How We Operate: Keeping the moss studio green


We try to practice what we preach at the moss studio, and that means that if we’re minimizing our impact in our architectural projects, we’re working to minimize it at the studio, too. Here are some little ways we cut down on waste, reduce plastic packaging, recycle more, and encourage alternative modes of transportation.

We’re big advocates of biking as a form of commuting, recreation, and exercise. Not to mention—it’s free 99 and doesn’t burn a single fossil fuel. We do our part to make it easy for the moss team to ride their bikes to work.

  • Secure bike parking: Bike theft is unfortunately very common in Chicago. Even with your bike all locked up six ways from Sunday, there may still be a day when you go to retrieve it and it’s gone. In order to cut down on the heartbreak, we designate space in the moss studio for bike storage. While most at moss probably don’t even think of this as a perk because we’re so used to it, it’s easy to forget that not all businesses have the space or the desire to let their employees keep their bikes stowed alongside them as they click away at their computers. Having the ability to do so may subtly increase our likelihood to take even our fanciest bikes to work as part of our daily commute.
  • A mini-employee locker room: When we designed our new studio space, we made sure to include a full tiled shower stall, working task lighting and plenty of space. Despite being a small crew, the decision to put in a working shower with a pleasant, modern finish makes it another no-brainer to walk, bike or even skateboard to work, without a sweaty commute preventing a professional image.
  • Being close to public transportation: When we selected our building for our first development project, we wanted to make sure it was accessible via CTA for the benefit of our tenants, our studio mate, and clients who came by for meetings. We’re right off the Diversey and California bus lines, and walking distance from the CTA Blue Line.

The “three R’s” campaign may have been born in the 1970s, but it has aged like a fine wine (although we might add “upcycling” to the list in 2017). Having systems in place is sometimes all it takes to subtly nudge mindless behaviors (like throwing something away) toward reducing, reusing and recycling.

  • Recycling habits: Although recycling may be “required,” there’s no recycling police coming into commercial spaces to admonish you for tossing a milk carton into regular ol’ trash. At moss, we make sure to keep our recycling bin easy to identify, use and empty
  • Make it easy to BYOL (Bring your own lunch): moss is a small studio that certainly doesn’t space for a full office cafeteria. But what we do have is a compact and super efficient fridge, a sleek little hotplate that blends right into the scenery, and a microwave for those times when reheating leftovers is due. The effects of this mini, yet full-service kitchen, are far-reaching. For one, being able to bring cooked food from home has an undeniable impact on our health and wallets. For another, having a place to store and reheat food, and wash and dry containers generally means we don’t grab as much to-go lunch from down the street, which cuts down on packaging.
  • Scratch paper system: While we do a lot of our work digitally, we frequently need to print, mail and markup documents. Our paper sketches are a big part of our architectural process, and we hang them up on our design wall, encouraging our designers to take frequent breaks from their computers. However, when those drawings and documents are no longer of use? We stack them above the printer, face down, so they’re available for scrap paper. When both sides have been used, we recycle the paper. Taking the few minutes to establish this system and communicate it to the team means lots of paper is reused that perhaps wouldn’t have been otherwise.
  • Reclaimed materials: All of the furniture in the moss studio is made of reclaimed wood (with the exception of the appliances and our file drawers). That includes three conference tables/task desks, and two more personal desks. Our lunch island and entry table are made of reclaimed bowling alley wood. Our floors are even reclaimed!

Incorporating passive design principles can be as simple as opening a window on a hot, windy day, or as complex as making sure you have a well-sealed building envelope on a new project. Without getting too technical (that’s for another post) we simply make sure to keep fresh air flowing and natural light sources unblocked in our studio, as well as creating built-in flexibility so we can adjust depending on weather conditions.

  • Sunlight and breeze: Not all offices have operable, unobstructed windows. This can have significant effects on employee mood and motivation, especially in the winter. Natural light requires less artificial inputs and therefore fewer fossil fuels. It also improves staff mood, sleep and productivity. We have multiple windows (both operable and inoperable), as well as our beloved overhead door, to really let a nice day make its home in the moss studio.
  • Transom windows galore: These handy little windows are generally located above a door frame to add extra light and ventilation. They are especially nice for studio ventilation since the breeze from above works to circulate the air in a room without being adjacent to a meeting and blowing plans all over the floor.