Green: The Color of Money or Sustainability

Updated: Sep 8, 2021

In the architectural world, sustainability has been a topic of much discussion in recent years. As new buildings are developed, engineers consider the environmental impact. In fact, being able to meet certain sustainable goals can increase the odds of the structure receiving funding and support. If a building is made with the environment in mind, you could be labeled a “green building”. According to LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design), being “green” is all-inclusive of the actual structure, the process of building it, and its effects on the community after the building is complete. As someone involved in the developmental process, you must understand that by creating a structure in any space, you may be creating both positive and negative effects on the natural environment surrounding it and the people who inhabit the land. Not only must you be conscious of the building’s design, construction, and operation from a theoretical sense, but also the energy use, water use, indoor environmental quality, and materials needed - all very tactile elements.


Earlier this year, Amazon announced plans to construct a new office headquarters called ‘The Helix’ in Arlington, Virginia. The structure supports 2.8 million square feet of office space, a 250-seat outdoor amphitheater for events, outdoor public space for farmers’ markets or other activities, all supported by a solar farm in southern Virginia, and other sustainable elements within itself.



(Right image sourced from Amazon )


due to its unique design, but it also caught the) eyes and ears of consumers who already have a strained perception of the trillion-dollar company. How newsworthy is this building if we continue to ignore the other problematic aspects of Amazon that they fail to rectify? Does having this cool, new, environmentally green office now make Amazon an ethical company? No, I don’t think so. There’s a long list of issues that Amazon has been put under fire for, including being opposed to unions yet providing unsafe working conditions, providing a platform for vendors to sell racist goods, and their stance on climate policy - specifically being associated with climate change deniers. Though the company has a laundry list of legal dilemmas and is consistently criticized, it seems that they are trying. ‘A’ for effort? Obviously, the construction of such a massive structure is not all for the PR but comes from a true desire to make something great, right? The Helix headquarters is definitely a step in the right direction but it can’t be used as a cover-up to hide other issues.


Though the building is a private office space, its outdoor shared spaces will be open to the surrounding community for a couple of weekends per month. This fact directly disputes the widely held argument that Amazon chose too remote of a location and is closing itself off from the city. Amazon believes that the campus can and will be fully integrated into the community by housing community events and being able to keep its environmental footprint down.


Discussion over Amazon’s newest office space earned architects’ attention due to its unique design, but it also caught the eyes and ears of consumers who already have a strained perception of the trillion-dollar company. How newsworthy is this building if we continue to ignore the other problematic aspects of Amazon that they fail to rectify? Does having this cool, new, environmentally green office now make Amazon an ethical company? No, I don’t think so. There’s a long list of issues that Amazon has been put under fire for, including being opposed to unions yet providing unsafe working conditions, providing a platform for vendors to sell racist goods, and their stance on climate policy - specifically being associated with climate change deniers. Though the company has a laundry list of legal dilemmas and is consistently criticized, it seems that they are trying. ‘A’ for effort? Obviously, the construction of such a massive structure is not all for the PR but comes from a true desire to make something great, right? The Helix headquarters is definitely a step in the right direction but it can’t be used as a cover-up to hide other issues.

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