When Chronicle Books decided three years ago that the time was right for it to buy its own office building, the publisher also determined that it wanted a workplace that not only allowed for the cross-pollination of ideas among departments but was as ecologically friendly as possible. Last month, Chronicle moved into its new, green offices, just in time to celebrate its 40th anniversary.

While CEO Nion McEvoy declined to discuss how much the purchase of the four-floor former warehouse cost Chronicle or how much the company invested in renovations, he said the expense will be worth it. “We're planning to be here for a long time,” said McEvoy. “When you look at it over the long run, [the green expense] is not that much.”

How green did Chronicle go?

On a recent tour of the new facility with the company's creative director Michael Carabetta (who worked closely with the architects at Mark Carvanero Associates in San Francisco), PW learned the green details. Between 70% and 80% of Chronicle's energy needs will be generated by solar panels on the building's roof. To save energy, all offices have occupancy sensors so the lights are on only when someone is inside, and all regular computer screens were switched to flat-panel monitors that require less energy to cool.

Chronicle's mandate for sourcing the products used in the building's renovation was “keep it local,” said Carabetta. The architects also reused everything they could that was left by the former tenant, a dotcom that went bust several years ago. In addition, almost all of Chronicle's conference room chairs are made of recycled materials and the tables are made from felled trees, not timbered wood.

Beyond going green, said Chronicle president Jack Jensen, the company saw the renovation as an opportunity to design a more open, light-filled work space. The company called in an “organizational archeologist” for an assessment of how people actually do their jobs. The result, said Jensen, is that in just about the same amount of space—30,000 square feet—Chronicle increased its meeting area by 40%. And the publisher will use its cavernous lobby as exhibit space for its artists and illustrators and for outside artists.

The prime real estate on the top floor, rather than housing executive suites, features several glass-enclosed conference rooms, a library with seating area, the reception desk, and lounge and eating areas. “Traditionally, that's where all the offices for the mucky-mucks would go,” said Jensen, sitting in his modest office on the third floor. The new building, he hopes, will encourage employees who've been shut off in offices having meetings to interact more with their colleagues.