Setting the Sustainable Green Design Standard for Commercial Office Interiors

IBM Building
Honolulu, Hawaii
Sustainable Interior Architecture – Offices
Size: 4,951 sq.ft.


Faced with lease expiration on its offices, Ferraro Choi viewed the situation as an opportunity to design and build a project in keeping with its mission “to preserve, protect, and enhance the natural and built environment” and to help set the standard for sustainable green office design.  Previously located on the 26th floor of the Pacific Guardian Center in downtown Honolulu, Ferraro Choi designed its new office to fill a long-vacated portion of the 5th floor of the six-story IBM Building, which was designed by the late famed architect Vladimir Ossipoff.  Constructed in 1962, the six-story IBM building was originally designed to be energy efficient with its custom-made iconic concrete-grille sunscreen.

Project Program

Designed to accommodate a staff of 23 when fully occupied, Ferraro Choi’s new 4,951 square-foot office includes general office space, four private offices, two conference rooms, informal meeting areas, a library, a conditioned server room, an employee lounge, and a copy/print room, which will handle the majority of the printing, plotting and copying.  Two primary open office work areas adjacent to the full-height glazed exterior walls house a majority of the employees.

Environmental and Sustainability Goals

Driven by its commitment to being a leader in sustainable green design of high performance buildings and interiors, Ferraro Choi’s environmental and sustainable design goal was to provide an efficient, comfortable and healthy environment for its staff.  Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) goals included providing excellent indoor air quality with sufficient air changes and a high level of thermal comfort.  IEQ goals also included providing as much open views and natural ambient daylighting as possible with supplemental and controllable artificial lighting.

For its sustainable design efforts, Ferraro Choi seeks to achieve LEED Platinum for Commercial Interiors, the highest level of certification as established by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).  USGBC’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for Commercial Interiors sets the green standard for tenant improvements and is an internationally recognized rating system for certifying high-performance green interiors that are healthy, productive, and less costly to operate and maintain.  The LEED rating system specifically evaluates performance in areas such as water efficiency, energy efficiency, use of materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, construction waste management, and site location.

Environmental Strategies

With consideration for traffic alleviation and carbon-emission reduction was part of the initial site-selection criteria, the IBM Building was selected because of its convenient and central location directly adjacent to multiple bus routes and a multitude of community services, including restaurants, shops, support services, and a first-class regional park.  Employees are encouraged to utilize more energy-efficient transportation including carpooling, mass transit, bicycles and walking.  For employees utilizing bike transportation, public showers are available nearby at McCoy Pavilion in Ala Moana Park.

Recycling and Waste Reduction Strategies

With a combination of new and recycled materials from its previous space, Ferraro Choi’s new office was constructed using low-maintenance and durable materials that met the project budget, building longevity, and sustainable design goals.  To reduce waste and promote recycling, carpet tiles, ambient pendant fluorescent light fixtures, equipment, furniture and most of the built-in cabinetry from its previous Pacific Guardian office were reused.   Existing modular office furniture systems were also reused, allowing flexibility for easier updates and modifications. Wood used for the custom elevator and reception flooring and unique basket-weave wood ceiling came from locally harvested and milled fallen Ohia trees, the most abundant of the endemic species in Hawaii’s forests.

Energy Efficiency Strategies

A flexible high-quality lighting system provides occupant control of lighting levels at their work spaces and meeting areas.  Lighting for most areas is controlled by occupancy sensors to minimize energy consumption.  Daylighting controls for supplemental lighting were installed to maximize the energy-efficiency benefits of daylighting.  To further optimize energy performance, existing and specified appliances and equipment were analyzed and either changed or replaced so that 90% are now Energy Star qualified products, substantially surpassing the 50% LEED minimum.  An innovative “Building Dashboard” system by Lucid was installed to continually monitor energy usage, confirm energy use projections, and to help modify user behavior patterns that expend excessive electrical energy.

Mechanical and Systems Strategies

Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) zoning design was based on space location, solar orientation, and function. To improve control of temperature, humidity, and fresh clean air to occupants, existing Variable Air Volume (VAV) distribution boxes with pneumatic controls were all replaced with more accurate, more reliable, and lower maintenance VAV boxes with Direct Digital Controls (DDC).  The new VAV boxes with DDC allow energy-efficient control strategies to be implemented, which will include occupancy controls with minimum air-flow setback and space temperature setup when a zone is temporarily unoccupied.  In conjunction with this feature, CO2 demand-controlled ventilation is used for high occupancy areas, such as meeting areas and conference rooms.  Separate thermostats provide thermal control for nine distinct HVAC zones in the new office design with thermostat locations placed in accessible locations away from any heat-producing equipment and direct sunlight.  Zone temperatures are adjustable within a determined range of set-points.  The relative humidity will be within the determined range for the set-points.  Air distribution is consistent without appreciable drafts or stagnant areas.  HVAC noise is at or below acceptable industry standards.

To conserve electrical energy, domestic hot water is provided by an efficient point-of-use water heater versus a standard water heater, which can require 20% more energy.  Water conservation is achieved with a water-saving kitchen faucet.

To minimize off-gassing and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), indoor air quality was considered in all product and material selections.

Open Views, Daylighting, and Lighting Strategies

To meet the goal of providing an efficient and healthy environment for its employees, the majority of the office space is daylit and all workstations are open to excellent ocean views of the Pacific or mountain views of the Koolaus.  Open office areas, circulation, and gathering spaces are purposely located along the perimeter window walls to maximize available daylighting through the existing exterior-clad honeycomb sun-shading system.  To further allow natural daylight to penetrate as deep as possible into interior areas, strategically placed partitions are clear-glazed with floor-to-ceiling jalousie windows much like those used in traditional Hawaii homes.  In the general office areas, modular furniture partitions with cutout sections at eye-level also help to maximize views and daylight penetration, as well as to enhance inter-office communication.

