Cooper Carry's Corporate Headquarters


Back in Black (& Green)

Setting out to practice what it preaches, Atlanta-based Cooper Carry created its new award-winning headquarters as a showcase of high-end sustainable interior architecture—earning a LEED-CI Platinum rating in the process.

By Carol Tisch

  • /Portals/3/images/magazine/2011/0111/I_0111_Web_CS_01.jpg

    The dramatic reception lobby masterfully controls the visitor’s experience while debunking clichéd notions of sustainable products with elegant Gage steel-plate floor and curved OSB board wall. View larger

  • /Portals/3/images/magazine/2011/0111/I_0111_Web_CS_02.jpg

    Reuse of 89 percent of the firm’s existing furniture earned LEED credits, with their Knoll and Herman Miller pieces crowning a canvas of new Constantine broadloom in lounge and conference rooms. View larger

  • /Portals/3/images/magazine/2011/0111/I_0111_Web_CS_03.jpg

    The reception area’s architectural curve is a unifying factor experienced differently as guests move from public to private conference space, outlined here with a border of metal tiles. View larger

  • /Portals/3/images/magazine/2011/0111/I_0111_Web_CS_04.jpg

    Mobility is key in the innovation room where DeSede chairs and a custom coffee table on wheels easily switch from casual, comfortable meetings to auditorium-style seating. View larger

  • /Portals/3/images/magazine/2011/0111/I_0111_Web_CS_05.jpg

    Cooper Carry’s town center promotes collaboration between employees, with two floors interconnected by a sculptural glazed steel staircase created by cutting through existing slab. View larger

  • /Portals/3/images/magazine/2011/0111/I_0111_Web_CS_06.jpg

    Breakout rooms are in plain sight on outside walls of both floors, an out-of-the-box treatment as bold as the colorful stripe created with standard Interface carpet tiles. View larger

  • /Portals/3/images/magazine/2011/0111/I_0111_Web_CS_07.jpg

    A series of custom four-foot Lumetta drum pendants articulates the length of the marketing studio where a ’floating’ floor of Interface carpet tiles was installed with glue-free TacTile connectors. View larger

  • /Portals/3/images/magazine/2011/0111/I_0111_Web_CS_08.jpg

    View from a principal’s office to the studio illustrates transparency as well as industrial loft-style ceilings and pinup/storage wall of reused doors disguised with black Tessuto Vertical wall covering. View larger

  • /Portals/3/images/magazine/2011/0111/I_0111_Web_CS_09.jpg

    24th Floor Axonometric View larger

  • /Portals/3/images/magazine/2011/0111/I_0111_Web_CS_10.jpg

    VOC-free and FSC-certified Sierra Pine MDF millwork was used for custom architectural studio workstations and to meet staff requests for surfaces larger than currently available in commercial systems. View larger


If people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, what should architects do—especially those who are international leaders in urban planning, workplace and sustainable design? For Atlanta-based Cooper Carry the answer was simple: Pick up and move. After 26 years in the suburban Buckhead section of town—in an office accessible only by car—the firm set out to practice what it preaches. In the process, they created an award-winning showcase of high-end sustainable interior architecture that reduced their carbon footprint and earned LEED-CI Platinum certification.

"It was critical for us to be walking the walk and walking the talk of the practices we're involved with," says Richard Stonis, director of interior architecture. He points to urban planning as one of the firm's major focuses leading to the decision to relocate to downtown Atlanta—ultimately to Peachtree Tower, the city's fourth tallest skyscraper. Designed by Philip Johnson (creator of his own personal Glass House in New Canaan, CT), the circa 1990 building was seeking LEED-EB status during building review, which ultimately helped Cooper Carry achieve its own sustainability goals.

Indeed, the company's commitment to earning LEED Platinum presented the opportunity to shatter myths about green design, particularly in the dramatic, internally-focused reception lobby. Stepping off the tower elevators, visitors are greeted by jewel-finished black granite walls and a modular, black steel-plate flooring system. A departure from traditional high-rise office lobbies with direct line of sight to exterior views, the lobby is opaque, and bordered by a curved wall made from ebonized FSC-certified OSB [Oriented Strand Board], with a total material cost of around $3500.

"When clients walk into our space they find a very sophisticated level of refinement. And then they see that we've etched our LEED certification into the metal floor. It's a great talking point for clients who might not want to go for that Platinum certification, but do want to get in at the entry level or possibly Silver or Gold," says project architect Brian Parker. "And it dispels the misconception with a percentage of the general public that a really high level of sustainability may mean bamboo or visibly obvious cliché products, he adds.

Raising the bar in sustainable design involves a delicate balancing act, requiring judicial use of high level finishes where appropriate, and then hitting the numbers with finishes and recycled products that achieve a maximum level of sustainability, according to project manager Dots Colley. "Knowing that the carpet, the boards, the studs and doors all had high recyclable content, we were able in some special places to use granite on the walls and on some of the credenzas," she explains.

If the darkness of the arrival lobby is a surprise, then the space inside is even more unexpected in a typical high rise environment. Behind the curved black wall lies a suite of open, flexible meeting spaces of various sizes. The rooms are outfitted with state-of-the-art communications and video technology, which allows the staff to communicate through life-size video conferencing with clients as well as Cooper Carry's other offices in Washington, D.C., Alexandria, VA, New York, NY and Newport Beach, CA.

