JohnsonDiversey Headquarters


Environmental awareness and sustainability are far from new concepts at the SC Johnson family of companies which includes JohnsonDiversey (JDI), a commercial products company. So in 1997 when they built the headquarters for JDI, in Racine, Wisconsin, it was stipulated that it had to be both "a great place to work" and "environmentally responsible." 1 Beyond simply being at the forefront of the green building trend, the design team was also challenged to deliver the project at current prices and be cost comparative. With these three objectives in mind, occupant comfort, environmentally responsible, and cost comparative, the design team got to work and developed a truly innovative and inspiring building. To the operator's surprise, given this background, when they revisited the building's features while acting as a LEED-EB, (Existing Buildings) pilot project in 2004, they managed to find a number of additional improvements. To achieve the objectives both during the construction phase and in the pursuit of LEED-EB, the designers made extensive use of advanced monitoring and control systems, energy efficiency, and natural lighting. As one can see in this study, the extensive use of monitoring and control systems is a dominant feature and is just one feature that benefits from the extensive use of copper.

JDI Headquarters Racine Wisconsin Photo courtesy of USGBC

Although the building was originally constructed with green building practices in mind, including high energy efficiency and the extensive use of natural lighting, the focus of this study will be on their renovation efforts and pursuit of LEED for existing buildings (LEED EB). According to Greg Bell of JDI there is a distinction between how decisions were, and are, made in new constructions and in renovations.

What Makes It Green

When building from scratch, one is able to think about new ideas and features which can act as systems or fit into a 'bigger picture' and are only constrained by the budget. In contrast in renovations, it is critical to be able to present the business case for each change to the facilities operators, showing them how it will improve their bottom line. To date this type of evidence has been limited but is becoming more prevalent. As an example, one is able to predict with reasonable accuracy the energy savings which would be associated with improving the insulation value of a building. In regards to distinct options, items such as the building's central atrium and light shelving designed to feed natural light deep into the building, is not an optional upgrade to an existing building. However, improved monitoring and automatic lighting are.

The Process

To achieve this at JDI, Stu Carron, Director of Global Facilities and Real Estate, initiated the process by writing a white paper which explained the USGBC and LEED-EB, and why JDI should get involved. This was well received by senior management who supported the process completely. The next step involved some outside support who identified "the most achievable and cost-effective opportunities for change, and developed a list of recommendations for achieving LEED-EB Prerequisites and Credits."2 Carron then established a project team and assigned responsibility for each of the LEED categories using the identified opportunities as a roadmap to their objective. To get the project rolling Carron and his team focused on what they called 'Green Starting Points' which are either existing or easy to achieve practices. These early successes engaged the company and provided a foundation upon which subsequent efforts could build on. The biggest challenge was and is to integrate the "business practices and systems" required by the LEED-EB program.3

Monitoring and Control Systems

Some of the 'Green Starting Points' that the project team were able to build off of were the features originally put into the building. These included documenting, and in some cases refining, the building's extensive monitoring and control systems.

The building uses a Johnson Controls Metasys system to monitor and control all of the building's HVAC equipment. The system continually monitors temperature, humidity, lighting, electricity use, water use, air volumes, static distribution, various equipment operations, and CO2 levels throughout the building. It also allows for alarm parameters to be set and tracks trends to highlight potential maintenance needs.4 Monitoring of CO2, temperature and humidity is done by a series of sensors located throughout the building, including the mixed air plenums at all major air handling systems, as well as, representative occupied spaces.5

Part of the monitoring and control system. Photo courtesy of USGBC

The extent of control in the system is demonstrated by the personal environment modules (PEMs) which are installed in 93% of the building's office areas. These 1.8 m (six foot) high cubicles allow individuals to set a number of variables within their own workspace, tailoring it to their preferences. This includes lighting, temperature and even background noise. The PEMs automatically sense if a person is present and turns on the light and brings the air temperature to the set preference. It also shuts these features off automatically if the individual leaves the space. This allows for slightly lower ambient temperatures and lighting in communal spaces and places additional heating and cooling close to the individual, making it more efficient. Background noise can be masked through the creation of white noise through speakers under each desk. These systems have been linked to improved performance and substantially fewer calls to facility operators for temperature changes. Temperature and light adjustments have also been installed in multi-occupant spaces such as meeting rooms.6


Through effective design and the use of various simple technologies, JDI was also able to generate substantial water savings. Outside the building when re-evaluating their operations, they realized that they could eliminate the use of potable water for irrigation by using the captured storm water runoff in the detention ponds in the natural wetlands which surround the facility. This is now used for all irrigation and is fed through an automatic sprinkler system which is linked to moisture sensors in the ground to indicate if it is not needed. Further landscaping was only done on the property which immediately surrounds the building.7 Inside they also pursued water savings aggressively.

Over a three-month period, they tested a number of potential low flow fixtures throughout the facility to identify which ones most appropriately met their needs. After this evaluation phase, they installed automatic faucets with aerators to cut the amount of water coming through them from 9.4 to 1.9 lpm (2.5gpm to 0.5gpm), and reduced the water use of toilets and urinals to 6 and 1.9 lpf (1.6gpf and 0.5gpf respectively.8

Through these efforts they were able to achieve a baseline standard that is 32% below the EPA's Fixture Performance Requirements policy standard of 1992. By changing their irrigation system alone they have reduced their potable water use by 9,100.000 million litres (2-4 million gallons).9

Copper's Role

Where is copper in this building? The short answer is everywhere. In practically every system in the building, copper is playing a sustainable supportive or facilitator role - from the copper water lines into the washrooms to the extensive wiring needed to support the control and monitoring systems. And these features are key in achieving LEED-EB certification as shown in the table below.


In 1935, H.F. Johnson traveled to Brazil to study the sustainability of carnauba palms used in the company's products establishing a tradition of pursuing sustainability and taking a leadership position.10 In their headquarters, JDI has continued this tradition integrating a number of design features into both the original construction and re-evaluation of the building, and its operation during the LEED-EB process. Due to its natural properties and effective management, the copper which runs through this building shares in this continual pursuit of sustainability.

  1. Interview with Greg Bell, Director, Global External Communication, JohnsonDiversey March 2007
  2. USGBC LEED-EB Project Case Study: JohnsonDiversey Headquarters October 2004 pg. 6
  3. USGBC LEED-EB Project Case Study: JohnsonDiversey Headquarters October 2004 pg. 5-7
  4. Interview with Greg Bell, Director, Global External Communication, JohnsonDiversey March 2007
  5. USGBC LEED-EB Project Case Study: JohnsonDiversey Headquarters October 2004 pg. 38
  6. USGBC LEED-EB Project Case Study: JohnsonDiversey Headquarters October 2004 pg. 43
  7. Interview with Greg Bell, Director, Global External Communication, JohnsonDiversey March 2007
  8. USGBC LEED-EB Project Case Study: JohnsonDiversey Headquarters October 2004 pg. 19, 22
  9. USGBC LEED-EB Project Case Study: JohnsonDiversey Headquarters October 2004 pg. 21
  10. JohnsonDiversey