Smarten Up

Wall Street’s Showplace for Environmental Sustainability

Wall Street is one of the world’s most evocative addresses, but one thing it does not bring to mind is environmental sustainability. That may soon change with a showroom of green technology right smack in the middle of New York City’s financial district, out to prove that good economic and environmental sense are not mutually exclusive ideas. Located at 40 Wall Street, on the 23rd floor of the ornate Trump Building, EcoSmart Properties is a prime showcase for energy-efficient technology and healthy, sustainable building products. And everyone is invited to come take a look—from developers, architects and designers, to contractors and the general public.

Over 200 exhibitors, including architects, entrepreneurs, environmental trade associations and nonprofit organizations, make a second home in the EcoSmart Building Center. Signs hanging in the showroom help visitors navigate between categories like lighting, furniture, interior finishes and office equipment.

"It’s one-stop shopping for people interested in ensuring that a portion of their home is as green as possible," says Frank Lebert, marketing and sales manager for EnviroSafe Cleaning Products. "It’s very hard to find a place that really incorporates all the pieces that go into it, but EcoSmart gives a great reference point for all the products you might be interested in."

Wandering the 100 percent recycled informational kiosks is a journey through another dimension—one filled with the environmentally sensitive technology painfully absent from the local hardware store or Home Depot. Visitors are encouraged to touch the products, flip through the literature, and request more information on the companies that interest them. But to get the most out of the visit, they really need only look around them at the walls, the floor and the furniture. The design center itself is the best display of all, an office-sized kiosk incorporating these latest advances in environmental design.

From the carpeted floor in the showroom by UTP, each replaceable tile held in place by buttons instead of glue, to the 50 percent recycled aluminum ceiling in the kitchen by Gage, EcoSmart Properties is a living example of the green principles it tries to push. Movable demountable walls by Clestra Hauserman allow workspaces and hallways to be rearranged according to office needs. Wood Weyerhaeuser doors were sustainably harvested and coated with a non-solvent finish. Little offgassing comes from Benjamin Moore’s EcoSpec paint either, or from the stains and waxes made by AFM and Livos.

Durable Xorel wall coverings by Carnegie are free of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), meaning no dioxin was created as a byproduct of its production, but also that if the building were ever to catch fire, no dioxin or toxic fumes would be released into the atmosphere. A few strategically placed, clear panels underfoot reveal that the floor, by Tate Access Floors, has actually been raised to accommodate air ducts and the electrical system. This eliminates the need for a dropped ceiling, allowing windows to stretch higher, providing greater daylight, and further reducing energy use already cut 80 percent by fluorescent Philips lights on a dimmable Lutron system. It also means no dust will fall from vents in the ceiling, contributing to particulates floating through the air. The windows themselves are treated by CPFilms Inc. to keep ultraviolet rays out and maintain the indoor temperature.

The surface of the conference table is recycled formica from Surell; end tables by Safe Solutions LLC are crafted from 100 percent recycled shipping pallets and building materials; even the front reception desk is recycled glass from Oceanside Glasstile. If still not energized by the resourceful atmosphere, a pit-stop in the kitchen for a cup of coffee will provide both caffeine and another eyeful of innovation. Becker Zeyko cupboards use their own wood chips to create heat for manufacture, the Blu Planet tables were once used detergent bottles, and the GF Office Furniture Limited chairs pulled up to them are recycled steel. The Silestone floor is 93 percent recycled granite.

Sustainable bamboo installed by Mintec makes the floor in the office of Barry Dimson, the president and CEO of EcoSmart Properties. A sofa in his office is covered with 100 percent organic cotton by Furnature. Why go to all these lengths? "I really want to make a difference in the indoor environment," Dimson says. "Forty percent of the emissions in our atmosphere actually come from buildings, and only 20 percent from cars. Buildings are the biggest user of materials, and the U.S. is the biggest of all, using 40 to 50 percent of the world’s resources and energy."

Dimson hopes people will use the center as a resource, and incorporate the ideas on display there into their own buildings and homes. To this end, EcoSmart has taken education one step further, and played host to events such as "B-Earth.Day," a tribute to natural baby care sponsored by Mother & Others for a Livable Planet; a talk on feng shui sponsored by the American Society of Interior Designers; and a panel discussion on carpet recycling sponsored by The Carpet & Rug Institute. In return for the $5,000 a year it costs to have a kiosk in the showroom, companies can use EcoSmart’s high-tech facilities to hold events and launch new products. The center boasts both videoconferencing and a teaching theater that transforms with the push of a button into a 12-person conference room or 24-person boardroom. Perhaps the greatest benefit is simply leaping over the traditional eco-marketing hurdle—and gaining exposure to potential customers, interested architects and designers. "We hope that as more people go through the design center, awareness of organic fibers will increase," says Sandra Marquardt, project coordinator of the Organic Trade Association’s Organic Fiber Council. "What we are trying to do through EcoSmart Properties is reach out to more sectors," Marquardt says.

"There’s definitely an interest, but people don’t yet know about all the possibilities." Lebert says this strategy has already worked for EnviroSafe, which has received a lot of interested calls from people who have been to visit the center.

It may not be long before the environmentally sound products and practices on display can be seen concentrated elsewhere. EcoSmart also operates as a for-profit consulting business. Two projects have already resulted in the Sheraton Rittenhouse Square Hotel in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the first "environmentally smart" hotel in the United States (see House and Home, this issue), and the Maple Street School in Brooklyn, New York, one of the nation’s first environmental pre-school/daycare centers.

Right now, people on the West Coast can gain access to the New York facility through a San Francisco teleconferencing center. And for those who can’t just stroll down Wall Street, a quick tour of the EcoSmart design center can be taken on its website, While surfing, check out the extensive list of designers, products and services. In this case, the smart choices are definitely eco.