Gunlocke and Alsteel achieve LEED-Gold certification for Merchandise Mart project

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

Developer/client: Allsteel/Gunlocke

Architect/interiors: HOK Chicago

By Katherine Darnstadt

Gunlocke and Alsteel, two renowned companies in the furniture and design world, have come together for the completion of a project that will add a green touch to Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, Allsteel designs, builds and delivers progressive and relevant workplace furniture solutions, while Gunlocke is an industry leader in the design, manufacture and marketing of wood contract furniture. Gunlocke’s green story can be traced back to 1952 with the installation of a Water Tube Boiler designed to burn process wood waste for energy recovery. Instead of sending the wood waste to a landfill, Gunlocke has used it to provide over 50 percent of their total energy consumption to this day. This organization’s sustainable initiative manufactures down to sales and is apparent in the Allsteel/Gunlocke showroom in the Merchandise Mart, the fifth LEED-CI showroom housing the two related companies. The 14,000 square-foot show room was commissioned in 2008 by HOK, an international award-winning architectural firm, who were tasked with the re-design of the two brands to reflect the distinct market personalities of both brands.

The Chicago Resource Center presented the company with another opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to green building through the ingenious use of local resources, energy efficient lighting and recycled materials. To accomplish the LEED-CI gold certification, numerous innovative solutions have been applied including the use of flooring made from large-scale recycled aluminum tiles and reclaimed wood beams from an Indiana barn. 95 percent of the construction waste created during the re-design of the showroom is diverted from landfills by reuse or recycling efforts. In addition, low-emitting woods, paint, adhesive and carpeting are used to reduce toxic VOC transmissions, and ventilation systems are enhanced to improve air circulation. Exposing this industrial ductwork in most areas and utilizing a dropped drywall ceiling only in conference and staff areas helps achieve the desired aesthetic as well as conserve materials.

The Chicago Resource Center was also awarded all five Innovation in Design, or ID credits, which are given for exemplary or innovative performance not specifically required by the LEED guidelines. The company purchased renewable energy credits that offset 100 percent of the showroom’s electricity use for two years, well above the required contract to purchase at least 35 percent of their electricity for two years from a green power supplier, as defined by Green-e program. The project was also credited for having 59 percent of the materials used in the re-design sourced from manufactures who are within 500 miles of the project site. The dense urban environment of the Merchandise Mart location was able to provide another LEED-ID credit for access to public transportation. The Merchandise Mart also features a station that allows clients and guests to access the building directly from the public transit system. The Resource Center also provides educational materials to all guests of the showroom and regularly conducts tours for the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and other professional organizations. The HOK project team also included a LEED-AP, which provided the last ID credit available and helped the project achieve Gold certification.

The Allsteel/Gunlocke Resource Center is another addition to the family of sustainable showrooms throughout the Merchandise Mart. The open layout allows mock office environments to be created and easily hosts industry events and conferences. Sustainable practices extend beyond the LEED requirements to the staff’s use of a catering company that provides biodegradable utensils and plates made out of cornstarch rather than petroleum based plastic. Staff members note an increased awareness to their personal environmental impact and enjoy the sustainable workplace.