As tour manager for USGBC's LEED Platinum headquarters, I’ve had the privilege of sharing our office design with nearly 10,000 guests since we opened our doors in 2009. Our project team carefully selected the materials based on our design needs and company values. Ken Wilson, a principal from the DC-based design firm Envision, commented, “We tried to make every decision on the basis of the budget, sustainability, and functionality.” 

One key stop along the tour route, our Materials Wall, showcases the myriad products used throughout our space. It provides information to anyone who's interested in sourcing the same or similar materials in their own space. We have samples of different kinds of ceiling tiles, fabrics, fixtures, flooring and furniture to demonstrate the variety of sustainable materials available on the market. A few stand out for their visual appeal and underlying stories:

Wood paneling by Timeless Timber

One of the most distinctive features of our space can be seen as soon as you enter the suite. Most of our guests are curious about the origin of our salvaged wood wall paneling, and its history does not disappoint. This sweetgum wood was logged in the 1800s and floated down the Tennessee River, where it sank before arriving at its intended destination. To restore it, our supplier salvaged the wood from the river bed and dried it out in special kilns. The color variation indicates how deeply embedded each log was in the mud; the deeper it was, the darker the paneling appears. The design team really liked the rich, different colors for their contrast with the bright white terrazzo flooring and the monolithic look of the other millwork made from FSC-certified (Forest Stewardship Council) red oak. The wood has been third party-certified by Scientific Certifications Systems (SCS) as being 100 percent recovered submerged lumber and contains no chemicals, adhesives or additives of any kind.

Terrazzo flooring by Roman Mosaic & Tile Company

In terms of the design aesthetic, we asked the team for a space that was modern and sophisticated, with natural elements and pops of color. The terrazzo floors of our reception area, pre-conference space and monumental staircase shine brightly in contrast with the rich sweetgum wood paneling. The terrazzo, made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled glass, was mixed and poured on site, rather than being fabricated elsewhere and shipped for installation. It definitely adds a touch of modern elegance to our office design.

Panel fabric by Knoll, Inc.

Because 75 percent of our headquarters is arranged as an open office environment, we implemented design strategies that would enhance acoustic privacy. Wherever possible, we installed panel fabric in the work stations, in meeting rooms and on corridor tack panels throughout the space. All fabrics selected have recycled content and help with acoustics by absorbing sound. When installed, they were tucked into place rather than glued or stapled down. This allows for a flexible design because we can switch out, repurpose or recycle designs and colors as needed.

Carpet Tile by Lees Carpets

When specifying our materials, the project team did their best to keep within a 500-mile radius of Washington, DC. Our modular carpet tiles were manufactured in nearby Virginia. Lees Carpets (of Mohawk Group) designed a custom blend especially for USGBC, containing 61.5 percent recycled and 3 percent renewable/biobased content. Each carpet tile can be recycled into new carpet backing in a one-step process.

I asked Ken Wilson to explain why the carpet was on his personal list of favorite materials in the space. “The carpet has a permanent stain resistance technology that eliminates the need for cleaning chemicals from the maintenance process—water is the only cleaning agent required," he answered. "It was this stain resistance quality that ultimately gave us the confidence to specify a light-colored carpet at the building’s perimeter, which acts like a light shelf to maximize reflectance of natural light back into the space. We have used three different colorways in two different styles and love the rich pattern and texture of the carpet.”

Rubber Floor by Ecosurfaces

Our main print and workrooms are designed for staff comfort. If we need to stand around and make copies or collate packets for a seminar, workshop or conference, the rubber flooring is soft and comfortable on our feet. Made with regionally sourced pre- and post-consumer recycled content, the flooring includes pieces of recycled car tires. It is durable and easy to install and maintain, as well as slip-resistant for safety. Our flooring also comes in a variety of colors and textures and can be used for all types of spaces, such as education, health care, retail, corporate, hospitality, sports and recreation.

View our Instagram feed to see a quick overview of our materials, or check out our full materials list for more information about the products used in our space.

Interested in visiting USGBC? Schedule a tour of our LEED Platinum office.