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LEED a Building to Water… and it Won’t Drink as Much
UPS corporate office

Remember when Tom Hanks was in comedies? Ah, good. I see a few hands at the back. One of his most famous was “Big.” You know the one. Little boy makes a wish at a penny arcade machine to be an adult and wakes up as Tom Hanks, who then gets a job at a toy company.

In the film, Hanks is in a meeting where this guy is pitching a line of transforming toys that turn from skyscrapers into robots. Hanks tells the guy the idea is boring because no kid wants to play with a building. Now, I don’t know if what I’m about to say makes UPS boring or geeky, but we really enjoy playing with buildings. There’s a lot of stuff you can do with them. In fact, we’ve been playing with our corporate office since it was built in Atlanta, Ga., in 1994.

Our corporate office, despite being almost 20 years old, has earned Gold Status certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) as well as the Energy Star stamp of approval for energy efficiency.  You might wonder how a two-decade-old structure could hope to stay ecologically friendly. Well, let me give you the Behind the Music treatment on this one.

The UPS Corporate Office started life way ahead of its time. While every other new office complex in the 1990s was clear cutting forests on its way to short-term glory, the footprint of the UPS headquarters was carefully cut out of the forest so that only six of the 35 acres on the property were impacted. The rest remain untouched Piedmont Forest to this day, including a natural brook that was preserved. The trees begin a mere 15 feet from the building on all sides. If our windows opened, I could probably touch one with a pool cue.    

The roof decks of the complex are made from Albedo concrete, which unlike tar reflects the sunlight to keep cooling costs down in those hot Georgia summers. Concrete sun shading and tinted exterior windows further reduce energy costs.

In the years since, UPS’s engineers have continually come up with other innovations to keep the building on the forefront of efficiency. Plumbing fixtures have been upgraded since 2005, reducing the building’s water usage by 39 percent. Lighting throughout the complex is fully automated to conserve power during off hours, and UPS engineers continually document the building’s energy efficiency!

So, Mr. Hanks, say what you want about playing with buildings, but they are far from boring. The rewards a lot more than “big,” they are epic!

Category: Sustainability, UPS News
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    Comments [3]

  1. It’s nice to see UPS is making efforts to be more sustainable. Does UPS encourage employees to commute via public transport? That’s another huge source of environmental impact and is sort of the downside to locating in a forest, unless something like a shuttle is provided. According to Google Maps, there’s a subway station right around the corner, but it doesn’t look easy to get anywhere near the UPS building from it. Just curious.

    • Yes, the UPS Corporate Office has a shuttle service to nearby Atlanta public transportaion facilities. The complex is also located by a major Atlanta highway, so our employees have a number of options.

  2. I just wish the rest of the facilities were as efficient. The building I work at has about 3 acres of roof that should be covered with solar panels. In addition, we have about 2,000 feet of wall that could easily support multiple, vertical axis wind turbines. We might not to be able to become totally energy self-sufficient, but could at least power all of the office A/C and lighting requirements.

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