Can a Building’s Green Status Be Revoked?

Sprinklers left to run all weekend on Pepsico's "green" roof.

Sprinklers left to run all weekend on Pepsico's "green" roof.

A big deal has been made by Pepsico about its Chicago building (555 West Monroe Street) and its “green” features.  By WLS-TV, by the City of Chicago, and in Pepsi’s own internal reports.  But even though the building has been LEED certified, can it be truly called “green” when it is so often wasteful?

The waste in this case comes in the form of water.  The photo above was taken on Saturday, October 8th.  It shows the sprinklers running, watering the green roof.  The sprinklers were started on Friday, October 7th and ran continuously until Monday, October 10th.  No patch of grass needs to be watered continuously for three days.

It’s not the first time, either.  We first noticed this happening back in April of this year.  The sprinklers would occasionally be left on all weekend.  On Memorial Day weekend, the sprinklers ran from Friday through until Tuesday.

And it isn’t some dryness mitigation strategy, since the sprinklers have sometimes been turned on during pouring rain, and left to run for days in conjunction with Mother Nature’s own sprinkler system.

Once is a mistake.  Twice is a shame.  Six times is a problem, and it makes us wonder not only how many thousands of gallons of water have been wasted, but how many more have to be wasted before the building is stripped of its “green” title.

From Pepsico’s 2009 Annual Report: “We recognize water as a basic human right. It is essential to our food and beverage business. That’s why our goal is to achieve positive water balance across all our businesses. For every liter of water we use, we intend to return one to the earth.”

We have contacted Pepsico’s public relations department about this, and will post an update when we receive a reply.

Previous coverage:

Update: October 18, 2011 @ 10:45am

We received a response from Pepsico about the water use.  It is reproduced below in its entirety:
Thanks for your concern regarding the PepsiCo Chicago rooftop garden.  The PepsiCo Chicago rooftop garden includes a lawn area that is made up of a special soil mixture (sand and topsoil) that allows water to saturate or filter through much faster than any normal lawn installation. This special lightweight soil mixture is commonly used in roof gardens instead of normal soil that can become quite heavy when saturated.
As a LEED certified building, we do not use “automatic” lawn irrigation systems; an employee is always overseeing the watering of the rooftop garden. Over this past summer we have had several occasions where areas of the lawn were damaged and needed to be re-sodded which required more than the normal amount of watering.  In addition, several rooftop garden events required us to increase watering to avoid damage to the lawn. This was all done at the direction of our landscaper.


PepsiCo Media Bureau

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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