To meet the demand for LEED training and certification, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has been growing its staff at a bewildering rate. As a result, the organization was crowding itself out of its old headquarters in Washington, D.C., and in 2005 USGBC leadership began to consider the ramifications of moving to a new space.

In the design and construction of a new office, the USGBC would have the opportunity to practice what it preaches about green building, and site selection would be a critical factor. It turns out that the USGBC didn't have to look far, ultimately taking a lease in a building on Dupont Circle, a major public transit hub located a few blocks away from the old office. The building had recently been renovated by its owners to qualify for LEED Gold status, and it had a completely vacant floor that was nearly twice the size of the existing USGBC facility.

The nonprofit partnered with the Washington, D.C., office of Perkins+Will, which not only boasts experience with green design and construction but also has several LEED-accredited designers on staff. The design team came onto the project at the outset to do a preliminary space plan and schematic design and to ensure a smooth process toward LEED certification, making sure the design took green principles into account from the very beginning. “It's important for the certification to pull together the project team very early in the process,” says Linda Sorrento, USGBC's director of education and research partnerships. “As soon as the site was located, the team went over and did a charrette.”

David Cordell Interior Designer Perkins+Will
David Cordell Interior Designer Perkins+Will

Because the space serves as a showcase for green building and the LEED program, it was important to show that not only is a platinum rating for commercial interiors within anyone's grasp, but also that a green office does not have to look different than any other well-designed office. “One of the main goals of the overall design was to make it look like a standard office space,” says Gretchen Leigh, a LEED-accredited senior associate at Perkins+Will. “We needed to make the aesthetic look accessible for many people.” Making sure that the design met employees' needs was key, especially given the expectation that the office will serve as a venue for educational tours and events. “We focused first on how the space would function for the employees, knowing that tours and such can be disruptive,” says Leigh. “All the workstations are along the perimeter, so that most people can take advantage of the natural daylight, and the shared spaces are contained in the center.” In fact, the large window walls allow all the employees to see greenery outside, which actually earned the space points toward its LEED Platinum for Commercial Interiors status. And to bring the green indoors, the architects designed planters into the row of workstations so that greenery is directly incorporated in the work area. With the new space, the USGBC has been able to hire even more people, almost doubling its staff in the first half of 2007.

Gretchen Leigh Senior Associate Perkins+Will
Gretchen Leigh Senior Associate Perkins+Will

Once the programming and parti were determined, the focus turned to materials selection. The team was careful to consider the sustainability of every product involved. If there was a sustainable option, that was the product that got specified. As a nonprofit, the USGBC was able to solicit product donations from a variety of different manufacturers, installing higher-end products than the budget would have normally allowed. Reusing furniture earned the project a series of LEED credits, and 30 percent of the workstations were brought over from the old USGBC headquarters. The existing desking system, the Premise series from Haworth, was integrated with new pieces from the Compose series by the same manufacturer, to avoid giving the impression that some employees were getting hand-me-downs. Marble on top of the reception desk was salvaged from the reception area of the previous tenants, a law firm. To help achieve LEED innovation credits and promote education, the Perkins+Will teamed with Baltimore graphic design firm Shaw-Jelveh to create a series of tags that inform visitors and employees alike of the sustainable qualities of the materials used in the space, such as pointing out recycled content in cork flooring ( see interactive image map) or ceiling panels.

Sorrento and other USGBC staff helped select products, more than most clients would, because they know so well the LEED regulations and the sustainable features of different manufacturing processes. She describes the process as having three parts: “Step one: Is it green, and what are the green features? Step two: Begin the process of normal selection that any project would take. Step three: See if we could work with the companies to arrange for a donation.” Sorrento has reason to be knowledgeable about product selection and the design process, above and beyond her involvement with the USGBC; she was a commercial interior designer for more than 30 years.

Did working so hard to achieve high green standards detract from the quality of the end product? “Ten years ago there wasn't a lot of variety,” Leigh says. “Now there are lots of colorways and patterns, and manufacturers are jumping on the bandwagon. It's not as much of a struggle today.”

