Once considered to be ahead of its time in design, the El Paso Corporation Building, a 48-year-old Houston skyscraper, is once again on the cutting edge, following a recent sustainable remodeling. Among the materials used in this project were CertainTeed Ecophon ceiling panels, which feature the high recycled content.

El Paso Corporation hired the Houston office of Gensler, the global design and architectural firm, for the project’s LEED Silver-targeted design. Gensler’s plans called for substantial remodeling of the base building and a complete gutting and refurbishing of the interior, incorporating sustainable building components throughout.  Because it was critical to choose building products with the most sustainable attributes, Gensler specified Ecophon for the ceilings throughout the 32-floor building.

“We chose the Ecophon panels for their high recycled content and low VOC emissions, both important criteria to meet in a LEED project,” said John Haba, project manager for Gensler Houston. “We were impressed by their appearance as well. They look good in the grid.”

Ceilings and partitions contractor Clunn Acoustical Systems, of Houston, installed about 870,000 square feet of 2-foot-by-2-foot Ecophon panels throughout the building.

Ecophon ceiling panels are manufactured from high-density glass wool and covered by a micro-porous surface, which offers superior sound absorption, light reflectance and humidity resistance. They are used with a recessed visible grid and feature a reveal edge design, creating a ceiling with a shadow effect that accentuates each panel and partially conceals the grid. These ceiling panels are available in larger sizes that allow the architect more freedom with space creation.

“Our Ecophon ceiling panels offer quick and smooth installation for contractors and a robust structure for easy handling and the challenges of everyday environments,” said Tom Murray, architectural and technical support manager for CertainTeed Ceilings. “With so many sustainable attributes, all Ecophon ceiling panels are a must for LEED-focused projects, such as the El Paso Corporation Building. We are thrilled to be featured in this project.”

Opened in 1963 as the Tenneco Building, the skyscraper originally featured moveable steel interior walls for office flexibility long before open-plan offices were common. With exposure to the hot Texas sun on all four sides, the building was also designed with windows recessed 7 feet from the frame to shield occupants from direct heat and glare and decrease the need for extra air conditioning. Thanks to this and other early sustainable design techniques, the building needed only minimal updates over the years until the need was apparent for more contemporary interior design and increased sustainability.

Other green design features in the remodeling of El Paso Corporation Building project include high-efficiency plumbing fixtures, high-efficiency lights, a new HVAC system and an interior sprinkler system. The project began in 2008 and the majority of the tenant floors, including the lobby, finished in May.