Nissan goes green

The Japanese automaker is showing off "green" features at its soon-to-be-finished Americas headquarters.

Nissan HQ 88 224 (photo credit: )
Nissan HQ 88 224
(photo credit: )
Nissan wants to talk about more than a way to drive at its soon-to-be-finished Americas headquarters. The Japanese automaker is showing off "green" features of the $100 million project as a kind of image signpost for car and truck buyers increasingly focused on environmental concerns. The 10-story, S-shaped headquarters opens in July, eventually for about 1,500 employees. Nissan North America, which increased annual sales by 4.5 percent to more than 1 million vehicles and a market share of 6.6% in 2007, is moving about 32 kilometers from a Nashville high-rise to a 50-acre campus with a restored wetland. After relocating to the South from Southern California, Nissan's own facilities engineers developed the headquarters with features aimed at showing a concern for the environment beyond stretching miles per gallon and cutting exhaust emissions. A sci-fi sounding "light harvesting system" automatically dims or turns off interior lights in the 43,000 square meters of offices. Sun shades outside - sort of like reflective visors - with computer-designed blades direct sunlight to reduce glare and heat in the Southern summer. Air conditioning and heat are controlled through outlets at each work station. "You heat the people and not the space," said Rob Traynham, the company's director of corporate services. Nissan engineers say the headquarters should consume about 35% less energy than a traditionally designed building. Citing fluctuating energy costs, the company declined to estimate how long it will take for savings in energy bills to offset the cost of the environmental features. Outside the glass-covered building, Nissan is restoring a 10-dunam wetland. Tens of thousands of native Tennessee plants, including iris, button bush and rushes, are already growing there. And there's greenery almost everywhere else on space that would have been paved if not for a parking deck tucked at one end of the 100-meter-long building. David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan, says automakers share a zeal to show customers they are "green" on and off the road, and a new headquarters is a good place to show off environmental commitment. "Particularly in the current environment, where it is much more fashionable to be green in everything you do, that's a big deal," he said. Nissan isn't seeking a seal of approval from the US Green Building Council. Traynham said Nissan preferred to spend money to restore the wetland "rather than have a plaque on the wall."