Less than a minute after he walked into the decrepit, 100-year-old building in downtown Cleveland, Philip Dawson turned to his companion and said, “Get me the hell out of here.” The chief operating officer for the law firm of Calfee, Halter & Griswold, Dawson was scouting locations for the firm’s new headquarters with Bob Porter, an architect with Vocon, a Cleveland-based architecture and interior design firm. “It was absolutely awful,” Dawson recalls.

Porter looked at the building’s strong bones and Beaux-Arts detailing and saw something different. “I think it could be stunning,” he told Dawson. He was right. Today, the Calfee building, as it is now known, has been fully restored with advanced technological and energy-efficient features, earning the project LEED Gold certification. The seven-story building provides 115,000 square feet of office space, including a café, market, and workout room for Calfee’s 300 employees.

Built in 1915, the elegant building has had several uses over the decades, housing the East Ohio Gas Company, a TV station, and even a parking garage. By the time Calfee got involved, the building had been gutted for a condominium redevelopment that never materialized.

These large, empty spaces allowed the Vocon team to design airy offices and multipurpose rooms. Each conference room has integrated data support, and Wi-Fi is available throughout the building. Upper story conference rooms boast high-tech writable walls.

Yet, because of the building’s historic status—it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places—the architects had to ensure that they did not disrupt the visual plane of the two-story atrium, with its grand pilasters and coffered ceiling. So they designed the interior with transparency in mind. Conference rooms feature full-height glass walls that become frosted when privacy is required and then return to clear glass at the flip of a switch.

Energy conservation and waste reduction were paramount concerns as well. The team diverted 98 percent of construction waste from the landfill and achieved a 32 percent reduction in water use over a comparable building through the use of features such as low-flow fixtures in the core building restrooms and tenant lunch room areas, according to Valerie Molinski, Vocon’s sustainability coordinator. Daylight controls reduce reliance on artificial light, and occupancy sensors turn off lighting in unused areas. The building is designed to work with 100 percent free cooling for a quarter of the year, using cold outdoor air to chill water for internal system use, and partial-free cooling another 15 percent of the year. Cooling at the space level is achieved without mechanical cooling via compressors. A white roof now reduces heat gain and lessens energy usage as well.

“The firm really wanted to make it an amazing, sustainable project from day one,” Molinski says. “They inspired us to give them a modern, beautiful space that was also highly sustainable.”