Midwest Office, Natural Resources Defense Council

Chicago, Illinois / United States of America

With a growing Midwest presence and green building mandate, the Natural Resources Defense Council chose the vintage 1930s Civic Opera House along the Chicago River for its new headquarters.

The building's relatively low ceilings, small punched windows, and unusual core placement posed challenges to the desire for airy, light-filled space.

Additionally, the desire to move toward an entirely open plan without individual offices required special attention to acoustics.

Careful placement of gathering areas, meeting rooms, and conference areas reduced noise while maintaining social space that the staff enjoys.

Achieving LEED Platinum, the office is also the first renovation project to meet the Living Building Challenge. Pursuing both of these high environmental standards simultaneously presented obstacles, as some of the requirements were at odds.

Reclaimed materials satisfied LEED but were restricted by the Living Building Challenge "RED list."

Material strategies included felt-wrapped panels, recycled doors, and reupholstered pre-owned furniture.

Stripped and refinished, reclaimed wood trim moldings were used to create fluted surfaces that define the space.

The design's rope wall provides a geometric structure for climbing plants that filter the interior air.

Green and flooded with daylight, this pleasant workspace demonstrates the environmental advocacy of NRDC and its staff members.

Architect of record

Jeanne Gang
Studio Gang Architects
1212 N. Ashland Ave., Ste. 212
Chicago, IL 60622, United States
Phone: 773-384-1212

General contractor

Eric Lohmueller
661 W. Ohio St.
Chicago, IL 60654, USA
Phone: 312-715-9200

Consultant 1

Steve Sovak
WMA Consulting Engineers
815 S. Wabash Ave.
Chicago, IL 60604, USA
Phone: 312-786-4310

Consultant 2

Charlie Saville
WMA Consulting Engineers
815 S. Wabash Ave.
Chicago, IL 60604
Phone: 312-786-4310

Consultant 3

Robin Glosemeyer Petrone
Threshold Acoustics
53 W. Jackson Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60604
Phone: 312-386-1400


Steve Hall
Hedrich Blessing
400 N. Peoria St.
Chicago, IL 60622, USA
Phone: 312-491-1101