The new Apple headquarters is controversial to say the least, and I have been consistently negative about it. I remain so, and do not believe that a walled suburban office campus with parking for 10,500 cars can ever be truly green. Nonetheless, there are features of that building that deserve note and a bit of praise. Over at Green Biz, Heather Clancy writes about 6 ways Apple's new mothership will be ultra green. She acknowledges that " critics charge that Apple's sleek new campus will exemplify the worst aspects of car-centered suburbia", but on the other hand....
They are planting 7,000 trees.
According to the project description, they are reintroducing native species.
The Apple Campus 2 landscape framework primarily comprises landforms and vegetation found in the Oak Woodland and Oak Savanna that once were prevalent in the area.... Complex woodland planting with layered understory will provide urban habitat islands for many migrating songbirds. The vast majority of the 309 species to be planted in the new Campus are native to California. This diverse landscape will contribute significantly to the regional diversity of flora and fauna..
They are running on renewable energy and going "Net Zero".
Sort of. They are putting 8 megawatts of solar panels on the roof of the building and the parking garages, and are installing fuel cells, powered by "directed biogas. These will be supplemented by grid purchased renewable energy
if needed during periods of peak demand."
It should be noted that they are really running fuel cells on natural gas, (that's what's coming through the pipes) and offsetting this by purchasing the equivalent amount of biogas that gets mixed in somewhere.
They are using natural ventilation.
This is the great benefit of placing the building in the middle of a park; it will be quiet and the air should be clean enough that they can take advantage of the California climate and open the windows. from GreenBiz:
"When Apple Campus 2 is finished, 80 percent of the site will be green space, said Lisa Jackson, vice president of environmental initiative for Apple," in a video describing the project. "We're maximizing the natural assets of the area. This area has a great climate, so 75 percent of the year, we won't need air conditioning or heating, we'll have natural ventilation."
It should be noted that Norman Foster tried this in the Gherkin Building in London and it really didn't work, and the windows all got sealed up. But that is a very different climate, and a very different site.
They are being really careful about water
From the Project Description:
The reduction of impermeable surfaces on site, and roof rainwater capture from the Main Building roof will promote natural drainage, reduce storm water runoff and improve water quality in Calabazas Creek. Landscaping will incorporate both young and mature trees, and native and drought tolerant plants, which will minimize water consumption. Water efficiency initiatives include the evaluation of low flow fixtures. Water use would be reduced by about 30 percent below a typical commercial development within the Silicon Valley area.
They are worried about waste.
Apple will expand its current waste management program, which achieves a diversion rate of 78%. During construction of Apple Campus 2, the goal is to divert construction and demolition waste from landfills by finding multiple alternative uses, such as recycling, reuse on site or on other sites. Key elements of the waste management program during operations are the increase of material reuse, recycling from solid waste sources and composting.
There is "a sharpened focus on commuting alternatives."
Alas, this appears to be little more than window dressing. From the Description:
Key elements of the Transportation Demand Management program include expansion of the employee shuttle program to access all regional public transportation systems and communities with concentrations of Apple employees, targeting employees residing within 15-minutes of the Campus. Management of the site’s limited parking supply will be used as an incentive for employees to take advantage of Apple’s alternative commute offerings.
10,500 parking spaces for 13,000 employees is hardly "limited"; that is a ridiculously high parking ratio. The number of employees living within 15 minutes of the place is probably negligible, but they don't say 15 minutes by what, bike, car or helicopter.
But then that has been my biggest complaint all along; my back of the envelope calculation is that the employees will burn 6,300 gallons of gasoline per day just getting to and from work. That is hardly net-zero and certainly isn't green. But kudos for everything else.