By Anne Cosgrove
Published in the January/February 2015 issue
What are your responsibilities at The Merchandise Mart?
As property manager of one of the largest buildings in the world, my role is to work with our large tenant roster to ensure each company and organization is happy with their space, while being cognizant of the high design and environmental standards set by the Merchandise Mart. This building is a versatile landmark in Chicago; it attracts a wide variety of visitors and acts as an important business hub both locally and internationally.
I have worked on renovations and new spaces alike, and different tenants have different needs. Tech incubators want modern spaces with loft-like features; suppliers need showrooms that present products in a flattering light; and advertising agencies need a collaborative space that fosters a creative environment.
Please describe the area of the facility included in this project.
Earlier this year, we were tasked with renovating the women’s restroom on the fourth floor. My role was to ensure this well-trafficked restroom was updated with fixtures that were sleek and sustainable and could accommodate a wide range of visitors.
The fourth floor women’s restroom is used by hundreds of business occupants. It is a high-traffic area, and was in need of a facelift to make the restroom more eco-friendly, sustainable, and functional.
What were the motivating factors for this retrofit?
More than 25,000 people walk through the doors of The Merchandise Mart on a daily basis, with that number growing significantly during any of the world-class trade shows that take place throughout the year. Tenants are varied, and 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 a sustainability champion in the commercial industry. We have always strived to keep the Mart at the forefront of sustainability by focusing on conserving water, reducing waste, and lowering energy use. We wanted the renovated restrooms to be sleek and functional for tenants, while aligning with the Mart’s green philosophy. We wanted to build a restroom that required less energy and upkeep.
When did this retrofit take place? How did the system you chose fit your needs?
We started working on a fourth floor modernization project earlier this year. The retrofit took place in the spring of 2014 and was completed in June. Our goal was to make the restroom more sustainable while improving functionality. While discussing the renovation, we came to the realization that the best place to start was the sinks. We decided to install new “all-in-one” sinks called Advocate AV-Series Lavatory Systems, manufactured by Bradley Corporation. The Advocate combines a touchless soap dispenser, faucet, and hand dryer in one unit, which enables users to wash their hands without touching anything. This design also helps to conserve water and reduce electricity consumption.
In May 2013, the Merchandise Mart was awarded recertification under the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Gold rating for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance. Our commitment to environmental excellence is what made the Advocate so appealing for the fourth floor washrooms. It can completely eliminate paper towel waste, and its low-flow faucet reduces water usage. These desirable outcomes make our building more eco-friendly, and that is one of our key goals for any renovation.
What have been the results?
The Advocate helped us make positive gains in our efforts to become more eco-friendly. The ultra-low-flow sink (0.38 gpm) cuts hand washing water usage by 24%. The hand dryers are very low cost to operate, while saving thousands of paper towel rolls each month. 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.