The Living Lab is an embodiment of design values: a physical manifestation in our belief that good design fosters well-being, sparks creativity and conserves natural resources. To ensure that we minimize our environmental impact, measurement and verification of performance targets were essential. Thus, we established extensive baselines of our previous office to best understand and benchmark our energy, carbon, and energy cost intensity.
The Living Lab realized:
• 58% reduction in energy consumption (existing EUI-102.1 kBtu/sf/yr, actual EUI-42.6 kBtu/sf/yr
• 37% reduction in carbon (existing 94.0 MT-CO2e, actual 59.4 MT-CO2e)
• 60% energy cost reduction (existing $1.51/sf/yr, actual $0.60 sf/yr) in operation
We assessed this performance through direct measurements (sub-metering), trend assignments to various environmental conditions and equipment, operation, and using a calibrated energy model.
The Living Lab also reduced our full-load power lighting power density to 0.54 W/sf (a 46% reduction in lighting power compared to ASHRAE). Operationally, controls have further reduced our full-load value by 70%. We did this by using LED lighting technology and advanced controls to meet both the lighting power density (LPD) reduction targets for the 2030 Commitment and achievement of Circadian Lighting Design per WELL certification standards. The 2020 Commitment goal for an interiors only project was set at 0.75 W/sf or a 25% lighting power density reduction according to ASHRAE 90.1-2007.
The performance metrics aforementioned are a result of the interactive effects of the integrated energy and carbon reduction strategies in the Living Lab. While on-site renewable energy systems are not feasible, carbon offsets are purchased to amount to 100% of the total energy consumption of the space.
Lighting became the single most effective energy efficiency measure. The studio workstations were strategically located to maximize the full-use of daylighting in the space and so that they were within 25-feet of a window to maximize natural daylight hours and views to improve social and cognitive behavior. With the use of sit-to-stand desks, lighting within the studio was calibrated so that the user could adjust the illumination at the workstation (either through preset lighting scenes and task lighting) to vary between 20 and 30 foot-candles for digital-based design work.
The purpose of the ENERGY STAR Charter Tenant certification was to align the Living Lab with the same rigor (ongoing measurement and benchmarking) of ENERGY Star for Buildings. The EPA’s ENERGY STAR Charter Tenant Space recognition indicates that a tenant space has met specific EPA design criteria and has verified five (5) key actions to continually drive improvements in energy efficiency (estimate energy use, meter energy use, light efficiently, use efficient equipment and share data). Our pilot program contributes to the development of performance-based recognition for occupied tenant spaces. The Living Lab is one of 50 Charter Tenants paving the way to make this type of data available to others in the future.
The Living Lab is located in the Chicago Loop. Community connectivity for the Living Lab is recorded at:
• Walk Score of 99 (measures walkability of location)
• Transit Score of 100 (measures accessibility by public transit)
• Bike Score of 84 (measure of infrastructure for biking)
The surrounding density and diverse uses amounted to 43,515 square feet of building land which is optimally set for a wide number of diverse uses including farmers markets, pharmacies, banks, restaurants, gyms, cultural arts facilities and places of worship. The Living Lab has access to multimodal transportation, with more than 360 weekday trips and 216 weekend trips are accessible.
The Living Lab values community connectivity in context, providing enhanced awareness to the larger community. We host events in partnership with community organizations throughout the year. We were able to track the number of visitors, excluding clients, to the Living Lab as follows:
• During the year prior to our relocation, only 74 people visited our previous office.
• In the year following our relocation, 2,564 people visited the Living Lab.
We are also increasing community digitally. Our website was able to track community engagement via views to a story about the new space on our website, as well as views to video about the Living Lab on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. At the time of this submission, over 6,000 views have already been logged.
The group dynamics of the office in the new space are based on transparency and accountability. Upon entry, the lobby plaza area is open to give visitors an overall impression of our connection to the city, clients, partners and coworkers. The main pathways in the office represent our culture of transparency, inclusivity, and collaborative design processes. Teams display in-progress project work as a teaching and inspiration tool.
Our design supports our firm’s family culture, creating an atmosphere of belonging from the project teams in our open studio and extending to team rooms, informal collaboration areas and our lobby. The full process of our work in all stages is displayed across the office. In The Park, our multipurpose room, volunteer efforts and community events are displayed up on the walls with images of our employees participating in local events across the Midwest region.
By showcasing finished work in our lobby, in-progress work along the main corridors, and community outreach impacts at one end with strategic design thinking inputs at the other, we combine our breath of work with divergent thought leaders in and outside of the industry. This inspires our employees to cross-pollinate their skills and approaches across different industries. For example, the Living Lab research for Chicago was initially inspired by our research team that studies health care processes to find highly effective and efficient space layouts for faster medical response to patients. The insights that the research methodologies and ethnographic studies revealed in our office helped us to find levers to pull for measurable evidence-based design impacts that supported our commercial market.
While there are many connections between the LEED and WELL rating systems, water is one concept that the two standards differ. Where LEED seeks to holistically reduce indoor and outdoor water consumption, WELL promotes safe and clean water through access, promotion, filtration, and regular testing for building occupants to receive optimal quality of water (efficiency versus quality). The outcome of achieving both is evident in the certification of the Living Lab and post-occupancy survey’s that indicated that Water, in terms of environmental satisfaction score by occupancy resulted in most improved.
