Monday LEEDoff: Merchandise Mart in Chicago, World’s Largest Commercial Building, Earns Silver Rating from USGBC

News about green efforts across the retail sector has been prolific of late- see our recent posts about discussion at ICSC and Greenbuild, as well as important news from PNC Bank. So, it’s not entirely surprising that the world’s largest commercial building, which is home to an extensive number of retailers, recently made some green [...]

News about green efforts across the retail sector has been prolific of late- see our recent posts about discussion at ICSC and Greenbuild, as well as important news from PNC Bank. So, it’s not entirely surprising that the world’s largest commercial building, which is home to an extensive number of retailers, recently made some green news of its own. The 4.2 million- square-foot, 25-story Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago is the second biggest building on the planet after the Pentagon. Earlier this month, right around Greenbuild, it earned a Silver rating under USGBC’s LEED for Existing Buildings (“LEED-EB”) rating system. While its EB rating is significant, green efforts at the Merchandise Mart have been ongoing for years, from a thermal storage facility that’s capable of cooling 71 neighborhood buildings, to extensive recycling and water conservation programs.

The Merchandise Mart dates from 1930, when it served as a national wholesale center for the Marshall Field department store, and hosts 20,000 visitors daily. Half of the building currently serves office and retail tenants, while another wing is devoted to conferences and trade shows. One of those conferences, the NeoCon World’s Trade Fair, features construction and interior design firms, who lobbied the Merchandise Mart back in 2005 to explore green alternatives. According to Chris Kennedy, who runs the Vornado subsidiary that operates the facility, “there was a lot of pressure to walk the walk.”

Indeed, green initiatives at the Merchandise Mart abound. In addition to earning LEED-EB certification, the facility had previously joined Clean Air Counts, a voluntary Chicago-based program designed to reduce the release of air pollutants and energy use. To date, the Merchandise Mart leads commercial building participants in the program with a 264,018 pound reduction in emissions. The building now features motion sensors in all restrooms and has installed low-watt light fixtures throughout the facility. It also established a green building education program for tenants after conducting a survey of their internal green practices. All significant efforts from what, for now, appears to be the world’s largest green building.

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