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International Interior Design Association

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The Gold Standard

By Michelle Bowles
Photography by Eric Laignel

When it came time to design the new IIDA Headquarters and Learning Center, there was little question that the space should be sustainable
and energy-efficient. Envision Design, an architecture and interior design firm in Washington, D.C., with a sustainability focus, was called in to bring the green vision to life. Throughout the Headquarters — located in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, within a half mile of 28 bus lines, five subway stations and six elevated train lines — 25 percent of materials specified are made with post-consumer and post-recycled materials. Seventy-two percent of the furniture and products specified in the construction were manufactured within a 500-mile radius of the site, and 5 percent of the products are made with rapidly renewable materials such as cork and wool.

Still, beauty and functionality weren’t ignored. “We tried very hard to ensure when you walk into the space, it didn’t scream, ‘I’m recycled,’” says Designer Ken Wilson, IIDA, AIA, LEED AP. “All the wood is [Forest Stewardship Council]-certified, and you’d never know that. You wouldn’t know that the lighting is extremely energy-efficient, that the ceiling tiles have a high recycled content or that the paints are rated for zero VOCs. It looks like a very contemporary, modern workspace.” 

After the space was completed, the Merchandise Mart, the world’s largest commercial building, became LEED for Existing Buildingscertified.
And in March, IIDA achieved LEED Gold certification for the offices. “As IIDA’s mission states, ‘IIDA seeks to promote awareness and knowledge of interior design strategies that reduce negative impacts on our natural environment and improve the health and well-being of all people,’” says Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. IIDA, LEED AP, IIDA Executive Vice President and CEO. “The new Headquarters is an illustration of these tenets in action for our Members and the design community.”

The Bottom Line

“The focus of our practice is sustainable projects. We’re a firm founded on this idea.  It’s really ingrained in the culture of our firm. It’s not as
though we have some green projects and some nongreen projects — they’re all green projects.” — Wilson

A Helping Hand

Designers know that for typical non-profit or association clients, budgets are tight, and that may mean making some sacrifices. But for the new IIDA Headquarters and Learning Center, the Envision Design team had the benefit of generous donations from IIDA Corporate Members and other contributors. “That was a great part of this project,” says Moylan.  “The association did not spend the amount it looks like it did.”