courtyard building, rooftop garden, open for business

Inspired by the pioneering sustainable design of the adjacent Chicago Center for Green Technology, Christy Webber asked Farr Associates to design her company a new green headquarters (as the flagship of her eco-industrial park). Her design guidance was as clear as it was wise: apply only those sustainable strategies and technologies from CCGT that made business sense. Knowing the design of CCGT, she was on board with Integrated Design Thinking, that every element of a design should provide multiple benefits. 

The building program was a split between clean, conditioned spaces for offices and studios and dirty, semi-conditioned spaces for vehicle service and repair. These two programs were shaped into parallel east-west building wings, connected with a spine of common rooms to form an east-facing courtyard. The narrow 44’ depth of the studio wing combined with light shelves maximizes natural light, a combination projected to reduce lighting energy by 40%. 

12.5% of the building’s annual energy usage is harnessed from renewable sources such as active solar thermal water and air, geo-thermal and an 80’ vertical wind turbine. Each wing incorporates a different approach to mechanical systems. The office wing incorporates a raised-floor plenum that enables quick air distribution adjustments and recabling, while the vehicle wing pioneered the use of washable fabric ducts and a south-facing intake air preheat panels. 

The rooftop was designed to allow people to experience landscape in and on buildings. A half dozen larger caliper trees were placed on the roof, a Chicago first, while a rooftop greenhouse anticipates an agrarian future for cities. (In an inspired moment of integrated thinking the greenhouse pre-heats the intake air for the office wing.)

The specification of Low VOC paint, carpet, adhesive and wood products to improve indoor air quality help build a market and shift these products to the mainstream. The extensive green roof absorbs and evaporates rainwater where it falls, and aids in the cooling of the building and surrounding environment, reducing the urban heat island effect. This flagship facility was only the 59th LEED-Platinum building in the world, is a timeless exemplar of business-friendly sustainability, and speaks to Christy’s fearless leadership on the environment. 


Client: Christy Webber Landscapes

Location: Chicago, IL

Year: 2004

Certification: LEED NC Platinum


  • 2007 AIA Chicago Sustainable Design Award: Excellence in Architecture

  • 2007 Chicago Building Congress Merit Award: Construction Under $10 Million

  • 2008 Chicago Neighborhood Development Award