dorris Coleman, senior manager of facilities planning for the site, about some of the design points that have helped Roche work toward that goal. Here are her highlights:

Smart shades and daylight harvesting: The curtain walls on the north and south side of the building include technology that adjusts automatically according to the amount of ambient light. The ceiling lights are configured to be brighter or dimmer as required, so that the lighting levels are evened out over the space. So, for example, if you are next to the window at midday, your lights might be off, while the ones a few cubicle rows deeper into the building might be on. "Unless you look up, you don't even notice," Coleman says.

Occupancy sensors: As you can see by the photo above, the building is an "open plan" design. That is, employees use workstations, not offices. For meetings and brainstorming sessions, they are encouraged to meet and chat in lounge areas (like the one pictured), that are sited along the exterior walls. Open office designs can present a challenge from a green design perspective, Coleman says. But in this case, there are actually fewer occupants on each floor than when there were more traditional offices. In addition, the architects considered the open design's impact on climate control when building out the space. Which brings us to ...

Chilled beams: You know how it goes. If you're sitting near a southern exposure wall, your space might be warmer than someone a few cubes over. Roche is using chilled beams along the southern side of the building to help remove heat from rooms during the summer and cut down on those ridiculous hot and cold zones that you might experience in a traditional office space.

Electric vehicles: Aside from installing several charging stations at the campus, Roche employees can use an electric vehicle for building to building travel across the 127-acre campus.

Cogeneration: This is actually something that has been in place for many years, since the 1980s. Although the plant doesn't generate all of the site's electricity and heating needs, it contributes to both reduced electricity costs and carbon dioxide emissions. Roche buys electricity generated by renewable sources through its local utility company, Coleman says.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com