Johnson Controls HQ Earns LEED Platinum

Johnson Controls Renovated HQ

Though their greening of the Empire State Building may garner more headlines, Johnson Control’s renovated headquarters building deserves its share of kudos too. The Glendale, WI complex has just been honored with a LEED platinum rating by the US Green Building Council which makes it (probably) the “greenest” headquarters among the Fortune 500. More importantly, it serves as a showcase for one of the company’s core business units – building efficiency.

It makes perfect sense, of course, to build one’s own corporate campus using the very technologies you want to offer to the world. Being able to show them off in person to visiting clients, as well as to experiment with new technology in one’s backyard makes walking the walk a no brainier. I had a chance to tour the new and renovated buildings this summer and was impressed by what I saw…

The facility’s features are a dream checklist of everything you might expect in a LEED platinum facility:

  • A geo-thermal heat pump with nearly 300 wells improves the efficiency of heating and cooling.
  • Over 45,000 square-feet of photovoltaic panels which satisfy over 12% of demand.
  • Solar thermal water heating.
  • Skylights and ample windows minimize the need for lighting during the day.
  • Automatic window shades and lighting ballasts reduce cooling needs in summer.
  • Permeably paved parking lot to collect rainwater and snowmelt.
  • Rooftop rain water collection, for use in bathroom flushing.
  • 77% less water consumption than before.
  • 21% less energy consumption despite doubling of space.
  • All kinds of nifty personal environment controls for every desk.

This kind of innovation is nothing new – the original headquarters building was actually cooled by an active water feature (ie ponds and fountains) that surrounded it. That particular experiment didn’t pan out as keeping the water clean after circulating it through the building proved too costly. But so it goes with new ideas, with some 135 of experience, the company has time to keep experimenting.

But it’s not only the building itself that merits recognition, it’s Johnson Controls general commitment to the bigger picture of sustainability to which their latest LEED accomplishment is one of many indicators. Their GRI report is second to none – a highly transparent look at the commitments of the company, their community programs are diverse and well thought out, and the company is consistently recognized as a great place to work.

What’s really interesting to me is how long it’s taken for the company’s common sense approach to what we now call “sustainability” to be recognized in the mainstream. It’s almost a parallel to the mainstreaming of the sustainable business movement in general – considered behind-the-scenes at best, a fringe movement at worst for years. Now, as readers of 3p long know, attention to the Triple Bottom Line is here to stay, a reality companies can’t afford to ignore. Better yet, companies that embrace it are poised for increased profitability as well as good will, as Johnson & Johnson’s hard earned LEED rating shows.

Aerial shot of Johnson Controls headquarters in Glendale, WI

Nick Aster is a new media architect and the founder of has grown to become one of the web's leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place.

Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He worked for, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years and has also been an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He earned his stripes working for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging.

Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis.

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