HOK Chicago brings Green materials to office design

Friday, October 16th, 2009

By Kathleen Johnson

When a large design firm with sustainable values needs a new home, it’s not going to move into just any typical office space. The design has to make sense on every level, and celebrate the talents of the firm. This past January HOK moved into such a space, building out 27,700 gsf within Chicago’s CNA building, at the corner of Van Buren and Wabash. The new office environment provides workspace for 140 employees within a 98 percent open floor plan, which allows for the mobility of teams and provides maximum efficiency and effectiveness. Extensive conferencing space, a large café and informal teaming/project display areas further facilitate employee interaction. As one of only four LEED CI Platinum Certified environments in Chicago, people have naturally been curious to see what such an office looks like.

Upon arrival at the 14th floor, visitors step out of the elevator onto a floor of recycled aluminum, into a lobby wrapped in reclaimed teak. Bold, brand-related colors, such as red, purple, orange, green and yellow, are used throughout the office in both solid and textured patterns and as identifiers for informal spaces. Distinctly different materials, such as the reclaimed teak paneling and aluminum flooring, were used side-by-side to provide further contrast and design interest.

Throughout the office many sustainable design features are incorporated, including use of salvaged materials, materials with high levels of recycled content and rapidly renewable materials. The space also features cradle-to-cradle certified workstations and 60 percent of all materials that were extracted were manufactured within 500 miles of the project’s location. During the construction phase of the project, the project team was able to recycle or donate 95 percent of all construction waste within the space. Consideration was also given to materials that have low amounts of hazardous chemicals, including VOCs and formaldehyde.

High levels of sustainable innovation were desired for the project and coordinated in the early stages of design. This integrated design process yielded a LEED CI Platinum office space, which proved that design and construction to LEED standards does not yield significant premiums. Careful cost models were kept throughout the project to track LEED premiums associated with design and construction. The design and construction teams found that for this project, LEED Certified, Silver and Gold levels can be obtained with a premium for commissioning services only. This is typically 0.5 – 1 percent of project costs. A LEED Platinum level was obtained with a 5.6 percent premium to design and construction.

Energy conservation was a large factor driving the design of the space. The office optimizes the infiltration of natural daylight by eliminating all workstation partitions parallel to the windows. Long spacing of lighting fixtures and responsible lamp selection allowed for a 42 percent reduction in lighting power density from ASHRAE standards. The conference rooms are encased in glass to allow natural light to enter. The studio space is open without private offices. When needed, there are several breakout spaces and brightly colored “huddle” rooms for meetings that may require more privacy. Everyone in the studio has a view outside, with the Harold Washington Library to the West and Lake Michigan to the East side.

The Lutron Ecosystem allows the perimeter fixtures to dim to ten percent of their full capacity when daylight is abundant in the space. 94 percent of all rated power in the space is Energy Star compliant and is measured with a sub-metering system, allowing the HOK Chicago office to operate with 60 percent less electricity than the typical Chicago office space. Although water is abundant in Chicago, a 34 percent reduction in potable water use was realized through retrofitting or replacement of existing fixtures.

The end result is an office space that is light, open, and welcoming. An integrated design process with multiple design iterations drove the design of the space and resulted in a high performing, healthy and productive environment.

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