While the United States’ green-building industry was still relatively slow in the early 1990’s, Herman Miller, who are known for their architectural experimentation, decided to construct a new facility for Simple, Quick, Affordable (SQA), a company that bought used office furniture to refurbish them and sell them to smaller businesses. To do so, they chose to build sustainably, a design approach that was not yet utilized in the region.
Designed by New York architect William McDonough, the 295,000 sq ft building (approx. 90,000 sqm) was built in Holland, Michigan in 1995. The facility’s design qualities, such as storm-water management, air-filtering systems, and 66 skylights, helped set the standards for the U.S. Green Building Council LEED Certification.
We weren’t trying to ride the green wave, we were driving that wave, trying to help set the standards that would become LEED. There was no such thing as LEED when we started the project. - Ed Nagelkirk, Herman Miller Senior Workplace Strategy and Facilities Manager
The GreenHouse’s sustainable strategy “reflected the character of the company”. Employees at the facility enjoy working inside the building, as it doesn’t feel like they are boxed within an enclosed space due to the abundance of skylights above the manufacturing floor. The increase in productivity and practical effects of the building helped the company recover the finances spent on the project within its first couple of years, and doubled its productivity within the first five.
Herman Miller acquired many bright architects throughout the years. A. Quincy Jones drafted the master plan of the company’s headquarters in 1970, Nicholas Grimshaw completed Miller’s plant in Bath and Chippenham, England in 1975, and in 1989-1991, Frank Gehry designed two facilities in California.
The GreenHouse facility is a project that is considered ahead of its time, launching what the world now knows as the green-building industry. Since its opening, it has been awarded with numerous prizes and recognitions, earning its title as a pioneer in sustainable architecture. Nowadays, the facility considered monumental, as many design magazines and graduate students write about it, and visit Michigan to experience the building firsthand.
This Article was originally published on metropolismag.com.