Photos: Innovation Textiles and Cresa Partners
Icebreaker, the New Zealand outdoor apparel company, who started the Merino wool clothing renaissance in 1994, announced just the other day that their North American headquarters , in Portland, Oregon, had received the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification.Timber is either reclaimed or Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified. The paints and coatings are all low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Other green attributes are said to include "No urea-formaldehyde glue, a known cancer causing substance, was used in the composite wood products. All systems office furniture is Green-Guard Certified, meeting strict VOC standards. The headquarters was also designed to maximize natural daylight, and to be as open as possible to inspire employee collaboration."
The design of the building was undertaken by Portland's GBD Architects, Inc., who take their green work pretty seriously. GBD suggest that 71% of their technical staff are LEED accredited, that they designed 15 awarded projects and that they have more LEED platinum square feet than any other architectural firm in the world. Though given that LEED is predominately only a US thing, that last claim might be a tad verbose.
Icebreaker's media releases quotes Russ Hopcus, president of Icebreaker USA, extolling the company's eco credentials, "This certification shows how Icebreaker is genuinely committed to reducing our environmental footprint by thinking long-term, designing sustainability into our products and packaging, and improving our business operations to reduce waste and pollution."
Merino wool is a renewable material, that when used in active sports apparel does have many performance characteristics which allow it to compete head on with sophisticated synthetic, fossil fuel, derived bodywear garments. Icebreaker have been very successful in marketing these positives -- they're in 2,800 stores in 24 countries -- a success that inspired many other outdoor clothing firms to jump aboard the bandwagon.
The cooler, milder climate in New Zealand means Kiwi graziers have much less issue with flystrike. Unlike Australian farmers, who although pioneering merino wool development, have used the controversial mulesing method to stop merino sheep from getting flyblown backsides in a hotter climate. Perversely, it was into such Australian conditions that Icebreaker traveled, to photograph their 2010 Spring Summer collection.
Oh, and it seems that massive photo posters of the southern New Zealand high country are a design feature of the new LEED gold rated office.