As the largest commercial building in the world, The Merchandise Mart welcomes millions each year to shop and tour its showrooms. When administrators decided to implement green policies in the 4.2-million-square-foot structure and apply for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, they asked their employees for ideas. “There’s plenty of room to improve how a building operates,” says Mark Bettin, vice president of engineering at The Mart.
The new green standards are paying off in a big way. In 2006, The Mart joined Clean Air Counts, a Chicago-based initiative to improve air quality, and has reduced pollution by more than 264,018 pounds―the largest reduction ever by a commercial building. Inside The Mart, and amid new construction, paint and building materials must contain low levels of VOCs (volatile organic compounds), potentially harmful to the environment. A stringent recycling program focuses on reusing and breaking down lightbulbs, batteries, paper products, construction waste, and more.
The Mart also maintains a site-management plan that mandates drought-tolerant plants and the use of environmentally friendly pest control. Efforts for more energy efficiency include a thermal cooling system and the latest lighting technology (to compensate for the extended hours required to illuminate showrooms). Tenants can even rent an I-Go hybrid car by the hour.
In 2007, The Mart earned LEED Silver certification for Existing Buildings (LEED-EB). Although it may not be shiny and new, the historic structure is a prime example of how it’s never too late for change. “Our certification wasn’t just a one-time goal,” Mark says. “It’s an ongoing effort.”
For more information on The Mart, call 312/527-4141 or visit mmart.com.
• Environmental education courses
• Pollution reduction―by more than 250,000 pounds since inception
• Thermal heating and cooling system
• Efficient lighting technology, including motion sensors and low-wattage fixtures
• Eco-friendly pest control and cleaning products