Google, Ann Arbor landlord work together for eco-friendly building

Albert Berriz is the CEO of McKinley Properties. The Ann Arbor-based company is working with Google to transform its McKinley Towne Centre office building in downtown Ann Arbor, where Google has its offices, into a green zone. / REGINA H. BOONE/Detroit Free Press

A greenhouse. Solar panels. Two Zipcar vehicles. And an eco-friendly rooftop deck.

This spring, Google’s Ann Arbor office is going green in a big way.

The search engine giant that wowed southeast Michigan in 2007 with its creative, employee-friendly work environment is aiming to be a leader when it comes to saving Planet Earth.

That means going beyond recycling paper, composting food at its café and switching to fluorescent lights.

At the five-story McKinley Towne Centre where Google operates its main Michigan office, a large array of rooftop solar panels are turning sunlight into clean energy. Work has begun to create an outdoor green space on another portion of the building’s roof. And two vehicles from the car-sharing service Zipcar can be found in the parking lot, making it easier for employees to walk, bike or take the bus to work without having to worry about needing a car later in the day.

Greenhouse veggies coming

Work has begun to create an outdoor green space on another part of the building’s roof for Google employees to benefit from. Its Ann Arbor office has 250 to 275 employees.

Google also plans to transform part of the building’s basement into a greenhouse. The vegetables grown there will be used by Google’s chef for meals served in the company’s café.

“I don’t think we are going to stop,” said Mike Miller, head of Google’s Ann Arbor office. “We are about trying new things and trying to do what’s best.”

Last year, when Google was in the midst of renewing its lease at 201 S. Division St., it decided to make its office as green as possible. Its landlord, Ann Arbor-based McKinley, embraced the idea, and the two companies are sharing the costs of the green building projects.

“If we can set the standard in this location … we’ve done the right thing,” said Albert Berriz, CEO of McKinley, which owns offices and apartments in 20 states.

McKinley and Google won’t disclose how much they are spending on the projects but describe the amount as significant. Berriz said it will take nine to 11 years to recoup the cost of buying and installing the solar panels. The panels won’t generate all of the power needed by Google in Ann Arbor.

But Google hopes its green efforts will help it attract talented workers in Michigan. Though the company slowed its hiring during the recession, it is now in the midst of its biggest work force expansion with plans to add more than 7,000 employees worldwide this year alone.

Google has 300 employees in Michigan and aims to expand that by 20% to 25% this year, said spokesman Jake Parrillo. Its Ann Arbor office has between 250 to 275 employees.

The green overhaul is part of a larger transformation occurring at Google.

It has made similar investments at several of its other U.S. offices, such as those in Chicago, Pittsburgh and Cambridge, Mass.

“We’ve always been very green, but we continue to try to do more,” Miller said.

Article excerpted from


About minesgreencircle

Founded in 2008, the Mines Green Circle is the special Green Environmental Unit of Palace of the Golden Horses and Mines Wellness Hotel for “Better Environment, Better Health”. It advocates green practices amongst the personnel of the Palace of the Golden Horses and Mines Wellness Hotels as well as its guests.

Posted on May 23, 2011, in Eco News and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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