Reducing Our Carbon Footprint

DPR built its first green project—an office building for Aspect Communications in San Jose—nearly 10 years ago, when the words green and sustainable had just sprouted in the general contractor lexicon. Since then, DPR has built more than $1 billion worth of green buildings—including the Library of Congress National Audio-Visual Conservation Center in Culpeper, VA, whose sustainable features include the largest green roof on the East Coast.

But DPR has decided to go a green step further by reducing the carbon footprint of each of its offices—in Atlanta, Austin, Falls Church, Newport Beach, Phoenix, Redwood City, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose—as well as its jobsites.

“DPR is on the leading edge of the climate change initiative,” says Matt Crandall, a DPR project manager based in Redwood City and one of the company’s “green gurus.” “There currently is no government mandate in the U.S. or Canada for companies to reduce their carbon emissions, but we decided to step up now and reduce the carbon footprint of our corporate offices and our jobsites.”

As a member of Climate Leaders, an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) industry/government partnership, DPR has committed to reducing its impact on the environment by completing a corporate-wide inventory of its greenhouse gas emissions.

Using guidelines or “scopes” from the EPA and the World Resources Initiative (WRI), an environmental think tank, DPR surveyed its employees to determine each office’s carbon footprint.

What’s DPR’s impact on the environment? “Our average carbon footprint is typical for corporate environments,” says Ted van der Linden, DPR’s director of sustainable building and a board member of the U.S. Green Building Council. “But we want to demonstrate our green leadership, as well as realize operational savings, so we want to take our CO2 emissions even lower.” DPR’s goal is for each office to reduce its energy consumption by 10 percent by spring 2009.

DPR soon will apply the carbon footprint measure to its jobsites, too. With a total of 20 beta sites (two sites per office—a ground-up project and a tenant improvement), the company’s green gurus plan to collect the data from the beta sites then create a carbon footprint calculator for its customers. “What we want to be able to do,” says Crandall, “is to tell a biopharmaceutical customer, for example, that if they build a steel-frame biopharm lab from the ground up in the state of California with this many craftspeople on the job, their carbon footprint is likely to be x pounds. We then can say to that customer, ‘Why not use more biodiesel instead of fossil fuels? Instead of procuring equipment from the East Coast, how about getting your air handlers from Oregon?’”

DPR, a green leader since its first green building in 1999, has a stated goal to establish “a proven track record of being environmentally responsible in the way we do business.” By making its own carbon footprint smaller, the company is taking a big step toward meeting that objective.