Text description provided by the architects. Studio Gang Architects announces the completion of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s new Midwest Office, a project that raises the bar for sustainable spaces in Chicago and across the nation. In addition to its LEED Platinum rating, the new NRDC office is the first project of its kind to meet the Living Building Challenge, a rigorous certification program that exceeds the environmental standards of the LEED system.
"We wanted to break through boundaries with this project and so did the NRDC," said Jeanne Gang. “By taking on the Living Building Challenge, we essentially joined the movement to require transparency in the content of building materials. Just as the labeling revolution has transformed the food industry, this move toward greater transparency encourages all manufacturers to declare the content of their materials and the chemicals used in their production. This will change the way we design and how we choose the environments we inhabit. I am very encouraged by this method of measuring sustainability because it has the potential to create real change in the manufacturing processes."
Studio Gang also collaborated with NRDC staff to reconsider the traditional office space for attorneys. By distributing quiet areas and reservable, small-scale conference spaces, the team was able to eliminate private offices altogether and allow natural daylight to permeate the space. Finishes include various reclaimed materials, such as wood trim moldings that combine to create a fluted surface that defines the space, as well as felt-wrapped tectum panels; recycled glazing; and pre-owned, refurbished furniture elements. Rope sculptures for climbing plants, which filter the air and provide organic beauty, foster an engaging workspace that supports the important environmental advocacy taking place within it.
“The new space is gorgeous, sleek, surprising, and sustainable,” said NRDC Midwest Director Henry Henderson. “It sets a standard aesthetically, functionally, and intellectually, demonstrating that great environmental design is a real pleasure. We have the distinction of the world’s first Living Building Challenge Petal Certification in this type of space—surely this will not be the last. There is a huge demand in Chicago and the rest of the country for healthy, workable spaces that fully embrace sustainable design.”
Located in the historic Civic Opera Building on the south branch of the Chicago River, the project is the latest chapter in an ongoing collaboration between Studio Gang and NRDC that includes the 2011 publication Reverse Effect: Renewing Chicago’s Waterways.