The informal heart of the office is a two-story town center directly opposite the reception lobby. Adjacent to the town center spaces on each floor are day-lit, open design studios that extend from the building core to the perimeter glass. Informal studio meeting spaces are accommodated within paired "huddle" rooms that line the circulation zone around the building core.

The decision to move away from a hierarchical office layout meant the outdated executive row had to go, a decision that opened the door to major organizational and behavioral changes, according to Stonis. "Keep in mind we were in our old office for over a quarter of a century, and it reflected an organizational and management style that came out of that period of time," he says.

To create an open and flexible space that would support a more collaborative work environment, executive offices were integrated into the surrounding millwork of the general studio workspace, separated only by frameless glazing and acoustically isolated ceilings. After interviewing staff to determine their needs and wants, the project team custom-designed low work stations that maximize daylighting and promote a more collaborative environment. They also concluded that the 18- to 24-inch-deep work surfaces available on manufactured systems were not suited to architectural work, opting instead for custom surfaces that are 30 to 36 inches deep.

Direct and indirect pendant lighting fixtures work in tandem with the work stations, which are fabricated of FSC-certified MDF and finished with five coats of water-based clear coat. Existing file cabinets were slipped into millwork envelopes for use as collaboration tables. "The materials and finishes were all about sustainability—which allowed us the freedom to do anything in terms of design," notes Colley.

Because mechanical and electrical systems were more than 20 years old, the architects had to find LEED credits in other areas. "Certainly we upgraded the level of filtration, but in terms of their overall performance, short of a complete renovation of those systems, that would have been a challenge," Parker says. Instead, the team focused on sophisticated lighting control systems with proximity and daylight level sensors that are utilized throughout the new office space, along with indoor air quality and CO2 monitors. The result is a brighter, healthier environment for the firm's staff and clients.

Unlike other Johnson skyscrapers, Peachtree Tower is not a total glass building. The team knew it was not going to earn the elusive LEED point for light transmittance through glass windows—a difficult credit to achieve even in some newer buildings, according to Colley. "We concentrated on views: 90 percent of the square footage has a direct view to the outside," she says.

Cooper Carry harvests all their daylighting with Lutron's EcoSystem, which was very new at the time of installation. "We had the Lutron photo cells factory-installed on all of our lighting systems from various manufacturers so that they communicated with a single source Lutron ballast. In our conferencing suite we have the first set of Lutron dimmable EcoSystem ballasts for recessed compact fluorescent lights. They were literally making them at the factory for the first time for this project," Parker recalls.

LEED credits were also achieved by reusing conference tables, file cabinets, wood furniture and task chairs. "Obviously the more you can reuse the better: we brought 89 percent of our furniture with us to the new space," Colley reports. The firm also salvaged interior perimeter doors from the previous tenant to create a continuous storage system. "The entire core wall is storage shelves hidden behind door slabs covered with tack-able Tessuto fabric wall covering. We made something very functional, both as a closet and a pinup display zone. But it looks very sophisticated and refined," she explains.

The move confirms Cooper Carry's commitment to reducing its own carbon footprint, with a reduction from nearly all employees commuting by car, to over 60 percent using public or sustainable transit. "We help clients with site selection all the time, and encourage dense, multiuse, transit-oriented projects. It's important to our business that we reflect that, and I'm proud that we walked the talk" Colley says.

The team is equally proud of the speed with which staff member adapted to the new open plan office system. "After all is said and done, this space still has to deliver productivity from a functional and organizational standpoint in an environment that we are successful in. Though achieving LEED Platinum is a big deal, the move also created a much more dynamic, collaborative organization overall," Stonis concludes.


back to top



Panasonic | 1


Allstate Rubber
(718) 526-7890

Armstrong | 2

Benjamin Moore


(418) 878-3530

Hunter Douglas
(800) 789-0331

(718) 729-2020

Oldcastle Glass
(866) 653-2278

Wilsonart Laminate
(800) 433-3222


Constantine | 3
(800) 308-4344


InterfaceFLOR | 4
(800) 336-0225 


Panel Source (Purekor)
(877) 464-7246

Sierra Pine | 5
(800) 676-3339

* Project achieved LEED Platinum certification, so all products specified had sustainable properties.


Allstate Rubber

GAGE Corp. | 6
(800) 786-4243 

Nora Systems Inc.
(800) 332-NORA


Mortensen Woodwork Inc. | 5
(770) 969-1475 



(800) 423-3531

(800) 457-5670

(800) 458-2424


(800) 898-1879

(800) 438-6087

Kitchen Aid



(800) 334-0455




AXOR Beta-Calco
(416) 531-9942


Humanscale | 7

Lightolier | 8
(800) 215-1068

Lumetta | 9
(877) 586-3882



(866) 645-6952

De Sede Switzerland | 10

Herman Miller | 11

Knoll | 12


Tessuto Vertical
(866) 698-7651



back to top


191 Peachtree St NE, Ste 2400
Atlanta, GA 30303
(404) 237-2000 



Richard Stonis, Director of Interior Architecture

Dots Colley, Project Manager

Brian Parker, Project Architect

Terah Henderson, Interior Designer


Humphries and Company, Smyrna, GA

Barrett, Woodyard & Associates, Norcross, GA

Uzun & Case, Atlanta, GA

ABLD, Marietta, GA

CTG, Atlanta, GA

Gabriel Benzur


comments powered by Disqus

Newsletter Subscriptions

comments powered by Disqus
©Copyright 2014 Stamats Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. / interiors+sources