The Living Lab has two water filtration systems that provide the entire office with clean, refreshing and odorless water. Improving the taste quality and appearance of tap water (color) encourages increased water consumption and reduces reliance on bottled water thereby improving productivity through proper hydration throughout the day with a light footprint; reduced reliance on bottle water. To promote the consumption of water, making high-quality drinking water accessible to occupants was achieved by ensuring that at least one dispenser is located within 100-ft of all parts of regularly occupied floor space. Within our first year of occupancy the in-studio water filtration station has reduced our dependency on plastic water bottles and diverted waste from the landfill by more than 10,000 Bottles. The manufacture of one pound of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic can produce up to three pounds of carbon dioxide. Processing plastic resins and transporting plastic bottles contribute to a bottle’s carbon footprint in a major way. Estimates show that one 500-milliliter (0.53 quarts) plastic bottle of water has a total carbon footprint equal to 82.8 grams (about 3 ounces) of carbon dioxide. Thus, the Living Lab has eliminated approximately 14.5 Metric Tons of Carbon! That’s about 1% of the total Greenhouse Gas Emissions for a typical commercial office building.
To further increase water efficiency within our Living Lab, indoor water use reduction amounted to over 35% with the use of high-efficiency low-flow fixtures including water closets (toilets 1.1 GPF), faucets in the restroom (0.35 GPM) and break areas (1.0-1.3 GPM), shower (1.5 GPM) and dishwasher. The use of ENERGY STAR certified dishwashers contributed to our reduction in potable water by using advanced technology to reduce energy and water consumption.
Combining the WELL and LEED rating systems together required a rigorous approach for selecting appropriate building materials. A high level of material research, selection and specification was required. We couldn’t rely on our contractor or subcontractor to tap into their knowledge base to find the appropriate material selection, because these joint criteria were new to them, too. The design team had to give them that guidance, which meant we had to be very diligent. Fortunately, programs like mindful MATERIALS create the transparency for the material ingredients we need.
The interactive effect between system selection and thoughtful interior finish selections and furniture layouts created a visually comfortable, balanced workplace environment supporting improved indoor environmental quality. In alignment with LEED and WELL Material credits and optimizations interior finishes and furnishings (30% was reused from our previous space) were selected which contributed to a lower release of airborne particulates thereby improving indoor air quality and increased the life-cycle of sources materials.
We also selected over 20 products and materials from manufacturers who have environmental product declarations (EPDs), that are environmentally, economically and socially preferable in terms of life-cycle impacts. In the spirit of transparency, we also selected over 20 products that are verified to minimize the use and generation of harmful substances, such as a chemically inventory of at least 1,000 ppm, through certification labels such Health Product Declaration (HPD), Cradle-to-Cradle (C2C), and Declare.
Performance-based air quality measurements were completed prior to occupancy to ensure that contaminant compounds, if measured, were at or below concentration limits per LEED air quality procedures (this was also done at our existing office space). The overall indoor air quality benchmark improvement was verified at 27% which was a combination of healthier interior finishes and furnishing and the operation of the displacement ventilation system.
SUSTAINABLE DESIGN INTENT AND INNOVATION
In support of environmental stewardship, human health and well-being, the Living Lab has achieved LEED Platinum and ENERGY STAR Charter Tenant certification and is currently pursuing WELL Gold certification. The LEED rating system supports a performance-based approach to sustainable interior building design practices and strategies that result in the enhancement of indoor environmental quality while upholding energy efficiency. WELL Certification advances and improves health and well-being through scientific and human health research and design. The EPA’s certification recognizes that a space has met specific design criteria and has verified five key actions that continually drive improvements in energy efficiency.
To ensure that the Living Lab continuously delivers on design promises, a tenant energy and environmental management system was integrated over base building controls to evaluate critical behavioral and space performance metrics. The intent is to make data more actionable to effectively remediate issues as they arise. This is how we are quantitatively benchmarking our design that inevitably feeds into our research. We have also developed various surveys to qualitatively understand how the space is being perceived. Measuring instantaneous energy performance, environmental conditions and human response embodies a triple bottom line approach to holistic metering.
As the cool air mass from the displacement ventilation system spills from the diffusers and flows across the floor it finds heat sources along the floor, the natural buoyancy causes it to rise and carries heat and pollutants directly toward the ceiling. As that air rises and passes through the occupant convective thermal plume, the vertical airflow pattern of displacement ventilation sends it directly to the ceiling and safely to the return grill, where it is exhausted from the space. This makes it less probable for germs to spread, creating a healthier studio. The inherent zone air distribution effectiveness is at least 20 percent more effective than mixed-air systems, according to ASHRAE. Because the displacement ventilation system is more effective in terms of distribution the Living Lab receives 30% more outside air than what is required. The carbon dioxide levels are consistently below 800pm during occupied hours. Real-time environmental performance (temperature, RH, CO2 and ozone) are continuously being measured and displayed to effectively remediate indoor air quality issues as they arise and informs occupants of the quality of the indoor environment.
The low pressure and velocity of displacement ventilation reduces structure-borne noise and diffuser breakout noise, creating a more collaborative and focused environment (background noise levels have been measured below 40 dBA in an open office setting). The low velocity supply air also improves thermal comfort by placing it directly in the occupied zone, reducing drafts, and stratifying the air in the space. The relationship of the light fixtures to the workstation/person was also critical. Lights centered over the workstations enabled us to achieve the highest vertical illumination for circadian lighting while using the least amount of energy (LED technology). We were able to reduce our lighting power density 43% below ASHRAE requirements. The symmetrical, organized plan made a difference both in space and environmental performance.