...owner, architect and contractor. “It helped a lot that we could communicate with David and negotiate and discuss changes,” says Langford CEO Phil Langford, who also happens to be Ray Anderson’s son-in-law.

The job helped Langford adapt to an emerging climate of environmental sensitivity. “We were doing LEED before there was LEED,” he says. “We learned a lot about cutting waste, recycling and other things that were rare then, but are commonplace today.”

Pond Studios started a sustainable portfolio for the contractor and led to other work, including a green roof and geothermal energy system for Interface. Contractors on other Interface projects were also adapting. In the late 1990s, at the firm’s Bentley Prince Street plant outside Los Angeles, “we built in a photovoltaic array that was the largest solar power installation in North America at the time,” says Wells.

A few years later, Interface put the sustainable stamp on its 30,000-sq-ft Prince Street showroom in City of Industry, Calif. The makeover added waterless bathroom fixtures and skylights. “They spent 50% more for the office lighting system, but it cuts energy costs by 50%,” says Doug Dexter, who was project manager at the time for interiors contractor Fullmer Construction, Ontario, Calif.

Another California contractor, Tri City Builders, laid a concrete slab for a new inking machine at the City of Industry plant, some 18 miles east of Los Angeles. The firm squeezed the job in between projects for its line-up of blue-chip clients. Interface is as demanding as Toshiba, Advanced Medical Optics, Xerox or Kraft Foods, says Rick Sowski, vice president. The client required the contractor to document the percentage of demolition materials that were recycled. “We get receipts from the landfill,” he says. As a result, the contractor became accustomed to sorting and re-using material much more than it had previously. “We’re saving money on landfill tipping fees,” Sowski says.

Hendrix says Interface makes it very clear to design teams, contractors and architects that any new or remodeled production plants or showrooms will be to LEED standards, at a minimum. “They don’t even have to ask,” he says. “It's going to be LEED.”

“I’m thinking, How the heck are we going to get off oil?”



The company routinely specifies 100% recycled concrete and zero-carbon footprint for all building materials. “If you don’t, we’re going somewhere else,” Hendrix says. The attitude extends beyond design and construction. “We are forcing that whole process through the supply chain and through our facilities management process. It’s not even on the table whether it’s going to be different than that.”

Wells says the sustainability guidelines don’t stop at the U.S. border. “We apply the same standards to our plants wherever they are, whether they’re in LaGrange, Ga., or China or Thailand.” When Anderson began what he calls “the climb up Mt. Sustainable” in the mid-1990s, oil cost about $30 a barrel. Anderson was predicting then it would go to $100, Wells recalls.

Interface positioned itself to take advantage of current conditions by cutting waste, moving toward renewable energy, recycling raw materials, cleaning and/or eliminating smokestack emissions and process water, redesigning production process and facilities, and introducing new green product lines.

Wells expects there will be some sort of carbon tax imposed by the next president. By continuing on its sustainable course charted by Anderson, Interface expects to prosper, and there’s no reason other U.S. corporations cannot follow, says Wells.

“When you think back on the Kyoto Protocol, calling for a 70% reduction of emissions by 2012...this little ol’ carpet company can do it,” says Wells. “Well, then, let’s get after it.”

He originally looked at Rubio’s site plan, took Oakey aside and said, “I can grade this slope, take out some trees, rotate the building 90° and cut your costs in half.” But Oakey stuck by his architect.