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Novo Nordisk Retrofits US Headquarters for Sustainability

Novo Nordisk in the US faced a rare challenge: how to grow but keep the environmental footprint lean?

At Novo Nordisk, sustainability is deeply embedded in our work and culture. Our company has long maintained a Triple Bottom Line. That means that in everything we do, we have to balance our social and environmental responsibilities with our financial bottom line.

So when we began to outgrow our US headquarters, we knew we had to pursue an expansion strategy that made both environmental and financial sense. It turned out that the perfect location was an existing building that had been vacant for two years. After evaluating options, Novo Nordisk decided to invest $215 million in renovating a 25 year-old, 770,000 square-foot office building in Plainsboro, New Jersey. When complete in mid-2013, the building will be eligible for Silver LEED-certification.

Taking on this transformation made tremendous economic sense. Our biggest savings will come from modifying an existing structure, rather than erecting a new one. We’ll be preserving the natural landscape as well as equip the building with a variety of energy-efficient features, enabling us to use natural resources more efficiently, reduce our environmental footprint and lower our costs.

Following in the tradition of our parent company in Denmark, where our insulin production facility is fully run by wind power, our U.S. headquarters will also be fully powered by renewable energy from wind, solar and hydro sources.

Several other innovations will yield improvements and cost-savings from a variety of sources. The roof will be made of reflective material, which will lower our climate control expenses and reduce the heat island effect, typically generated by conventional roofing materials.  Low-flow water devices will cut water use by 30%, compared to a non LEED-certified building, further reducing cost and saving resources. A special coating on the windows will decrease thermal impact and the amount of energy needed to temper the inside air temperature of the building. LED light fixtures will also ensure low energy consumption.

We’re exploring ways to use recycled materials in every possible aspect of the building. We are sourcing materials locally whenever possible, such as sheet-rock made from ash generated at a nearby coal plant, which minimizes our transportation costs and carbon footprint. The carpeting will be made from a high percentage of recyclable materials and will, itself, be recyclable at the end of its lifecycle. We’re also placing an emphasis on responsible disposal of demolition and construction waste, expecting to recycle more than 80% of the waste to reduce the amount sent to the landfill.

Our new building will offer a more comfortable, healthier working environment for our employees, which reduces sick days and increases productivity levels, according to recent research. By doubling the size of the windows from those in our current headquarters, we will increase the amount of sunlight and give our employees views of nature.  We are also working to ensure that the air quality in the building is superior, by using low-emitting materials such as carpeting, flooring, furniture, paint, adhesives and sealants, and installing carbon emission sensors to emit fresh air when needed. Also, by bringing our employees together under one roof, we’ll foster collaboration and teamwork. Novo Nordisk consistently ranks one of the best places to work in Forbes’ annual survey, as well as in surveys listing the best places to work in New Jersey. We think these improvements will make our teams even happier.

In addition to all of these environmental and cost-savings benefits, the redevelopment will create more than 500 construction jobs in the Princeton area.

Based on our experience in Denmark, where we recouped a $4 million investment in wind power and achieved a savings of $5 million over the past four years, we have learned that building for a sustainable future pays off. In fact, it is decisions like these that helped us to achieve more than $24 million in cost savings since 2004 and exceed our targets for energy reduction, water consumption and carbon emissions across our business, five years ahead of schedule.  We hope that this latest investment – our new American headquarters – gives other companies an example of why building sustainably benefits the planet, society and shareholders.

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