Contract with the planet
Judith Davidsen -- Interior Design, 3/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
|PHOTOGRAPHY BY ERIC LAIGNEL|
When Eva Maddox goes for the gold, she starts at the bottom and works her way up. The Perkins + Will principal was recently found totting up LEED-CI Gold certification points for Haworth's 20,000-square-foot New York showroom—where the company's trademarked TecCrete raised flooring is worth at least 14 of the 39 points required by the U.S. Green Building Council to put the project into contention. The TecCrete system channels electrical conduit and communications cable under the floor, eliminating ductwork and permitting employees to control temperature through adjustable circular grilles. Since hot air rises and cold air falls, this bottom-up HVAC source saves on the energy that would be required to push warm air down from conventional ceiling ducts as well as the energy that would be needed to cool all the air between human heads and the ceiling, which, in parts of this showroom, soars 30 feet. The modular system also reconfigures easily: Repositioning the grilles is a simple task. If Haworth ever moves to another site, the modules can be reused. In addition, the system earns points for recycled content and might introduce criteria for points based on the elimination of sun-blocking vertical ductwork.
Recyclable carpet tile (one point) covers the TecCrete in the office areas and part of the showroom, while tile made of rapidly renewable cork (more points) is used in reception and the central meeting space—painted white. To avoid throwing things away, Haworth office systems are assembled with identical hardware and other interchangeable components: When a partition is exchanged for a wall, an open workstation becomes a private office.
The glass walls of offices and the glass panels of workstations allow sunshine to flow in from the north, south, and west to almost every spot, no matter how deep in the showroom (one point). “Every person has access to daylight,” Maddox says. “Besides the bathrooms, there's not one space where they can't see out.” She adds that she worked to “get an incandescent look without incandescent wattage” by combining low-energy lamps (one point) with shiny surfaces, which save energy by reflecting light. Her favorite lighting setup, found in the double-height central space, involves track lights installed at varying angles to create a dancing effect—fueling human energy and saving fossil fuel at the same time. By comparison, rigidly horizontal tracks in series almost seem oppressive.
Maddox fervently believes that interior design is about sustaining not only the planet but also her clients' businesses and the employees who sustain those businesses. “The younger generation is so into green—and so into moving on if a place doesn't meet their needs,” she notes. (If that seems like an overly idealistic thing to say as the headlines fill with layoffs, consider the experience of a Florida call center that slashed employee turnover from 60 to 17 percent simply by pursuing eco-friendly design.) To Maddox, Haworth's LEED application, still a work in progress, is just the start of a process that goes far beyond point systems or certifications.