Mar 05, 2013
THEME: Sustainability, Workplace

Locations Change, Principles Remain

We’ve all been there – whether it’s moving your items in to a dorm in college, relocating your family to a different home, assisting a client in change management before they occupy their new space, or an office move of your own. The days and weeks leading up to a relocation can cause priorities to switch from well-meaning sustainable practices to that of a full-on rush to get out the door. After all, the lease will end and the movers will come.

Late in 2011, Perkins+Will Charlotte made a decision: we were going to relocate to a downtown location after spending decades just outside of it. Here are four tips from our experience that allowed us to keep our commitment to sustainability, despite the stress and time sensitivity of the move:


As with any design firm, we have a considerable amount of materials in our library. In addition to books, code manuals, and periodicals, we had countless binders of product samples. In order to reduce the amount of materials to be moved, we needed to purge. This takes time, so starting early ensures that sustainable priorities remain.


A year before the move, we contacted manufacturer’s reps to retrieve their binders, we donated materials to local school art classes, and we identified what items we would reference online, in lieu of a physical binder. This allowed us to consolidate our library to a manageable size. In addition, it gave us the opportunity to initiate conversations with reps about going paperless and about our firm’s Precautionary List. The amount of material that was displaced in a responsible way was made possible by reaching out to others early and often.


As with any major move, we needed help. There was about 10 years of stuff in our office that had accumulated since we moved in.

For our deepest purges, we partnered with a “Junk” retrieval company whose removal and sorting process saves more than two million pounds of junk from the landfill every year by recycling and donating more than 60% of what they remove. According to the EPA, in 2010, Americans recovered almost 65 million tons of municipal solid waste through recycling. Disposal of waste to a landfill has decreased from 89 percent of the amount generated in 1980 to about 54 percent of municipal solid waste in 2010.

The moving company we engaged provided reusable bins in which we packed our items, rather than cardboard boxes. This saved more than 100 cardboard boxes from being used and disposed.


In addition to measurable sustainable priorities such as diverting trash and reusing materials, we aimed to use this design opportunity as an exercise in sustaining office culture. Through early visioning sessions, home woodworking, and an all-hands-on-deck approach, the office is something that we can all claim as our own.

One reuse project worth noting is the design of the stools in our break room. One of our employees took it upon himself to design a stool top in his home wood shop that would work with the existing stool bases that we were using in our old space. That way, we would have “new” stools to match the aesthetic and vision of the new office, but without requiring as many virgin materials as brand new stools. One of our principals made the table top to our conference room table reusing the base of the table from our old office space. In addition, all of our printer stands were created at a home workshop.

In addition, more than 100 plants were bought, potted, and continue to be maintained by our staff, contributing to the air quality of our office space. We held a “planting day” in the office, in which everyone participated. Because we are responsible for the upkeep of the plants, we are now more aware when they need attention and more familiar with the needs of different species.

Although there was a dedicated design team, the goal of the project was a collaborative development. At the visioning session, we decided: Our goal is to create a flexible, fun workshop that supports collaboration, breeds innovation, and is visible to the community. 

We moved in to our new space in December of 2012. As we put the final touches on the space, we prepare for our upcoming Open House, during which we can showcase our commitment to keeping our priorities straight  – even during the stress of an office relocation. After all, the lease ended and the movers came.

This post was originally authored by Rachel Myers.

  1. Caitlin Walsh
    1:39 pm on March 7, 2013 | Reply

    Nice blog, Rachel! It’s nice to see how the firm translates its culture to an everyday activity such as moving. I would love to see photos of the old and new spaces!

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