How Architecture and Landscaping Can Address Sustainability Goals

Four ways one 40-acre green campus in a Chicago suburb is turning heads for its benefits to people, planet and profit.

Green roofs, ample daylight, access to transit—multiple features add up to creating this people and planet-friendly HQ in Schaumburg, Illinois. Source: JLL
Green roofs, ample daylight, access to transit—multiple features add up to creating this people and planet-friendly HQ in Schaumburg, Illinois.

By Dan Probst and Dennis Kerrigan

What happens when a 125-year-old global insurer decides to construct its new corporate headquarters to benefit people and planet alike? In the case of Zurich North America and the campus’ developer and design builder, Clayco, it goes full tilt ahead in both directions — from native plant landscaping that’s pleasing to the eye and mind, to structural design that yields abundant daylighting, designed to fuel employee satisfaction and bottom-line efficiency.

The vision behind the largest build-to-lease project currently underway in the U.S. is not only to build a sophisticated, highly functional building in Schaumburg, Illinois – though that is happening, thanks to a power team that includes financier/landlord Stonemont Financial Group, JLL’s Energy and Sustainability group, interior architects from CannonDesign and landscape architects, Hoerr Schaudt.
It’s also to seize the opportunity to make sure this $300 million investment deepens Zurich’s commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR) goals. This new green home base is being built to champion employees and benefit the larger community — for a minimum of the 26 years the company has already committed to spending there.

Healthy resource use, healthy people — at work and beyond

The 40-acre campus, which broke ground this June, is set to open in fall 2016 with an anticipated high level of LEED certification. By 2018, it will house roughly 2,750 workers — and that’s 250 more jobs than its current workforce in this location. Ensuring these workers are well-equipped to do their jobs is only the beginning. Zurich has a demonstrated commitment to integrating employee wellbeing goals into workplace strategy, evidenced by its recent platinum award as Best Employer for Healthy Lifestyles as well as the property’s state-of-the-art new wellness center.

This emphasis on employee satisfaction marries well with Zurich’s ambitious sustainability goals, according to a report by the World Green Building Council (WGBC) and JLL titled Health, Well-being and Productivity in Offices: The Next Chapter for Green Building. It is becoming increasingly clear that green-building features like natural light, outdoor views and comfortable, well-managed temperatures not only make employees happy, but they also make them more productive and engaged.

In addition to the sheer value to the employees themselves, many sustainability initiatives also have demonstrable impact on the community beyond in addition to the bottom line. For example, by using native, drought-resistant plants, Zurich can draw less from the municipal water supply and save watering expenses. By co-generating a portion of its own power, the property will also reduce load on the grid and reduce energy costs.

Sustainability and workplace improvements

How well do the new facility’s green goals support its HR goals — and vice versa? Following are four examples of how Zurich NA’s new headquarters campus is expected to nail both.

1. People- and planet-friendly location: Employees can get to work easily, while reducing their carbon footprint, thanks to the two bus routes that serve the site, electric vehicle charging stations and preferred parking for efficient cars. It’s also culturally inviting: Restaurants and shopping are close by, and the site includes a gym, cafeteria and wellness area, where employees can access health assessments, coaching and fitness challenges.

2. Green plants, inspired minds: The campus is filled with native greenery, from the ground to two rooftop gardens, supporting both biodiversity and productivity. Overwhelming research shows that people are more inspired and engaged at work when surrounded by visually pleasing natural elements. Plus, native plantings will mean minimal winter protection, pest control and irrigation as well as storm water retention.

By opting for native plants over invasive, the site will also limit impact on local habitat. Source: JLL
By opting for native plants over invasive, the site will also limit impact on local habitat.

3. Comfort and efficiency maximized: With a south-facing, double-glazed curtain wall, exterior shading and weather-tight building envelope, this building is built to insulate and harness sunlight wherever possible. People perk? A breathtaking 70 percent window-wall ratio means abundant daylight and views, while features like demand control ventilation in conference rooms allow both sustainability and comfort.

4. Motivation through thoughtful resource use: Corporate social responsibility initiatives have even deeper internal value when employees see good intentions in action. Features like low-flow plumbing fixtures, which are specifically vetted not just for functionality but also for user satisfaction, are visible ways workers can connect to sustainability initiatives. When a sophisticated workplace reveals conscious choices, from low-VOC paints to rainwater recycling, in the form of a pretty pond used to irrigate gardens, employees can share pride in larger CSR goals.

It’s a people-planet win

Schaumburg, Illinois, officials have welcomed the new headquarters, with several elected officials participating in June’s groundbreaking ceremony. The notion that one new building can have a positive impact not only on the local economy, but also on the environment and the community of workers, is proving appealing, with significant tax credits supporting the project.

As employees find even greater pride in showing up to work each day, heading to a healthy, sustainable office that values its people and its planet, everyone wins.

Image credits: JLL

Dan Probst serves in two key roles at JLL. Mr. Probst was the founding member of JLL’s Global Environmental Sustainability Board and currently serves as Chairman of Energy and Sustainability Services (ESS). He is responsible for developing and delivering products and services to help clients reduce energy costs and their real estate related environmental footprint through innovative portfolio and occupancy strategies, workplace standards, and operating practices. In his other major responsibility, Mr. Probst returns as Director of Engineering & Operations (E&O), managing a service group that has increased considerably in scope since his previous tenure.

Dennis F. Kerrigan Jr. serves as executive vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary for Zurich North America. Mr. Kerrigan is responsible for the Corporate Law, Compliance, Government & Industry Affairs, and Regulatory Affairs departments supporting Zurich’s General Insurance segment in North America, which includes its North America Commercial, Global Corporate and Canadian businesses.

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