Daylight harvesting controls have been provided as part of an office-wide lighting control system. Photocells located along the perimeter window walls measure lighting levels and make necessary adjustments to the artificial lighting system in concert with natural daylight to maintain appropriate and comfortable lighting levels.  Besides the photocell controls, a variety of other lighting controls including manual switches and occupancy sensors are used to most effectively control the artificial lighting and to meet LEED and ASHRAE 90.1-2007 requirements.

To reduce visual glare, ultraviolet rays, and solar heat gain with its associated energy-consuming cooling loads, all exterior window walls are tinted.

Verification and Commissioning Strategies

Commissioning is a systematic verification process that ultimately reduces a facility’s overall life cycle cost including improvements in energy usage and operating costs.  Commissioning also ensures all parts and systems of a project are designed, installed, and calibrated to operate as intended.  For Ferraro Choi’s new offices, all HVAC system controls, lighting and daylighting controls, sub-metering equipment, plumbing, and domestic hot water system were fundamentally commissioned by an independent professional commissioning agent.  To provide even greater value, enhanced commissioning was performed to help reduce design and construction rework, and assist operational staff in maintaining the facility’s peak performance over the long term.


An efficient green design defined by clean classical lines, Ferraro Choi’s new 5th floor office at the IBM Building meets Ferraro Choi’s mission to “preserve, protect and enhance the built environment” and sets an example for future sustainable commercial interiors.  The 10-week construction cycle was successfully completed within budget with official occupancy on August 2, 2010.


Sustainable Sites:

  • Site selected based on proximity to services, community, and alternative transportation access to public transportation;
  • Preferred parking provided for car/van pools that provides for 5% or more of project space occupants;
  • Bicycle storage available with nearby showers;

Water Efficiency:

  • Low-flow faucet and an Energy Star dishwasher specified to reduce water consumption;

Energy & Atmosphere:

  • To reduce lighting loads, daylighting design includes:
    • Translucent floor-to-ceiling partitions wherever possible to allow maximum natural daylight penetration;
    • Photocells located along the perimeter window walls to measure lighting levels and make necessary adjustments to the artificial lighting system in concert with natural daylight to maintain appropriate and comfortable lighting levels;
  • Occupied areas and workstations purposely located adjacent to existing perimeter full-height window walls to provide views and natural daylight to occupants;
  • To reduce energy consumption, energy-efficient design includes:
    • Specifying energy-efficient light fixtures with occupancy sensors;
    • Specifying LED (Light Emitting Diode) bulbs for accent lighting, which can result in 90% energy savings compared to standard accent bulbs;
    • The previous existing refrigerator, although fully operational, was replaced with a new Energy Star rated appliance to reduce energy consumption;
    • Energy Star dishwasher specified to reduce energy and water consumption;
    • All other equipment not meeting the minimum Energy Star qualifications replaced with new Energy Star appliances and equipment (computer equipment, printers, peripherals, etc.);
    • Efficient point-of-use water heater specified versus a standard water heater, which requires more space and up to 20% more energy;
    • All surge protectors replaced with “smart” auto-switch surge protectors that conserve energy by automatically turning off related peripherals;
  • Fundamental and Enhanced Commissioning employed to improve performance of building systems and equipment and to ensure that the space performs in accordance with the design intent;

Materials and Resources:

  • To reduce landfill waste, Ferraro Choi reused existing materials, furniture and fixtures from its previous Pacific Guardian Center office, which includes:
    • Built-in cabinetry and countertops;
    • Carpet tiles;
    • Ambient pendant fluorescent light fixtures;
    • Modular furniture and shelving systems;
    • Condensed file system.
  • To further reduce landfill waste:
    • Construction waste management system and recycling programs were implemented during construction;
    • Recycling programs have continued into normal everyday operations;
  • New furniture was selected and specified for its sustainable material content and sustainable manufacturing processes;
  • Accent wood flooring is Ohia, a locally grown species harvested and processed from fallen trees;
  • Other sustainable material considerations include:
    • Carpet adhesives and paints specified based on low Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs);
    • Wood shelves and counters manufactured from certified or renewable forested products;
    • Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) shelves manufactured with no formaldehyde;
    • FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified wood used for substrates and backing;
    • Locally produced construction materials used whenever possible;

Indoor Environmental Quality:

  • Increased ventilation rates that exceed minimum ASHRAE Standards;
  • Based on location, solar orientation, and function, HVAC system is zoned to allow individual temperature controls;
  • To improve occupancy comfort and increase fresh-air changes, all existing pneumatic controlled Variable Air Volume (VAV) boxes in the HVAC system were totally replaced at a significant cost up charge with Direct Digitally Controlled (DDC) VAV boxes;
  • Non-CFC (chlorofluorocarbons) refrigerants used to reduce ozone depletion;

Innovation in Design:

  • A “Building Dashboard” system by Lucid with separate sub-meters were installed and employed to monitor and confirm use projections of office energy.  (A water sub-meter was not installed because water consumption is minimal.);
  • Energy Star exemplary performance at 94.6%;
  • Green-e Tradable Renewable Certificates purchased to encourage renewable energy technologies on a net zero pollution basis;
  • Full-time team members included five LEED accredited professionals.

Project Team/Information:

Architect: Ferraro Choi And Associates Ltd.
Mechanical/ Electrical WSP Lincolne Scott
Commissioning Agent: Environmental Economics, Inc.
Contractor: Cornair, Inc.
Photography: Anton Kisselgoff of Redsquare Inc.