Green Tour

In January 2003, The McKnight Foundation moved to new offices. Throughout a planning and building process of more than three years, we faced the same decisions—thousands of them—that any new office construction entails.

Because McKnight is an environmental grantmaker and many of these choices had environmental implications, we tried to pick the most eco-friendly options—including our initial decision to relocate in a recycled building. Our board of directors believes these choices, which added about 20% to costs, are a long-term investment in the environment that all of our children will inherit.

As might be expected, we've learned a lot about "green design"—everything from energy efficient lighting systems to non-toxic building materials. What follows is a self-guided "Green Tour" featuring many of the products and procedures that went into creating our new space. We hope it underscores the importance of the decisions each of us makes every day.

Our actions cast long shadows on the earth. Many choices seem small but have enormous impact on our natural environment—for example, the pens we use can be refillable, our paper can be made of post-consumer waste, our lamps can use bulbs that conserve energy, and the batteries in our clocks can be rechargeable. Likewise, the furniture and the carpeting we choose can be made from recycled materials, and the wood can be reclaimed or from sustainably harvested forests. Our hope is that this mini-showcase of green design will inspire you to make your own environmentally responsible choices, both in the workplace and at home.

Ours is a new facility built within the preserved ruins of the Washburn-Crosby Mill—a National Historic Landmark since 1983. This area along the Mississippi, adjacent to St. Anthony Falls, is where early flour and lumber mills set up business to make use of water power. It has deep historical significance to our region, and is often referred to as the birthplace of Minneapolis. The Washburn-Crosby Mill, established in the 1870s, was the largest mill in the world at that time. Flour was milled on this site for nearly 100 years, but in 1965 it was abandoned. It was only after its near destruction by fire (1991 and 1998) that plans were created for a new mixed-use building. The Foundation has considered the mill's history in all construction and design decisions. Nothing is more important than the preservation of this site's architectural integrity and rich heritage.