VF Outdoor Builds the Greenest Office Complex

The VF Outdoor Campus is the greenest office building in Alameda, the Bay Area—and maybe even the whole United States.


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The net-zero-energy campus has solar power, employee gardens, electric charging stations, and countless other energy-conserving components.

Photo by Chris Duffey

 

There you are, lowering your carbon footprint, your electric car parked next to your drought-resistant landscaped front yard gracing your energy-efficient home with the just-installed solar panels as you commute to work via public transit and bike.

But what about where you work? What has your company done for the environment lately? If your company is VF Outdoor, it has done a lot.

The waterfront VF Outdoor campus on Alameda’s Harbor Bay Parkway is as green as it comes in terms of sustainable office complexes. Set on 14 acres, the $40 million, four-building campus opened in July 2012 with the look of a modern business park complex. But it has unique elements that make it the greenest corporate office complex in Alameda and the Bay Area—and one of the most sustainable in the United States. The campus has achieved LEED NC Platinum certification and is the first net-zero-electric corporate campus in the Bay Area. LEED NC stands for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design New Construction, and platinum is the highest certification awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council, inventors of LEED.

The VF Outdoor campus is home to VF Outdoor – Americas; its well-known North Face, JanSport, and lucy brands; and 595 employees. VF Outdoor is a subsidiary of VF Corp., the Greensboro, N.C. company that is one of the world’s largest branded lifestyle apparel, footwear, and accessory companies. But despite its size, it has a commitment to sustainability and making as small an impact on the environment as possible.

The Alameda campus announces immediately this isn’t just another business park complex. It has five unique cylindrical wind turbines at the entrance. And while they don’t generate much power, they represent the company’s desire to be as green as possible.

The largest component of the campus’ power generation is its 50,000-watt solar array. The buildings all have solar panels mounted as exterior shades over their windows, which not only collect energy, but also help regulate the temperature inside the buildings and save energy. The buildings’ roofs are outfitted with solar panels, as are the roofs of the L-shaped carport that wraps around the campus.

VF Outdoor received a performance-based incentive rebate from Alameda Municipal Power of $52,000 in July 2013 because the solar system it installed was greater than or equal to the threshold set by a state law requiring power companies to offer solar construction rebates. “They’re far and away the largest solar customer in Alameda,” Rebecca Irwin of AMP said, noting VF Outdoor’s campus developer and other energy-efficient features garnered other grants for the IDEC (indirect/direct evaporation cooling) air system that doesn’t use refrigeration and the energy efficient lighting, thicker walls and dual-pane glazed windows.

VF Outdoor didn’t just pocket the substantial rebate. Instead, it donated the money to the Alameda Education Foundation for local schools.

Company officials are happy to have built a net-zero-energy campus that regularly generates 15 percent more power than it needs. “We set the bar very high by asking ourselves what it would take to get 100 percent of our electricity from renewable resources,” said Adam Mott, director of corporate sustainability for the North Face. “Electricity was the focus. That’s what we’re most proud of. I love getting those reports.”

Recycled materials were incorporated into the buildings. The lobbies and stairway walls contain reclaimed panel wood from old barns and agricultural buildings. “This prevented eight tons of waste from entering U.S. landfills,” Mott said. In addition, 50 percent of the lobbies’ fabricated wall panels are made of fly ash, and the campus’ central building has insulation made of 100 percent recycled blue jeans—5,500 pairs. “It’s a nod to our apparel roots,” Mott said.

Employees do their part to boost the campus’ green profile. They divert 90 percent of waste from the trash into recycling containers. The campus originally installed four electric-car charging stations, but an addtional eight have since been added due to high demand.

An employee committee shaped the design and extra amenities such as the staff garden that make the campus a pleasant place to work. “All the fruits and vegetables are sold in the employee café,” Mott said, adding that the produce, fish, and meat products sold in the café are locally sourced. The company installed drought-resistant landscaping and just a single strip of grass in the middle of campus, which saved 75 percent on water usage, and, along with many benches and tables, serves as a place where employees can take a break and hold outdoor meetings.

The 160,000-square-foot campus is the largest and most environmentally responsible construction project in VF Corp.’s history. “Bringing the design and sustainability features to life was truly a collaborative effort among the Alameda community, our design and construction consultants, and the VF Outdoor associates who work day to day in this amazing environment,” said Steve Rendle, senior vice president Americas | VF Corporation.

VF Outdoors is a model for sustainable office complexes with its net-zero-electric campus.

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