by Nancy Novitski
For the new Christman Company headquarters in downtown Lansing, Michigan, SmithGroup set out to design modern, high-end offices within a historic building. What resulted, somewhat surprisingly, was a sustainable exemplar.
Christman, a Lansing-based construction company, had purchased a 1928 building listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and set a modest goal for sustainable renovation: basic certification under LEED for Core & Shell.
The Christman Building ultimately received not one, but two LEED Platinum ratings — both for Core & Shell and for Commercial Interiors. The Detroit office of SmithGroup served as architect, engineer, and interior designer on the 64,200-square-foot (5,960-square-meter) project, which combined historic preservation and Class A office design with extensive daylighting and materials reuse, installation of water- and energy-conserving systems, and creation of a high-quality indoor environment.
The Mutual Building Reclaimed
What is now called the Christman Building was built in 1928 as the headquarters for the Michigan Millers Mutual Fire Insurance Company. Located less than a block from the State Capitol, the Mutual Building housed the insurance company until the late 1950s, then held State of Michigan offices until 2003. By the time the Christman Company purchased the building in 2006, it stood vacant and functionally obsolete — a brownfield site.
From the front, the brick-and-limestone-clad Elizabethan revival-style building looks essentially as it did in 1928. And when visitors enter the building at its southwest corner, they see the main entry restored to its former grandeur, with bluestone flooring and multicolor wall tiles. But a glance through the wood-and-glass doors into the first-floor office space quickly reveals the contrast of contemporary and historic architecture balanced throughout the building.
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