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Sustainable Development Strategies

Whole Foods Market Corporate Headquarters Expansion

A locally handcrafted railing and handrail grace the entrance to WFM’s offices This corporate office expansion project for Whole Foods Market, the nation’s largest natural foods retailer, involved renovating 15,500 sq. ft. in two adjacent buildings through a gut and remodel process in downtown Austin, Texas. In addition to the interior renovation, critical structural work involving lowering the floor and raising the roof to make a seamless transition between the floors of the buildings was completed on the heavily utilized, multi-tenant site. This project, completed in the fall of 1998, adhered to and built upon the sustainable initiatives undertaken during the original development of the complex in 1993 – 1995.

Sustainable material specifications combined with conscientious construction methods resulted in a healthy, durable facility. Waste reduction of 42% resulted in this project being profiled by the Environmental Protection Agency as a construction waste reduction record-setter. In fact, diverting materials from the landfill resulted in project savings of over $34,000.


Contractors amassed over 6 tons of metal recyclables despite limited collection space Some of the specific sustainable initiatives included:

  • An inclusive design process including both the users and the maintenance staff
  • Having the general contractor on-board during the design phase
  • Commissioning a hand-crafted railing and handrail by local artisans for the entry to the space
  • Using vintage 1910 long-leaf pine lumber recovered from an old farmhouse that was being deconstructed for chair rail and base
  • Having locally made millwork with formaldehyde-free, medium density fiberboard (MDF) core with maple veneer, bio-composite countertops (recycled paper and soybean flour), and agricultural fiber-based particleboard shelving (94% wheat straw) with a low VOC finish
  • Specifying zero and low VOC paints, sealers for concrete and wood, and adhesives
  • Installing carpet tile with a PVC free backing and a zero VOC adhesive
  • Using ceramic tile containing over 55% recycled glass
  • Specifying recycled content, blown cellulose insulation for soundproofing
  • Working with a lighting designer and installing direct/indirect energy efficient T-8 fluorescent light fixtures with electronic ballasts to help light the walls and open up the office spacesA typical office is brightened with reflective paint colors, direct/indirect suspended fixtures, and task lighting
  • Installing EPA Energy Star compliant exit signs
  • Selecting energy and water efficient appliances for the break room
  • Reusing materials salvaged during demolition including 7,000-sq. ft. of ceiling tiles, a mop sink, 64 light fixtures, 31 HVAC supply air devices, miniblinds, and 18 doors and hardware sets
  • Recycling 6.3 tons of metal and 3 tons of cardboard
  • Donating carpeting, light fixtures, ceiling fans, mirrors, an accordion folding wall, and leftover building materials to local nonprofits

Earthly Ideas served as the sustainability consultant and project manager for this sustainable renovation project from 1997 – 1999. We maintained the budget, schedule, and communications between all parties, worked on-site with the general contractor, wrote specifications for sustainable building materials and strategies, purchased furniture, fixtures, and equipment, provided leadership for adherence with sustainable strategies and interdisciplinary approach, acted as Owner’s Representative with all vendors, and coordinated with tenants and occupants.