The eco-friendly environs of the Romano Law Group
At first glance, it’s hard to guess that a law firm is housed in the four-story, 33,000-square-foot structure known as EcoCentre, located in Lake Worth a mile from the ocean. No dark wood paneling lines its corridors; no imposing rows of legal volumes fill its walls. The building is flooded with light and full of greenery; and in the middle, a 12-foot waterfall gives off a gentle roar.
The tour guide showing the eco-friendly building? More than likely, the head of Romano Law Group, John F. Romano.
“We get visitors when conventions of engineers or seminars of interior design professionals are in the area,” says Romano, with unmistakable enthusiasm. “It might be teachers bringing over classes from local colleges or grade schools. … I can be available!”
The EcoCentre is an ambitious attempt to build a firm’s sense of responsibility right into the structure it inhabits. “We won’t get a second chance to protect and preserve Mother Nature for future generations,” says Romano. He and his wife, Nancy, have four sons, four daughters-in-law, and 11 grandchildren. “It is our moral responsibility to do our part now—right now.”
It was built on the site of a medical practice owned for years by his father. The building needed to be dismantled—so all the materials were recycled. The grand opening came in summer 2008. The structure is registered with the U.S. Green Building Council.
Recycled Chicago brick was used for the exterior; inside wood is eco-friendly. And the “Living Machine” at the core of the EcoCentre purifies water from sinks and showers and recirculates it to irrigate interior landscaping. Condensation from the air-conditioning system creates a waterfall and ponds.
Eric Romano, one of John’s two sons at the firm, points out a patch of trees and greenery on the roof. It helps collect rain water, used to flush toilets.
“Some of the trees take bad things out of the water, some put good things into the water,” says Eric. “It naturally cleans out the water.”
“It kind of makes you feel like you’re at the ocean or alongside a stream,” says attorney Todd Romano, John’s other son at the firm.
The whole Centre, which has other tenants, follows green principles. Romano goes paperless as much as possible—there are no piles of banker’s boxes. The green ethos reaches right down to the lubricant used in the elevator: vegetable-based oil.
A hard-charging ex-Marine and Florida State University football star might seem an unlikely first-round draft pick for the environmental movement. “I guess you can say that I grew up as a Bambi child,” he says. “And as much as I am so proud of my time in the Marine Corps, it would be fair to say that I looked upon the mission as to seek and keep peace, not to go out and start wars.”
Romano formed the firm in 1991, and it’s become a personal injury powerhouse.
Clients have included computer engineer who witnessed an automobile accident and was calling 911 when the driver head-butted him. His head hit the pavement “like a hollow coconut,” a witness said. The Romano firm sued the head-butter and his employer, and in 2013 won $28.5 million for Adams, permanently injured by the assault, and his family.
“We are a law firm,” says Romano, “that I truly refer to as on the front lines duking it out in battle day in and day out.”
The Spec Sheet
> An 8,000-gallon cistern on the roof collects rainwater for recycling, ending up in a tank under the garage
> No traditional air conditioning ductwork on the roof. The building is cooled with a “chiller” system, featuring a 12-inch gap beneath each floor
> All wood used in furniture, railings and countertops comes from eco-certified lumber providers
> Recirculation saves 200,000 gallons of water per year
> Gray water is recycled to operate flush toilets
> Huge windows flood the atrium with light. No dark wood here
> The Centre cost $12 million to build