Climate Impact January 24, 2023

Green means business

An ultra-sustainable headquarters boosts the bottom line
Photo showing corporate headquarters with forest paths, solar panels, and rain gardens.

On a hilltop in Norwalk, Connecticut, a building rises from a rocky outcropping, surrounded by tall trees and the sound of running water. Inside, artwork and natural objects invite inspection and reflection, floor-to ceiling windows fill rooms with daylight, and three comfortable apartments welcome artists in residence.

It’s not a museum. It’s not an office, either. This is the new headquarters for HMTX Industries, a global flooring design and manufacturing company, and it’s intended as a space to inspire artists, designers, and other visitors by providing an escape from the ordinary workplace.

It’s also an exemplar of regenerative design: The building’s operation is zero carbon and net-positive energy, meaning that it produces more energy than it consumes.

“If you take the long-term view, it makes financial sense to build a sustainable corporate headquarters,” says Harlan Stone, CEO. “The savings we’ll realize while operating it, particularly given the rise in energy costs, will pay the modest premium that it cost to design and build. I’m sure of it.”

Stone dreamed of the headquarters for decades, envisioning a “house on the hill” above his company’s existing operations facility in Norwalk. When the 1.5-acre site went up for sale, he bought it. And when he met architect Jason F. McLennan at a conference, he began to believe that the dream might become a reality.

McLennan, founder of the Living Building Challenge—the most rigorous sustainability certification for buildings in the world—is an expert in environmentally responsible design. The pair agreed to work together to ensure that HMTX’s new headquarters would reduce carbon emissions, promote human health, and minimize its impact on the natural landscape.

The HMTX headquarters is 70% more efficient than a typical building of comparable size, with a predicted Energy Use Intensity (EUI) score of 18 versus an EUI of 91.

Sustainable strategies include:
"The idea that the workplace is about sitting at your desk and answering emails or having video conferences is not practical anymore. People can do that anywhere. The purpose of this building is to bring people together so they can share ideas and elevate and accelerate."
Harlan Stone
Photo of chlorine-free luxury vinyl flooring
McLennan helped HTMX subsidiary Teknoflor design Naturescapes HPD™, a chlorine-free flooring system made with a material derived from castor seed oil. It was the first resilient flooring product to be certified by the Living Product Challenge, and it is used throughout.
Focusing on health

The headquarters is primarily intended as a place to welcome visitors, promote the exchange of ideas, and inspire the firm’s designers. A small staff of approximately seven people will work at the headquarters full-time, so offices are outnumbered by conference rooms, informal gathering areas, open desks, and a prototyping lab. To promote the well-being of everyone who uses the building, the design team avoided Red List materials, which threaten ecosystems and human health.

‘An opportunity to be a leader’

Stone hopes his company’s new home will be the site of more product breakthroughs. After all, he says, flooring is one of the largest manufactured surfaces in any building, so it impacts human health as well as aesthetics. To that end, the design of the new headquarters supports rapid prototyping and encourages teams to collaborate on new product formulations and designs. The company’s technicians are currently researching ways to use recycled plastic and test new shapes and assembly techniques.

Stone also thinks the headquarters will encourage other manufacturers to develop more environmentally sensitive products and processes. “Sustainability is an opportunity to be a leader,” he says. “We all have a responsibility for air quality. We all have a responsibility for manufacturing and recycling and improving operations. This is a big chance for us to demonstrate our commitment and inspire others.”