Lovely As A Tree
Lisa Selin Davis -- Interior Design, 10/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
"The image people have of financial companies is dark wood, leather chairs, and thick carpet. Or something really flashy," Michael Kostow says. So when Jeffery Tannenbaum—whose last name means fir tree in German—approached Kostow Greenwood Architects about designing a New York office for his hedge fund, Fir Tree Partners, he sought an alternative both to the stuffy mahogany of old-school Wall Street and to the slick look of start-ups. The office would also have to be eco-friendly. A healthy work environment, he figured, makes for healthy profits.
Kostow maintained the loftlike feeling of the raw space, 10,500 square feet on the 26th floor of a brand-new glass building by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates. With floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides, Kostow says, "It's so bright that we didn't have to rely heavily on artificial light." Fluorescent fixtures contribute to an average electricity use as low as 1 watt per square foot.
This is a company where even senior executives are in shirtsleeves, and Tannenbaum sits right out in the open. In fact, two of the coveted corners are not offices but conference rooms. The only enclosed work space is for traders—who, Kostow points out, "tend to be loud."
Because the 29-person company continues to grow steadily, Kostow used a modular wall system that could keep pace with future expansion. The demountable aluminum-framed glass panels snap into place rather than bolting to the floor. Changing the setup doesn't require any demolition.
With the movable walls, thermostats have to be controlled wirelessly. Most of the wiring for electronics runs beneath a raised floor reclaimed from a demolition site. "It did look a little beat-up. When you put carpet over it, though, it's as good as new," Kostow says. Better yet, he estimates that it saved Fir Tree about 50 percent of the cost of a new floor.
Kostow left concrete columns exposed and worked them into the layout rather than slathering them in plaster or encasing them in drywall. In another minimal-minded move, window treatments are limited to solar shades. That way, Fir Tree protects one of its best assets, a view of the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings.
For the furniture and carpet tile, Kostow chose cradle-to-cradle options. Because the carpet is modular, with a nondirectional pattern, fewer waste scraps were left over after installation. Later on, Fir Tree will be able to replace stained portions easily.
Upholstery is either recycled polyester or a corn-based fabric. The conference rooms' chairs are made from recyclable components. Flanking the workstations, acrylic transaction tops are layered with sections of sustainable bamboo. Non-VOC cream-colored paint covers the walls. Live plants sit by the windows.
A photomural of sequoias, not fir trees, wraps the reception area, where visitors can pick up a source sheet highlighting the sustainable aspects of the office: The counters are reclaimed glass, the copy machines automatically print double-sided, and the kitchen is stocked with fresh fruit and filtered water—to discourage staff from buying the stuff in plastic bottles.