Chicago Codes
A Greener Chicago

By: Julie Davis

This November, the U.S. Building Council awarded Chicago's Merchandise Mart a LEED Existing Building Silver certification. The certification is a milestone in the company's long-term strives to lead the current green trend in commercial real estate.

The Merchandise Mart, managed by Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc. [MMPI], is host to 20,000 visitors and tenants daily. When the Merchandise Mart was built in 1930 for the Marshall Field & Co. it was the largest building in the world. Spanning two city blocks, rising 25 stories, and encompassing 4.2 million gross square feet, the Mart is still the largest commercial building in the world. Its location along the Chicago River and its vintage art deco style makes the Merchandise Mart a landmark both in size and style.

Annually, the Merchandise Mart is home to 16 trade shows and over 300 special events. As host to such environmentally minded events as the NeoCon World's Trade Fair, the MMPI has recently felt an urgency to pursue the certification.

Efforts to earn the certification began in the summer of 2005. In 2006 the MMPI joined Clean Air Counts, an initiative to reduce smog-forming pollutants, and began a recycling program and water conservation efforts that have been calculated to save as many as 13,000 trees and 5.5 million gallons of water. Earlier this year the Merchandise Mart began installing motion sensors in restrooms and retrofitted exit lights as well as implementing an exterior and dock lighting schedule to reduce energy consumption. Employees and tenants of the building are integral in implementing green practices day to day. These efforts are not seen as the end of the project, but steps on the road to refining and defining green building practices.