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Walls

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Design Guidance

Overall Strategies

The walls within an office can be semi-permanent, multi-use or movable. Walls can be made from a variety of materials depending upon the intended use. Providing dividers in replacement of walls can promote collaboration and permit more sunlight throughout the space. However, drywall is typically composed of 100 percent recycled paper and natural gypsum, an environmentally attractive combination. A variety of wall finishes can be used to decorate or distribute natural light throughout the space and to facilitate creativity within team meeting rooms.

Wall Tile

Porcelain, stone, and ceramic wall tile are durable and cleanable materials that are frequently used in areas of high use or where liquids are present.

Green Tips

  • Use a backsplash in kitchen areas for durability.
  • Select easy to clean wall surfaces for ease of maintenance.
  • Use low VOC wall finishes to protect indoor air quality.
  • Look for regionally manufactured drywall to reduce GHG emissions from transportation and products with high recycled content.
  • Use light color schemes such as white or tan painted walls to reflect natural light throughout the space.
  • Consider dry erase wall panels to transform any smooth surface into a high-performance dry-erase writing surface.
  • Consider demountable walls or partitions that can be moved and altered to create different types of spaces to meet the needs of the occupants.
  • Use wall space in a copy room to educate employees on sustainability.
  • Change signage regularly to stimulate interest.
  • Consider replacing part of the standard wall with interior glazing to allow natural light to penetrate into the interior space.
  • Use durable wall base materials such as rubber or hard wood to serve as a protective border.
  • Consider natural cork as a tack surface. Cork comes in rolled, sheet, and tile forms.
  • In rooms with sensitive electronic equipment, select wall finishes that are low-static.
  • Walls should be cleanable and nonporous to prevent growth of mold and mildew.
  • Use durable and water-resistant wall and base materials such as porcelain, stone, or ceramic tile.

Compare Walls Options

EB = Existing BuildingsNC = New Construction and Major Renovation

Legal Requirements

Guiding Principles

  • Biobased Content ( Guiding Principles, Executive Order 13693 [EB, NC])
    Section: V. Reduce Environmental Impact of Materials

    Per Section 9002 of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act (FSRIA), for USDA-designated products, specify products with the highest content level per USDA's biobased content recommendations. For other products, specify biobased products made from rapidly renewable resources and certified sustainable wood products. If these designated products meet performance requirements and are available at a reasonable cost, a preference for purchasing them shall be included in all solicitations relevant to construction, operation, maintenance of or use in the building. USDA's biobased product designations and biobased content recommendations are available on USDA's BioPreferred website.

  • Low-Emitting Materials ( Guiding Principles, Executive Order 13514 & 13423 [EB, NC])
    Section: IV. Enhance Indoor Environmental Quality

    Specify materials and products with low pollutant emissions, including composite wood products, adhesives, sealants, interior paints and finishes, carpet systems, and furnishings.

  • Recycled Content ( Guiding Principles, Executive Order 13693 [EB, NC])
    Section: V. Reduce Environmental Impact of Materials

    Per Section 6002 of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), for EPA-designated products, specify products meeting or exceeding EPA's recycled content recommendations. For other products, specify materials with recycled content when practicable. If EPA-designated products meet performance requirements and are available at a reasonable cost, a preference for purchasing them shall be included in all solicitations relevant to construction, operation, maintenance of or use in the building. EPA's recycled content product designations and recycled content recommendations are available on EPA's Comprehensive Procurement Guideline website.

  • Environmentally Preferable Product ( Guiding Principles, Executive Order 13693 [EB, NC])
    Section: V. Reduce Environmental Impact of Materials

    Use products that have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment over their lifecycle when compared with competing products or services that serve the same purpose. A number of standards and ecolabels are available in the marketplace to assist specifiers in making environmentally preferable decisions. For recommendations, consult the Federal Green Construction Guide for Specifiers.

  • Energy Efficiency ( Guiding Principles, Executive Order <span>13693</span> [NC])
    Section: II. Optimize Energy Performance

    From the Guiding Principles for NC: “Employ strategies that minimize energy usage. Focus on reducing energy loads before considering renewable or clean and alternative energy sources. Use energy efficient products as required by statute.”
    Determining Compliance: “For new construction, ensure energy efficiency is 30% better than the current ASHRAE 90.1 standard. For modernization, ensure: (1) energy use is 20% below the fiscal year (FY) 2015 energy use Baseline, (2) energy use is 30% below the FY 2003 energy use baseline, (3) the building has an ENERGY STAR® rating of 75 or higher, or (4) for building types not in ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, where adequate benchmarking data exists, the building is in the top quartile of energy performance for its building type. For new construction and modernization, use energy efficient products, as required by statute.”

