Design and Visual Communications
Experiential Sign Design, Wayfinding & Graphic Design

“Green” Wayfinding Signage Helps Toward LEED Certification in Buildings

First “LEED Platinum” higher education building contains sustainable signageAs more architects, planners and corporate executives pay closer attention to “green” buildings when it’s time for an expansion or a new facility, the official certification designation called “LEED” (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is becoming the standard to follow. Recently, Minnesota environmental design company Visual Communications Inc. facilitated the integration of wayfinding signage into Minnesota’s first platinum-certified higher education building, The Institute of Global Citizenship, at Macalester College in St. Paul.

LEED ( was initiated in 1998 by an entity called the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), and has since become an international standard. LEED approval is obtained when a building demonstrates that it is “sustainable”, in other words, it’s designed in a way to save energy, emit less carbon dioxide, use recycled and recyclable materials, utilize water better, and generally provide for a healthier-than-normal environment for those working in and around the building. Visual Communications has been a member of the USGBC since 2008 and has completed 5 sustainable projects, both locally and nationally.

The LEED initiative is now widely known amongst planners and architects, who focus a lot of attention on sustainable construction materials and elements such as carpeting, walls, floors and water systems. Now, environmentally friendly wayfinding signage is also getting more attention as a way to round out the LEED-qualifying package. And every building needs environmental graphic signage, especially directional and identification signs. Visual Communications specializes in environment and directional signage and has completed hundreds of projects nationally, from city-wide projects to single-building master plans.

Visual Communications helped Macalester College take advantage of new advancements in sustainable wayfinding signage materials when Macalester was planning the new building to house their Institute (

Macalester’s goal was to achieve the highest level of LEED certification – platinum – and they were able to do exactly that, earning points not just for the more obvious building and systems components, but for the wayfinding signs as well. The building, Markim Hall, is a $7.5 million, 17,000 square-foot facility and was the first higher education building to earn LEED platinum certification in the state of Minnesota. It opened in the fall of 2009.

According to Suzanne Savanick Hansen, sustainability manager at Macalester, “The signs used at Markim Hall were made out of a locally-made product which is 85% post-consumer waste. They were included in the category of ‘local and recycled materials’ to earn points toward our LEED certification.” The product is made from consumer waste paper, yet it’s very durable, and can accept a wide variety of graphics. The material is also eco-friendly to make, as any waste created in the manufacturing process is recycled back into the manufacturing process. It was used not just for the wayfinding signage, but for interior window sills and counter tops.

Since its inception in 1991, Visual Communications has designed many wayfinding systems in the educational sector, as well as dozens of environmental graphics and wayfinding systems for entertainment venues, financial institutions, government, health care, libraries, office campuses and retail.

Richard Lang Principal at Visual Communications, Inc.

Leave a Reply