Montroy Andersen DeMarco (MADGI) has completed the new 11,000-square foot Northeast regional office of Earthjustice. Serving as interior designer and project manager for Earthjustice, MADGI performed a pre-lease analysis to help the organization choose which space within the 48 Wall Street office tower would best suit its needs and then laid out the space and selected finishes. Helmsley Spear served the landlord, 48 Wall LLC, as the owner’s representative for the fit-out.
Earthjustice is the country’s largest nonprofit environmental law organization. It was founded in 1971 and now has over 100 attorneys throughout the country who take on the most pressing environmental challenges, including climate change, fracking, air pollution, and oil drilling in the Arctic.
“Overall, Earthjustice wanted their new offices to have a great deal of light and feel comfortable. Of course, given their environmental principles, they also had a strong sustainability focus. Both Earthjustice leadership and the project team expended a great deal of effort to review all products for fidelity with the most stringent environmental sustainability standards,” said Steven Andersen, MADGI principal.
The organization’s new Northeast regional office, on the building’s 15th floor, features 25 private offices, three conference rooms, open-plan areas, a reception lobby, break room, and a wellness room. Earthjustice needed a high number of acoustically sound private offices due to the sensitive nature of the team’s work.
Therefore, a full 17 of the private offices are on the perimeter of the floor, to take advantage of the windows. The organization also has an administrative office located on the 19th floor of the same building.
In addition to MADGI, JFG Architects served as the architect of record, and WSP USA provided MEP (mechanical, electrical, and plumbing) engineering services.
Environmental Thrust and Upcycling
As this was a landlord build-out, one of the project’s primary challenges was balancing the tenant’s preferences and requirements with the landlord’s budget. MADGI made a point to minimize the use of new materials, instead reusing and upcycling as much as possible. This not only fell in line with Earthjustice’s principles, it was also a smart design decision from a budgetary standpoint.
“During pre-leasing, as their project manager, we helped them create a work letter the landlord would agree to. We then developed the standards eventually used to build out the offices,” explained MADGI’s Mariana Panova, the project’s interior designer.
Earthjustice was interested in having a glass entrance to their new space, but this simply was not in the budget. The landlord mentioned that a newly vacant space elsewhere in the building had glass walls that were going to be discarded. MADGI rescued these glass panels and incorporated them into the Earthjustice’s new reception area.
“The glass was taller than our planned space, so we designed the reception area to have a higher ceiling than the rest of the floor,” said Elizabeth Zagarello, AIA, MADGI’s project manager. The design team ensured the mechanical and lighting systems would work within the taller space, to deliver the open-glass area they wanted.
“By upcycling the glass panels in the reception, we not only delivered on Earthjustice’s vision, we also followed their environmental philosophy and reduced the budget,“ Zagarello continued.
The boardroom features new glass panels in the same style as the panels in the reception. For the boardroom’s laminated glass panel wall, MADGI designed an oversized graphic, as Earthjustice wanted something visually unusual, yet functional, which would provide privacy for meeting participants. The designers created the artwork – a forest outlined and printed in silver ink – as well as the paneling and seaming.
McGrory Glass fabricated the boardroom glass panels, which contain the custom art interlayer encapsulated by etched glass panes. “The interlayer was printed with proprietary chrome pigments at McGrory’s inhouse print division. The large-scale biophilic artwork was precisely aligned during fabrication, creating a seamless transition from panel to panel. The resulting semi-translucent material allows for both privacy and the transmission of natural light,” explained Bridget Lira, Senior Architectural Sales Consultant at McGrory Glass. Additionally, the glass was finished with lightly frosted Solyx film on one side, to both add another level of visual privacy and create a soft glow background for the silver trees when viewed from inside the boardroom.
The team did something similar in the elevator lobby, by reusing the existing stone floor that resembled river rocks. MADGI had the stone cleaned and refinished. To make the floor work with the space, the team picked colors to call out the green and gray tones in the stone. They then specified all-new LED light fixtures and ceilings. Similarly, MADGI used an existing laminate desk, signage, and seating that Earthjustice had used in their previous space.
The Importance of Good Acoustics
Privacy was such a major concern, not only did Earthjustice require a great number of private offices, the entire space had to have optimal acoustics. To achieve this, MADGI specified double-layer sheetrock walls.
Also, instead of a traditional office-front system, the team used hollow metal doors with drop seals and frames around the doors, and glass sidelights with frames. The designers wanted better acoustics for the staff so that conversations would not drift, so they mitigated sound wherever possible.
For example, they worked to minimize noise associated with the mechanical system. To this end, MADGI worked with the MEP engineer to ensure that all of the ductwork in the space had sound traps. They also avoided running the ductwork between offices. Instead, they were run through the corridors. The team also made sure that the returns were L-shaped so that sound would not migrate from an office into the corridor, or vice versa.
In addition, they used Zero International drop seals at all office doors to close the gap at the floor, and ULTIMA 1906 acoustical ceiling tiles and grid from Armstrong, with a high .75 NRC rating and AirGuard Coating Technology.