Logo - CCME
Digital Issue - CCME

A Study In Green

The newly expanded Johnson Controls global headquarters at Glendale, Wisconsin, demonstrates the benefits of a three-pronged approach to sustainability.

| | May 15, 2010 | 11:55 am
Share this story

The newly expanded Johnson Controls global headquarters at Glendale, Wisconsin, demonstrates the benefits of a three-pronged approach to sustainability.

A growing number of companies increasingly measure their performance using the triple bottom line indicators of economic, social and environmental impact. Johnson Controls Inc, set out to incorporate these values in the construction and expansion of its headquarters campus in Glendale, Wisconsin.

The company began demolition of parts of the old structure in Fall 2007, and had a grand opening of its new facility in Fall 2009. It will submit an application to the US Green Building Council to receive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification for its new campus, which includes four buildings and the surrounding grounds. The company hopes to receive this recognition.

The 33-acre complex includes 306,359 square feet of new and completely renovated office space. Two existing buildings with a combined 160,000 square feet area were renovated for the corporate headquarters, and three new buildings were constructed – a 114,599-squarefoot headquarters for its Power Solutions business; a 31,700-square-foot building that includes a cafeteria, meeting rooms and fitness centre and a new four-level parking structure for more than 400 vehicles, including space for plug-in hybrids.


No newcomer to the green concept, Johnson Controls was aided in its expansion project by over a century of experience in making buildings energy efficient. A decade ago, its Brengel Technology Center was one of the first LEEDcertified buildings in the world. It also was the very first building in the world to be re-certified LEED Gold- Existing Buildings.

This translated into the new corporate campus incorporating geothermal heat pumps, photovoltaic energy, underfloor heating and cooling, skylights and bigger windows to increase the use of natural light to reduce dependence on artificial illumination. Collecting rainwater and using it to flush toilets, a parking lot surfaced with permeable pavers to allow rain and snowmelt to filter through were other measures adopted. A diverse workforce trained in sustainable construction, helped execute these concepts in a cost-effective way.


To make any green project work, it’s vital to get the entire project team on board from the beginning. LEED, therefore, encouraged everyone to be involved in the process from an early stage, as there was going to be a lot of interconnection between the different environmental credits.

Early planning was especially important in this case, because of the use of Building Information Modelling (BIM), which involves three-dimensional, building modelling software to provide exact design and construction measurements that are shared by all project members. Using BIM made it a more cost-effective project, because it helped avoid costly mistakes that can happen in conventional construction.


Debbie Vander Heiden, the Johnson Controls on-site project manager, says that other planning technologies were crucial to one particular innovative environmental element of the project – geothermal heat pumps.

The geothermal system relies on the constant temperature of the Earth to help heat or cool the buildings. Some 272 wells were drilled to accommodate a closed-loop system that supplies the heat pumps in the building.

“The heat pumps reduce winter heating costs by about 29%, versus current natural gas boilers. We’re using geothermal to remove condenser heat in summer and reduce chiller operating costs by 23%,” elaborates Vander Heiden.

By using global positioning system navigation, the team could determine every geothermal well site along with measurements for all the pipes. That meant the 180,000 feet of piping could be manufactured to precise specifications – a simpler and more cost-effective process than fabricating each one by hand.


Concerns are sometimes voiced about the upfront cost of green projects. This, however, can be obviated by the long-term financial benefits. This project is no exception, as it will enhance sustainability value. While overall campus space will almost double, the company expects a minimal increase in energy costs.

Solar generation supplements electricity needs while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 1.1 million pounds per year for the campus. A 1,330-square-foot solar thermal installation on the roof annually saves 2,837 therms of energy.

Skylights and increased window space reduce the use of energy for indoor lighting. A 30,000-gallon cistern captures rainwater from roof surfaces on new buildings for reuse, reducing potable water consumption for new bathroom fixtures by 77% or 595,000 gallons.

A number of on-site recycling strategies are already saving money and resources, as almost 90% of new construction waste and more than 75% of demolition waste from existing buildings have been recycled.


The project includes contracts with 35 diverse businesses in an effort to help the suppliers create green jobs, build expertise in sustainability, and develop the capacity to handle other major green contracts. The $18.5 million in expenditures exceeded the company’s goal of spending at least 20% of its budget with firms that were owned, operated or controlled by minorities or women and certified either by the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) or the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC).

The diverse suppliers provided products and services such as:
– Site electrical services – Green landscape services – Low-voltage cable installation – Aluminium glazing – Deck installation – Steel fabrication – Liner installation and stone for previous lots
The project also provided economic development by using locally harvested and manufactured materials for more than 25% of project materials, including the raise floor, concrete, steel and limestone.

Commenting on training a green workforce, Ward Komorowski, Johnson Controls Director of Facilities and Building Services says: “The contractors and sub contractors on the job were trained in sustainability practices that they can use with other LEED jobs. We’re creating the green collar workforce of tommorow.

We’ve learned the best practices for developing green projects, making the best use of contractors, and managing the process. These are lessons we’re sharing with our partners on this project – and down the line, our customers and many others will benefit from our experience.”

What BIM provides

Financial security
The system’s technical accuracy means precise measurement and fewer change orders. That allows for more automation when fabricating materials, which also saves money. It also reduces the financial variables on a project, as all the details are worked out early.

Condensed Timetable
Owing to the automation, contractors can do a lot of off-site work in clean, dry factory environments, which reduces weather-related delays while other work is done on site.

Project Satisfaction
The 3-D modelling assures that the customer gets exactly what they want, before construction begins.


The security features at the headquarters were developed with energy savings in mind. The Johnson Controls P2000 security management system and Digital Vision Network provide protection throughout the headquarters campus. It is, thus, designed to use energy efficiently by integrating access control with lighting and HVAC systems.

Additionally, digital closed circuit TV cameras across the campus take advantage of advanced analytics to notify facilities operators of abnormal events, plus some 150 card access and biometric readers provide a high level of protection. A Johnson Controls Intelligent Fire Control system features full analogue reporting from smoke detectors, along with digital voice evacuation functionality. Infrared camera technology is used at the solar array field to create an ‘electronic fence’.


Every month, we profile a key personality that is driving retrofitting initiatives in the region In a move to integrate the campus under a single system, everything is tied together, using the Johnson Controls Metasys building management system to coordinate all activities across the facilities and provide a single point of access to performance indicators – the information required for optimising building efficiency, comfort and safety.

“The integration of the building systems and the information technology infrastructure into one intelligent network is an important part of our strategy for sustainability,” notes Komorowski, who leads the facilities management team. “Our Metasys Sustainability Manager provides a dashboard that delivers information , including greenhouse gas emissions estimations, to our management team, who can make informed decisions that save energy and money and help the environment.”


Johnson Controls is preparing for thousands of people to visit this site in the coming years, to see how innovation and sustainable technology can be combined to yield positive results. Calling it a showplace displaying a congenial work environment, energy efficiency and facility management initiatives, Komorowski says, “It will be easier for our own customers to see value in this approach, when we can show how well we’re putting it into effect here at home – and how we’re doing it cost effectively.”

According to Johnson Controls, the campus reflects its three global businesses – automotive experience, building efficiency and power solutions – in its drive towards creating a more comfortable, safe and sustainable world. 

Fulfilling a commitment

The Wisconsin global headquarters project is part of a Johnson Controls pledge to reduce its total US greenhouse gas emissions intensity per dollar of revenue by 30% from 2002 to 2012, through the USEPA’s Climate Leaders programme. Solar thermal systems supply more than 30% of the hot water needs for two buildings.  

Share this story

Feedback for this story

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *