The Commonwealth Club is decked out in denim

Levi Strauss & Co.
September 13, 2017

Jeans are, of course, an icon of effortless cool – but they also do a pretty good job of keeping you warm.

The Commonwealth Club of California, the nation’s oldest public affairs forum, is putting those properties to work in its new home. The newly renovated building along the San Francisco Embarcadero contains 24,000 square feet of space, a rooftop deck and garden – and 17,508 pairs of jeans.

Funded by a grant from Levi Strauss & Co., The Commonwealth Club is using denim insulation, a more environmentally friendly alternative to fiberglass insulation made from recycled jeans, from Bonded Logic, in its walls. LS&Co. previously funded denim insulation in the North Beach branch of the San Francisco Public Library, as well as its own San Francisco headquarters.

The jeans travel a long path to get from your drawer to the walls of a building like the new Commonwealth Club headquarters. First, discarded denim is collected, then chopped into little pieces and metal pieces like zippers and rivets are removed. The denim scraps are shredded into fiber, which is treated with anti-flammability solution and blended with a binder material that results in insulation that is 80 percent recycled fibers.

“Recycled denim insulation is a great use of post-consumer waste that would otherwise be destined for the landfill,” said Piper Kujac, construction project manager for The Commonwealth Club building. “It is non-toxic compared to mainstream fiberglass insulation and healthier for workers installing it. It also has great insulation properties and helped contribute to the project’s overall recycled content metric for LEED points.”

The new Commonwealth Club building has earned a LEED Gold certification – a scale that measures sustainable construction standards – by incorporating a range of green features, including: carpet tiles made from recycled plastic, vented windows that cool the building naturally with outside air, ceramic tiles made from recycled toilets, walls made from reclaimed wood that was recycled from the warehouse that previously stood on the site, and a green rooftop to absorb rainwater runoff.

This project is at the intersection of three things that LS&Co. cares deeply about: sustainability, a healthy public discourse and yes, denim!