The renovation of Friends Center in downtown Philadelphia began in 2003 as a modest capital improvements project to address outstanding maintenance issues in the Friends' historic Race Street Meetinghouse and the attached ca. 1970 office building. Through a consensus-based process of mission-driven discernment, the Friends and the members of the project team refined a vision of sustainable design, construction, and use practices. Ultimately, the project achieved LEED Platinum certification and the highest number of points awarded for any LEED NC 2.0 project within the state of Pennsylvania. However, the enduring contribution of the project to sustainable design and construction practices has been to advance accepted standards for best practices in design and construction. The project exemplifies the way that successful sustainable projects influence the definition of best practices and raise the bar for clients and designers. While the Friends Center facility does tread lightly on the land and does not emit any CO 2, its most significant societal and ecological benefit has been a transformation of expectations regarding sustainability during design, construction, and occupancy.
The intent of this article is to describe the sustainable design technologies that were planned and incorporated into the Friends Center renovations, to explain how decisions were made to embrace sustainable design strategies, and to explain how the sum of these parts has been a transformation of expectations regarding current design strategies, construction practices, and building occupancy as they relate to sustainability.