“We’re moving into the future in a big way, right along with our products,” said Rob Traynham, director of corporate services for Nissan North America. Opened in July of 2008, the $100 million Nissan headquarters for North, Central, South and Latin America operations is in sync with the automaker’s initiative for energy efficient vehicles.
The Nissan Americas building’s innovative energy-saving features has earned it the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s prestigious 2009 Energy Star. The award signifies the building’s energy performance rates in the top 25 percent of facilities nationwide.
The task was to make the best use of the 50-acre property, protect the wetlands and keep the headquarters close to the highway for convenience. The mandate was for a hi-tech, energy-efficient space.
Efficiency: At 420 feet long and 10 floors high, the exterior walls are mostly glass with aluminum frames with floor to ceiling windows in all of the working areas. There’s tons of available light — and light equals free solar energy.
Environmental preservation: To keep the surrounding wetlands thriving, Nissan enhanced them with plants. As a result, two red-tailed hawks are regular residents much to everyone’s delight. Rainwater from an on-site pond is used to irrigate the property.
By also putting plants on the roof, Nissan feels that they’ve replaced some of the footprint they took up when building. The low-growing, low-maintenance sedum plants spread out like a carpet on the roof. These perennials also lower the temperature on the roof and use a lot of run-off water.
Nissan Americas was designed for interaction: With over 1,540 people working at the headquarters, the building was configured so that people could run into each other. The departments with the strongest interactivity are on the same floor. The restrooms, meeting room, kitchens etc., are situated in the center of each floor and are referred to as the “town center.”
Wide floating staircases (for impromptu meetings or conversations) are placed at either end of the floors.
To leverage efficiency of meetings and conversations, the building is wireless, casual furniture is grouped on each floor and any walls without frames are whiteboards. In other words, people can write on the walls.
Communication is key: “The Renault-Nissan Alliance requires close communication,” Traynham explained. “We are part of a worldwide partnership, so our systems have to allow efficient communication 24/7.” Thus, every floor has at least one video conference room; in the main floor audio-visual room there can be up to 12 different groups on the screen at the same time. Worldwide video conferencing cuts down on air travel and time, saving valuable the resources of money and fuel.
Let the light in: “We wanted every employee to have a view,” noted Traynham. With wall-to-ceiling windows in every working area the building is drinking in natural light.
To supplement the ambient light there are sensors throughout the building that decide minute by minute how much light is needed. “We know what optimal level of light is needed on the work surface, thus the closer to the inside of the building the lights are on stronger,” said Traynham.
High-efficiency fluorescent light bulbs are projected upward, reflecting off the white ceilings to even out the light. Air-conditioning vents are located on the floor because it is more effective for air-conditioning to flow up rather than go down.
Quiet space: The building uses “pink noise” to counteract workplace noise. Coffee-can sized instruments are suspended about every 25 feet inside the ceiling, “The building is transparent; we wanted employees to see out and for light to come in. As a result, cubicle walls have to be lower,” Traynham, mentioned. One of the problems lowered cubicle walls is cross-talk.
The pink noise system uses minimal electric power to put out a frequency that targets the wavelengths of human voices and counteracts them. That way, no energy is wasted. At night both the lights and the pink noise system shut off.
Alternative choices: Nissan Americas uses green cleaning supplies, but they go one step further by giving employees cafeteria food leftovers to a local businessman for composting.
“He comes by twice a week to pick them up and they’re like gold to him,” stated Traynham.
“We are always looking at becoming more green and sustainable,” noted Traynham. “The next step we’re exploring is a solar grid assisted charge for the battery-powered LEAF.” — Holly Reich, Motor Matters
Copyright, Motor Matters, 2009