It starts with a little face-to-face contact

The idea of sustainable building has certainly gained ground over the past few years as companies, schools and homeowners become more and more interested in creating spaces that run more efficiently.

From geothermal wells and solar panels to compact fluorescent light bulbs or just turning off computers when not in use, everyone can do something to save energy.

And that’s why the Center for Sustainable Landscapes at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is so fascinating. It received all four of the most rigorous green building certifications and employs some of the best-of-the-best measures for building sustainably.

This office building, which is featured in this month’s Uniquely Pittsburgh, operates on net zero energy and water. And it serves as a case study for people throughout the region, U.S. and even the world. But, it wasn’t easy to create.

Put the players in the same room

In order to design a super high performance green building, everything that happens must be maximized, with no compromises, says Richard Piacentini, executive director of the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.

He says it took about two years to design the Center for Sustainable Landscapes.

“One of the most important things we did was we followed what’s called an integrated design process —from the very first day we got the entire design team together, along with a number of staff that were going to be working in the building, and we started to design the building together,” Piacentini says.

By getting all the players to sit in the same room, they were able to smartly design the building and find the best solutions.

Personal connection

This reminds me how important face-to-face contact is even in today’s mobile, high-tech society.

When Smart Business hosts events throughout the year, one of the things we hear over and over again is how valuable the networking is. Standing in front of people, looking them in the eye and connecting is still critical.

It doesn’t matter how many emails you send or phone calls you make, building relationships or working on a problem means connecting — and so often you need to be in the same room to do that.

I think sometimes we tend to forget that, especially the younger generation who can easily be found sitting at a table together, all looking at their phones. (I have, on occasion, been guilty of this, but I don’t even usually notice until I realize how nervous I get when I don’t have my phone with me.)

Businesses will always face obstacles. They will always need to work with customers or partners. And there will always be areas that can be improved upon.

But when the task seems daunting, perhaps the best way to get started is just a matter of sitting down at the same table.