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Sustainable Development Strategies

Bike racks outside Whole Foods Market Corporate HeadquartersWhole Foods Market Corporate Headquarters

The Whole Foods Market (WFM) site was developed in 1993 – 1995 in downtown Austin, TX. It served as the prototype for the City of Austin’s Commercial Green Building Program. (Note: In 1998 the Green Building Program became part of Austin Energy, the City’s municipally-owned electric utility.) The WFM building contained a 30,000 sq. ft. natural foods supermarket on the first floor, a restaurant and store offices on a mezzanine level, and the 30,000 sq. ft. corporate headquarters on the 3rd floor. A primary goal of the project was to create, within the guidelines of reasonable cost and available technology, a “green” commercial structure.


Artist’s rendering of Whole Foods Market complex

Here are a few key sustainable building strategies employed on this project:

  • WFM HQ daylighting strategies help to naturally illuminate this hallwayThe exterior sheathing of the building was locally quarried (within 100 miles) chopped limestone veneer with cut stone trim. In addition, we chose the white limestone and concrete for the parking lot to help reduce the urban heat island effect. We included fly ash (a waste product from coal burning power plants) in the concrete mix as a replacement for Portland cement.
  • The team employed extensive shading devices on the periphery of the building (very necessary in this cooling load dominated climate). All of the glazing on this building is energy efficient Heat Mirror glass. Sixty percent of the windows on the 3rd floor are operable.
  • In response to the users’ requests, we implemented extensive daylighting strategies including exposed structure, interior windows, and the highly reflective wall and ceiling colors. A clerestory runs the width of the building bringing light with less heat gain to the 3rd floor headquarters.
  • We specified low VOC paints, adhesives, and finishes throughout the project.
  • The tongue and groove flooring was re-milled from old columns and beams salvaged from abandoned warehouses from the Texas Gulf Coast.
  • The carpet throughout the space is minimally dyed wool carpet that is stretched and tacked in place over a hair/jute pad.
  • The team designed an award winning Xeriscape landscaping using native, drought-tolerant plants and trees.
  • The contractor recycled excess building materials including lumber, cardboard, stone, and metals.

Reception Area of WFM HQCreating a green building oftentimes requires a wholesale change in the design and construction process. The challenge is to bring together disparate groups of individuals with different agendas, motivations, and cultures and create a common goal. The reward of this challenge is a healthy workplace for the construction workers, the occupants, and ultimately, the community at large. Reductions in emissions from transportation and volatile organic compounds help with air pollution issues. Reduced energy usage saves the occupants money and is a big plus for the environment by reducing fossil fuel use. Reuse of existing raw materials and waste products helps reduce the environmental burden of producing new materials.

We are at a time in history when there are great opportunities for design and construction professionals who embrace this new paradigm to help shape our world’s future. As part of the design team and liaison for the corporate headquarters, Earthly Ideas’ founder Michelle Reott (aka Shellie Reott) was heavily involved in materials research, efficiency initiatives, and siting during 1993 – 1995. She also provided project management for the construction of this building - the first commercial green building in Austin, TX. During 1997 – 1999, she managed the sustainable renovation and expansion of this facility.

Awards and Recognition for this Project

  1. City of Austin Green Builder Program Award – May 1995
    For outstanding achievement incorporating the goals of sustainability into design, construction, and operation of the building
  1. American Institute of Architects Austin Design Award Winner – 1996
    Citation of Honor
  1. City of Austin Businesses for an Environmentally Sustainable Tomorrow (BEST) Award: Innovation in Land Use Issues – May 1997
    In recognition of unique and creative business approaches to environmental issues
  1. City of Austin Xeriscape Program Award – September 1997
    Honorable Mention for outstanding Xeriscaping in the category of Large Commercial: New
  1. The Rocky Mountain Institute profiled Whole Foods Market Corporate Headquarters on its Green Developments 2.0 CD-ROM in 2001.