Building on Green: MMPI’s 30-Year Dedication to Sustainability

Every Chicagoan knows The Merchandise Mart, the colossal and stately art deco gem that sits at the fork of the Chicago River branches. But not everyone knows its role in the green movement. MMPI, owner and manager of The Mart and its sister building, 350 West Mart Center, has been dedicated to creating sustainable environments for more than thirty years, a commitment that has awarded both buildings with LEED certifications.

Back in 1977, MMPI opened 350 West Mart Center, known then as the Apparel Center, with a heat-by-light heating system, the largest building to do so in the country. This first environmental stewardship effort began the company’s long journey to reduce its carbon footprint through its products, procedures and equipment. This was achieved through use of the largest thermal storage facility in the world and the use of Green Seal approved green cleaning to achieving LEED certification for The Merchandise Mart and, most recently, 350 West Mart Center.

“MMPI was somewhat of a ‘green pioneer’ in the city of Chicago,” said Christopher G. Kennedy, president of MMPI. “When I look back at our long-running efforts over the last 30 years, I’m proud of MMPI’s results in the sustainability field and of the impact that we are continuing to provide today.”

The Merchandise Mart was the fifth building in Chicago to become LEED certified, earning LEED-EB Silver certification in 2007. Utilizing a phased approach, The Merchandise Mart first began this noteworthy endeavor in 2005 by conducting a comprehensive analysis of building practices, including everything from building systems equipment and construction practices to waste management procedures and light bulb recycling. The goal of this first phase was to determine if LEED certification was feasible for such a large, unique building. It was determined that certification was not only possible, but that The Mart would strive for the more challenging Silver certification.

Phase two began in July 2006, when MMPI submitted its application for LEED-EB certification to USGBC, and began developing new programs and policies for the building that would reflect their heightened green building goals. Finally, the third phase began in early 2007 which encompassed the implementation of these newly documented programs and policies. An important part of this initiative was educating employees and tenants in the newly established green building programs, including a survey of all tenants’ current green building practices.

“The Mart as a building has always championed green initiatives because green means good business,” said Myron Maurer, Senior Vice President, MMPI. “Green buildings create a healthy workplace and ensure that generations to come will have the resources they need to thrive on this planet.”

Continuing with its efforts to promote exemplary green building practices and environmental stewardship, MMPI achieved LEED EBOM (Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance) Gold Certification for 350 West Mart Center in September 2009. As what may be the most dynamic building to pursue LEED certification, 350 West is home to some of the nation’s leading financial, media and technology companies. The building contains not only office space, but retail shops, apparel showrooms, a newsroom, television studio, college, conference facilities and a 530-room business-class hotel. the Holiday Inn Chicago-Mart Plaza is currently the world’s largest LEED certified hotel and the first in Chicago to achieve certification.

“LEED certification is critical to the future of 350 West Mart Center, and to the City of Chicago as a whole,” said Kennedy. “It defines how we will compete, it helps attract tenants, it reduces our operating costs, it reassures our investors and it enables us to recruit executives around the country.”

“We don’t view these as a completed projects,” added Maurer. “We have developed the tools, now we use those tools in our day-to-day operations. MMPI is going to continue to refine and improve our green building practices. It’s simply a way of life here.”

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