  • Daylighting and Lighting Controls ( Guiding Principles, Executive Order <span>13693</span>&nbsp;[EB])
    Section: IV. Enhance Environmental Quality

    Guiding Principles for NC & EB: “Maximize opportunities for daylighting...except where not appropriate because of building function, mission, or structural constraints. Maximize the use of automatic dimming controls or accessible manual lighting controls, task lighting where life cycle cost-effective, and appropriate shade and glare control.”
    Determining Compliance: “Maximize opportunities for daylighting in regularly occupied space, automatic dimming controls or accessible manual controls, task lighting, and shade and glare control.”

  • Energy Efficiency ( Guiding Principles, Executive Order <span>13693</span> [EB])
    Section: II. Optimize Energy Performance

    From the Guiding Principles for EB: “Employ strategies that minimize energy usage. Focus on reducing energy loads before considering renewable or clean and alternative energy sources. Use energy efficient products as required by statute.”
    Determining Compliance: “Ensure: (1) the building has an ENERGY STAR rating of 75 or higher, (2) energy use is 20% below the FY 2015 energy use baseline, (3) energy use is 30% below the FY 2003 energy use baseline, or (4) energy efficiency is 30% better than the current ASHRAE 90.1 standard. Use energy efficient products, as required by statute.”

  • Indoor Air Quality ( <span id="docs-internal-guid-f1e45d2e-bf74-2656-0c1b-777092dd54a0"><span>Guiding Principles, Executive Order <span>13693</span> [NC&amp;EB]</span></span>)
    Section: IV. Enhance Indoor Environmental Quality

    Guiding Principles for NC&EB: Take actions to ensure optimal indoor air quality, including:
    (i) “Test for radon in buildings and mitigate high levels.”
    (ii) “Establish policy and implement a moisture control strategy to prevent building materials damage, minimize mold growth, and reduce associated health risks.”
    (iii) “Use low emitting materials for building construction, modifications, maintenance, and operations. In particular, specify the following materials and products to have low pollutant emissions: composite wood products, adhesives, sealants, interior paints and finishes, solvents, carpet systems, janitorial supplies, and furnishings.”
    (iv) Establish a policy and implement necessary protocols to protect indoor air quality during construction, renovations, repairs, and alterations, and during occupancy.
    (v) “Prohibit smoking in any form within the building and within 25 feet of all building entrances, operable windows, and building ventilation intakes.”
    (vi) “Use integrated pest management techniques as appropriate to minimize pesticide usage.”
    Determining Compliance: “Develop and implement an indoor air quality policy that considers the following: moisture control, use of low emitting materials and products with low pollutant emissions, necessary protocols to protect indoor air quality during construction and in the finished building, prohibition of smoking in any form inside and within 25 feet of all building entrances, operable windows, and building ventilation intakes, and use of integrated pest management techniques.”

  • Material Content and Performance ( Guiding Principles, Executive Order <span>13693</span>&nbsp;[EB])
    Section: V. Reduce the Environmental Impact of Materials

    From the Guiding Principles for EB: Procure construction materials, products, and supplies that have a “lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment over their life cycle when compared with competing products or services that serve the same purpose”, including:
    (i) “Use Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) section 6002 compliant products that meet or exceed EPA’s recycled content recommendations for building construction, modifications, operations, and maintenance.”
    (ii) “Per section 9002 of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act (FSRIA), for USDA-designated products, use products with the highest content level per USDA’s biobased content recommendations.”
    (iii) “Purchase products that meet Federally Recommended Specifications, Standards and Ecolabels or are on the Federal Green Procurement Compilation.”
    (iv) Eliminate, to the maximum extent practicable, “ozone depleting compounds and high global warming potential (GWP) chemicals where EPA’s SNAP has identified acceptable substitutes or where other environmentally preferable products are available” during construction, repair, or replacement at the end of life.
    Determining Compliance: “Procure products that meet the following requirements where applicable: (A) RCRA section 6002, and (B) FSRIA section 9002, and (C) Federally Recommended Specifications, Standards and Ecolabels or are on the Federal Green Procurement Compilation for other green products, as appropriate, and (D) Avoid ozone depleting compounds and high GWP chemicals.”