The Merchandise Mart Thinks Clean, Stays Green
An American architectural jewel tapped Bradley Corporation to lead its latest washroom makeover
The Merchandise Mart is one of the world’s largest commercial buildings. Established in 1930, the landmark’s iconic art-deco design is one of the defining features of Chicago’s riverfront. It has a dedicated stop on the city’s elevated train system and welcomes more than 25,000 people through its doors on a daily basis.
Eight decades after its construction by Marshall Field & Co., the Mart is still home to the high-end product showrooms that established it as the world capital for architectural and interior design vendors. It plays host to a variety of design-focused tradeshows and industry expos – including the world-famous NeoCon conference each summer.
The Mart is also an embodiment of Chicago’s future. Its office tenants include Fortune 500s, tech all-stars, and some of the largest public relations, marketing and advertising agencies in the world.
In addition to the Mart’s status as a symbol of innovative design, the building is also an environmental champion in the commercial industry – where sustainability has evolved from being a noteworthy differentiator to an expectation on the part of facility managers, architects and consumers. Property manager Kristin Pabst and her team have always strived to keep the Mart at the forefront of green operations by focusing on conserving water, reducing waste and lowering energy use.
Pabst can point to several noteworthy accomplishments in making the Mart more eco-friendly, culminating with its recertification under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED-EBOM) Gold rating for existing buildings: operations and maintenance in 2013.
Pabst also saw an opportunity to highlight the Mart’s emphasis on sustainable design and construction by addressing the environmental impact of its washrooms, which too often remained hotbeds for resource waste. Two of the biggest opportunities for improvement were reducing water consumption and paper towel use.
Her most recent project was a washroom makeover on the building’s fourth floor. She wanted to provide tenants with a sleek and functional space that reinforced the building’s established reputation as a leader in green design.
“We wanted to make the restroom more sustainable, while improving functionality,” said Pabst. “When we looked at how to do that, we realized the best place to start was the sinks.”
Over the last decade, facility managers and building owners have widely adopted touchless technology in sinks, soap dispensers and hand dryers to create more hygienic lavatory experiences for their patrons. While touchless technology has quickly become a best practice in commercial washrooms, many buildings have been hesitant to make the jump to completely touchless environments because of the design challenges and cost implications involved with incorporating multiple touchless fixtures in their washrooms.
The ideal solution for Pabst and the Mart’s team was to install new “all-in-one” sinks called Advocate AV-Series Lavatory Systems, manufactured by Wisconsin-based Bradley Corporation. The Advocate is the first washroom fixture to combine a touchless sink, faucet and hand dryer in a single unit. Its all-in-one setup enables users to complete the entire hand-washing process – rinse, soap and dry – in one place without touching a fixture. The Advocate was designed to meet the demands of contemporary commercial facilities, such as the Mart, by improving sustainability, cleanliness and safety.
The Advocate’s state-of-the-art design conserves water, uses minimal electricity and can completely eliminate paper towel waste. Its .38 gallon per minute faucet reduces water use by 24 percent compared with standard, low-flow faucets, and ensures that water goes down the drain, not on the floor. Less water on the floor means a safer washroom environment for users, and less potential for injuries from slipping on wet floors. Additionally, the unit’s high-speed, dual-sided hand dryer can eliminate used paper towels from littering the washroom floor.
“The Advocate helped us make positive gains in our efforts to reduce water use because of its ultra-low-flow sink and its hand dryer barely uses energy,” said Pabst. “Our tenants love the fact that they don’t have to touch anything when they wash their hands and our maintenance team is spending less time cleaning up paper towels and wiping water off the counter and the floor. It’s been a win-win for everybody.”
The Bradley Advocate has completely transformed the look of the washroom, made the user experience better and helped the Mart deliver on its green mission. The project shows that innovation and brilliant design can be found everywhere at the Merchandise Mart – from the showroom to the washroom.