PROJECT USGBC Headquarters
LOCATION Washington, D.C.
CLIENT U.S. Green Building Council
ARCHITECT Perkins+Will, Washington, D.C.—Peter Busby, Holly Briggs, Sinead Harte, Gretchen Leigh, David Cordell, John McKinney, Emily McVeigh, Luther Geisler, Marian Danowski, Harris Lokmanhakim, Je. Anderson, Carlos Guzman (project team)
M/E/P ENGINEER Stantec
LIGHTING Bliss-Fasman Lighting Design
ACOUSTICAL Charles M. Salter Associates
CONTRACTOR James G. Davis Construction Co.
MILLWORK Washington Woodworking Co.
COMMISSIONING AGENT Advanced Building Performance Inc.
PHOTOGRAPHER Prakash Patel
GRAPHICS Shaw-Jelveh Design
LEED CONSULTANT Greenlight Strategies
COMPLETED Early 2007

PRODUCT SPECS

FLOORING LOCATION Reception
PRODUCT Sawn bamboo
MANUFACTURER Columbia Forest Products
DONATION Yes
WEBSITE www.columbiaforestproducts.com

LOCATION Work communities
PRODUCT Cool Carpet, Veneer Douglas Fir Stripe
MANUFACTURER InterfaceFLOR
DONATION Yes
WEBSITE www.interface.or.com

LOCATION Cafe and copy center
PRODUCT Linoleum
MANUFACTURER Forbo Flooring
DONATION Yes
WEBSITE www.forbo-flooring.com

LOCATION Conference
PRODUCT Cork flooring
MANUFACTURER Expanko
DONATION No
WEBSITE www.expanko.com


PAINT LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT EcoSpec
MANUFACTURER Benjamin Moore
DONATION Yes
WEBSITE www.benjaminmoore.com


CEILING LOCATION Reception
PRODUCT TechZone with Ultima tiles
MANUFACTURER Armstrong Ceiling
DONATION Yes
WEBSITE www.armstrong.com

LOCATION Offices
PRODUCT Ultima Regular
MANUFACTURER Armstrong Ceiling
DONATION Yes
WEBSITE www.armstrong.com

LOCATION Conference
PRODUCT Metalworks Vector
MANUFACTURER Armstrong Ceiling
DONATION Yes
WEBSITE www.armstrong.com

LOCATION Above workstations
PRODUCT Optima Plank
MANUFACTURER Armstrong Ceiling
DONATION Yes
WEBSITE www.armstrong.com

LOCATION Ceiling trim
PRODUCT Knife Edge, Axiom Trim
MANUFACTURER Armstrong Ceiling
DONATION Yes
WEBSITE www.armstrong.com


HVAC LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT IAQ Monitoring System
MANUFACTURER Aircuity
DONATION Yes
WEBSITE www.aircuity.com

LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT Ductwork
MANUFACTURER Knauf Insulation
DONATION Yes
WEBSITE www.knaufusa.com


PLUMBING LOCATION Kitchen and restrooms
PRODUCT Fixtures
MANUFACTURER American Standard
DONATION Yes
WEBSITE www.americanstandard-us.com

LOCATION Restrooms
PRODUCT Fixtures
MANUFACTURER Sloan Valve Co.
DONATION Yes
WEBSITE www.sloanvalve.com


LIGHTING LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT Lighting package
MANUFACTURER Cooper Lighting
DONATION Yes
WEBSITE www.cooperlighting.com

LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT Daylighting ballast
MANUFACTURER JRL Worldwide
DONATION Yes
WEBSITE www.jrlworldwide.com


FINISHES LOCATION Café
PRODUCT Plastic laminate countertops
MANUFACTURER Formica Corp.
DONATION Yes
WEBSITE www.formica.com

LOCATION Cafe and knowledge center
PRODUCT PureBond veneer core with bamboo face
MANUFACTURER Columbia Forest Products
DONATION Yes
WEBSITE www.columbiaforestproducts.com

LOCATION File and storage tops
PRODUCT Countertops
MANUFACTURER IceStone
DONATION Yes
WEBSITE www.icestone.biz

LOCATION Conference and offices
PRODUCT EcoResin
MANUFACTURER 3Form
DONATION Yes
WEBSITE www.3-form.com

LOCATION Conference
PRODUCT Tac-wall
MANUFACTURER Walltalkers, RJF International
DONATION Yes
WEBSITE www.walltalkers.com

LOCATION Conference
PRODUCT Chadwick chair
MANUFACTURER Knoll
DONATION Yes
WEBSITE www.knoll.com


STRUCTURAL SYSTEMS LOCATION Conference
PRODUCT Reclaimed Douglas fir wood timbers
MANUFACTURER TerraMai
DONATION Yes
WEBSITE www.terramai.com


APPLIANCES LOCATION Kitchens
PRODUCT Appliances
MANUFACTURER Bosch
DONATION Yes
WEBSITE www.boschappliances.com


PLANTS LOCATION Throughout
PRODUCT Plants
MANUFACTURER Initial Tropical Plants
DONATION Yes
WEBSITE www.initialplants.com