Green, But Looking For Gold
MCA Chicago recently held an open house for its new headquarters building in suburban Chicago (Burr Ridge, Ill.). Plumbing & Mechanical editors visited the facility this past spring when eco-friendly foam insulation was being sprayed over the exterior walls, and we again visited the MCA Chicago offices just weeks before its grand opening.
“Our trade is going to have to take the lead in the green building and LEED movement,” Steve Lamb, executive vice president of MCA Chicago, told us back in May. “We’re plumbing and heating contractors; this is what we do.”
Our most recent excursion allowed us a few hours with Dan Bulley, MCA Chicago’s senior vice president and green building “expert,” who showed us as many “green” features of the building as he could remember. MCA Chicago is hoping to get Gold LEED status from the U.S. Green Building Council.
The eco-friendly features begin as soon as you walk in the door; there is a succession of three different kinds of doormats, each designed to “collect” dirt from visitors’ shoes. The doormats help with indoor air quality issues - less dust and pollen, etc. - but keep the floors clean, too.
The carpet tiles are made from recyclable material, but can be recycled as well. Bulley says that if any of the carpet tiles need to be replaced because of stains, etc., MCA can send the old ones back to the manufacturer (Mohawk) and the carpet will be recycled at no cost to the organization.
Most of the interior walls are movable, allowing rooms to be reconfigured easily if needed. Painted walls have low-VOC paint; all other wall coverings are from recycled material. All the wood doors are made from recycled content. And the ceiling tiles are made from recycled paper.
The kitchen cabinets are made from wood salvaged from ash trees that had to be cut down because they were infested with emerald ash borers. All the countertops are made from recycled aluminum.
There is a recycling area just off the kitchen and training area where trainees can recycle plastic bottles, aluminum cans, paper, etc. And MCA Chicago installed a soda fountain instead of having soda cans and bottles.
“We have plastic cups that we give the trainees to take home,” Bulley explains. That saves on recyclable waste that the organization has to have hauled away.
Plumbing And HeatingSloan Valve Co. donated all the bathroom fixtures, including low-flow, solar-powered faucets; low-flow toilets; and pint-flush (1/8 gallon) toilets. Obviously, all these fixtures save water, and the solar-powered faucets save energy.
The company also donated its XLerator hand dryers, which are designed to dry hands in 10-15 seconds. Electronic hand dryers are “green” products because they save on paper towels that would normally be used to dry hands after washing (and then dumped into landfills).
The HVAC system is “optimized for ventilation,” Bulley says; the copier room has a dedicated exhaust system to help keep the air clean. The bathrooms also have separate exhaust. “Natural ventilation” is also present in the building - the windows actually open up!
The rooftop heating system came with the building, but the Icynene foam insulation made the building extremely energy-efficient; MCA Chicago had to replace one of the large units with a smaller one. “We would have put in hydronic heating if we’d have built the building from scratch,” Bulley notes.
Each elevation in the building has its own zone, controlled by a digital control system from Carrier. The building has a reflective white roof, which also helps to cut down on cooling bills in the summer.
Training CenterThe training center is all about ergonomics, right down to the chairs. The room has two 52-inch TVs on either side of the front wall for showing videos or PowerPoint demos. A touch screen in the podium makes it easy for the instructor to switch to a PowerPoint or video.
The back wall is full of windows, which allows natural light into the room. Natural day light can improve a person’s mood, increase productivity, reduce eyestrain and make colors more “true” - all good things when you’re trying to teach a roomful of people. Daylighting (bringing natural light indoors) also reduces energy.
This lighting technique is also used in the staff offices; some have glass inner walls to bring natural light into the hallway. (Other lighting in the building uses high-efficient LED lighting.)