Office Space Blog: Dont Be Blinded By Green When It Comes To Office HVAC

We had a recent discussion with a very well known green-construction architect, Peter Pfeiffer, about his views on the ongoing pursuit of “green” construction. He’s a principal with Barley & Pfeiffer in Austin (, and you can see his impressive credentials below.

We agree that sometimes, the “green effort” can become overcomplicated, at the expense of the true end goal, which is to reduce costs and save energy. Instead, some tend to focus on the altar of green “bling” or things that look and sound great, but may not be the best options for the business. In areas where HVAC is used primarily to cool the inside air, the primary challenges are the infiltration of outside air, improper solar orientation and internal loads that produce humidity and heat.

With this in mind, when you are searching for or building a space for your business needs, consider the following…

  • Look for buildings oriented on streets that run east and west or…

  • Ones that have most of their windows on the north and south sides to reduce solar exposure.

  • Also look for buildings with large overhangs over windows to reduce solar exposure.

  • Look for a building with a light colored roof (it will not absorb solar energy as much as a darker roof will).

In addition…

  • Discuss with the landlord or building ownership the possibility of having a duct leakage test performed. Leaky ducts bring in outside air and humidity and can contribute to poor indoor air quality and even mold.

  • Some facilities are equipped with ductless mini-split systems which allow for room-by-room control. There is no duct air-loss and these systems give each user greater control.

  • Avoid storing chemicals or other odor producing substances in non-designated areas. Vapors can travel through the HVAC system and reduce indoor air quality.

  • When repainting, consider a low VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) latex based paint for all interior wall paint. Low VOC paints reduce chances of short-term indoor air quality problems.

  • Educate employees…consider running a breakroom dishwasher after business hours (believe it or not, they increase humidity).

  • Place all bath vent fans on motion sensors or timers to eliminate over usage and bringing in excessive outdoor air.

It’s good to “go green,” to be sure. But always keep the business goals in mind, and be careful not to be swayed by the bells and whistles.

Peter L. Pfeiffer, FAIA
  • Architect and Interior Designer

  • Professionally licensed in Texas , New York , New Jersey , and Oregon

  • Licensed with National Council of Architectural Registration Boards

  • Masters in Architecture degree, with an emphasis in resource efficient design and energy studies, from University of Texas at Austin

  • Bachelor of Science degree in the Building Sciences from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1977

Peter Pfeiffer is a LEED accredited professional Architect, Interior Designer, and Building Scientist who has spent the past 33 years designing and developing pragmatic high performance buildings and homes.

In 2004 he was named a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects for his life-long commitment to “mainstreaming green building in North America ”. He is a founding principal of Barley & Pfeiffer Architects, a firm recognized nationally for its pioneering use of environmentally responsive design and construction techniques. Their work has been published both in the United States and abroad in such diverse venues as the Washington Post, The New York Times, Fine Homebuilding, and Better Homes & Gardens magazine. He has been a guest on National Public Radio, the HGTV network, The Discovery Channel, as well as on This Old House and This New House.

The National Association of Home Builders honored him as the “National Green Advocate of the Year” in 2003 for his life-long achievements in “mainstreaming” green building. Peter has been an active charter member of the NAHB Green Building Subcommittee since its inception in 1999 and has been active in the US Green Building Council’s LEED for Homes program.

In 2006 Residential Architect cited him as one of the 10 most influential residential architects of past decade. In 2010 Peter was nominated for the prestigious Hanley Award for his meaningful efforts to advance green building in America .

The Stone Group

12912 Hill Country Blvd,

Building F, Ste. 201,

Austin, TX 78738

Phone. 512-732-8700