Kermit the Frog may have lamented that it's not easy being green, but it is certainly worth the time and effort for credit unions.
Navy Federal Credit Union's efforts in 2004 to create an employee-focused workplace in Pensacola, Fla., actually morphed into a green building opportunity.
Turning to Atlanta-based design-build firm ASD, the result is a campus located on 62 acres with live oaks and wetlands and includes a contact center, administration and a member branch. A fourth building, slated to be completed in 2011 will house an additional contact center, administrative functions and training rooms.
The $39 billion credit union's corporate campus was designed to promote employee comfort and job satisfaction so staffers make the most of such amenities as a fitness center, walking trails, an interior bamboo garden feature, training facilities and even a mothers' room. The employee-friendly environment also provides every staffer spectacular views of the land. Just one real bonus of developing a green, welcoming employee environment is an employee turnover rate that went down 17% upon completion of the first three buildings.
Navy Federal Greater Pensacola Operations Assistant Vice President Jamie McDonald said many of the initial investments were more costly than may have been considered otherwise, but the energy equipment investment such as HVAC, lighting, windows and low-flow restroom fixtures have already provided a quicker return. She added that when compared to the standard commercial building, the Pensacola campus utility costs are 50% less with 2009 savings estimated to be $780,000 for 350,000-square-feet of office space.
"Not only are you saving the environment, but the efficiencies gained benefit the bottom line and our members," said McDonald. "Visitors comment on how beautiful our campus is. Our employees enjoy their work place and there is this sense of pride in where they work."
She added that the Pensacola community has been extremely supportive of Navy Federal's green initiatives.
"We frequently host tours of our campus from groups all over the Northwest Pensacola region," said McDonald. "Other business owners interested in building green come to see what and why we built green. Our members inquire about our campus and local members participate in tours."
Over in Vancouver, Wash., Columbia Credit Union has helped solidify its green reputation in the community not just through its two gold LEED-certified branches but by incorporating sustainable practices in its operations and approach to serving members' needs. For both branches Paladino & Co. and Seattle-based design-build firm EHS Design worked collaboratively to ensure that the natural resources available to the credit union were maximized. For example, using the outside air to naturally ventilate the branches allowed the credit union to manage the interior environment with reduced energy use.
According to Vice President of Business Development Michelle Thor, with rainwater cisterns, the branches save 13,500 gallons of water each year-enough to supply a day's worth of drinking water to 27,000 people. In addition, with a high efficiency HVAC system, a pyramid-shaped skylight providing natural light and reducing the need the electricity, the $750 million credit union saves up to 50% in energy costs compared with standard branches.
"The buildings have also given more opportunity for us to educate our community on how everyone can make an impact on the environment," said Thor. "We have implemented a sustainable learning center on our website that not only shows what Columbia does, but educates guests on what they can do to be more conscious of the environment and how they can get involved to make a difference."
She said that at Columbia CU being eco-friendly is a way of life and staffers are enthusiastic about offering tips and suggestions on simple ways to live greener. That enthusiasm has translated to happier, productive employees and even a reduced absenteeism rate at the LEED branches.
Columbia CU also purchases more than 50% of electricity through a renewable energy program, recycles at all locations and prints marketing materials on uncoated, recycled paper with soy-based inks. In addition, it encourages members' green living efforts through rewards such as loan discounts for certified energy efficient homes and environmentally gentle automobiles or providing eco-friendly gifts ranging from natural cleaning products, organic lawn care to Green Lights gift cards. Columbia CU also sponsors tree plantings through Vancouver Urban Forestry, re-useable, recycling bags at the Vancouver Farmers Market and is a charter member of the Northwest Biofuels Association.