Google Store exterior

With its First Brick-and-Mortar Store, Google Sets the Bar for Ecoconscious Retail

A project by New York City–based studio Reddymade Architecture and Design, Google’s first retail store is built with customers and the environment in mind.

Not one but two LEED Platinum plaques adorn the new Google Store in New York City. In designing its first physical retail outlet, the tech giant wanted to make sure that sustainability was at the top of the creative brief. The double shrine with the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design logo mirrors the brand’s enthusiasm about reaching the pinnacle of the building rating system. Of the 7,400 LEED-certified retail stores around the world, only about 215 have garnered platinum. 

“It was so thrilling when we found out,” says a beaming Ivy Ross, vice president of hardware design, user experience, and research at Google. “Not only did we make it, but we reached the highest level within that bracket.” The efficacy of the U.S. Green Building Council’s 28-year-old certification program has come under scrutiny lately, but it remains the most recognized seal of green buildings globally. LEED operates on a point system: the more green strategies within a structure, the higher the score. To reach platinum, a project must earn at least 80 points in areas like materials and resources, indoor air quality, innovation, and water efficiency. The Google Store’s designers scored 86. 

store interior showing products
The airy main storefront is a showcase of Google’s latest tech offerings, including smartphones, tablets, Chromebooks, and more.
Store interior
A sinuous metal line weaves its way through the space defining areas within the space while keeping sight lines open. The intention is to simultaneously provide wayfinding for shoppers looking for a particular family of products and encourage free exploration. Cork furniture made by Brooklyn product designer Daniel Michalik adds a touch of texture to the store.

Getting to LEED Platinum required careful planning and tenacity from Suchi Reddy, founder of the celebrated New York City–based studio Reddymade Architecture and Design, which designed the store for Google. “We carefully calibrated our decisions at every stage,” explains Reddy, who first worked with Ross for Google’s installation at the 2019 Salone del Mobile. Working through the pandemic, Ross and Reddy considered every detail of the space through the lens of sustainability.

With guidance from green building consultancy Steven Winter Associates, Reddy sourced responsibly harvested hickory for the walls, energy-efficient lighting, and Bolon flooring made from recycled plastic bottles. The designers also configured a plumbing system that reduces indoor water usage by 50 percent, and enhances indoor air quality throughout the store with low-emission materials and ongoing air monitoring. Even the two LEED Platinum plaques are made from recycled material from Google’s mobile phones.

google workshop
Google opened its first-ever retail store this summer in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood; the relatively small shop earned LEED Platinum for energy and water efficiency as well as the use of recycled materials. Developing a physical location mirrors the technology behemoth’s recent emphasis on physical products like smartphones, wearables, and home technology.
google home experiential display
Dubbed the “Workshop,” a small multifunctional space is designed to host product demonstrations, screenings, and activities for Google fans. Immersive product displays called “Sandboxes” allow customers to experience products like Google’s Nest line of smart home gadgets in a simulated residential environment.

The dogged obsession with reaching LEED Platinum mirrors Google’s attempts to curb its considerable carbon footprint, Ross explains. The hardware department that she oversees, in particular, has committed to using recycled or renewable materials in all its phones and home gadgets by next year, and the company is exploring ways to make products more durable, hopefully keeping more of them out of landfills. “For me, this store is no different than a product,” says Ross. “In the same way that we’re committed to making sustainable products, we were determined to meet LEED standards.”

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Because retail environments are typically built on tight budgets and strict timelines, using healthier materials can seem like a luxury. But Reddy contends that any designer can inject green building strategies into their projects, even without the deep pockets of a client like Google. “It’s a lesson for everyone,” she says. “Maybe a decade ago this would’ve been very expensive to achieve. It isn’t anymore—it just requires a lot more thinking. It’s the attitude that makes the difference.” 

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