Architects deliver a North American first with Warren Woods Ecology Field Station.When Belfast, Maine–based architecture firm GO Logic presented the University of Chicago's Department of Ecology and Evolution with three schematic designs for the new Warren Woods Ecology Field Station, the academics decided to go for broke. Despite being new to Passive House building, the university was attracted to the sustainability standard given the laboratory's remote location in Berrien County, Michigan. "We presented them with three design options: one more compact, one more aggressive formally," recalled project architect Timothy Lock. The third option had an even more complicated form, one that would make Passive House certification difficult. "They said: 'We want the third one—and we want you to get it certified,'" said Lock. "We had our work cut out for us." Thanks in no small part to an envelope comprising a cedar rain screen, fully integrated insulation system, and high performance glazing, GO Logic succeeded in meeting the aesthetic and environmental goals set down by the university, with the result that the Warren Woods facility is the first Passive House–certified laboratory in North America. Warren Woods' envelope begins at ground level, with a shallow foundation utilizing GO Logic's patented L-shaped EPS insulation around the edges, and a continuous air-seal layer between the foam and the slab. "The system allows us to pour consistent slab-on-grade without any thermal bridging," explained Lock. The sealing layer connects into the wood stud wall backed by graphite-impregnated Neopor insulation. The architects chose the insulation for its high R-value, knowing that they would need to compensate for the relatively large amount of surface area dedicated to the exterior wall. Pro clima one-way breathable building paper allows the building to expel moisture. GO Logic installed a rain screen of Eastern White Cedar vertical gap siding sourced from the Upper Peninsula "because of the aesthetic goals of the client," said Lock. "They desired a contemporary aesthetic but also [the look of] a Midwestern barn." The architects planned the interior space and allotted glazing judiciously, locating the laboratory on the north side of the building. Its position, under the cantilever over the entry, maximally reduces solar gain—an important consideration given the heat generated by the equipment inside. The classroom space, on the other hand, is positioned on the building's south side, punctuated by a long strip of Kneer-Südfenster glazing. "We are highly critical of windows that are available domestically," said Lock. "The big drawback with North American windows is that the tradeoff for a higher R-value is significantly reduced solar heat gain." Instead, the firm imports Kneer-Süd's products directly from Germany. "In Northern Europe they know how to get all the heat from the sun that they can," he observed. "We also love the way they look." The windows and doors are fully integrated into the air-seal layer using one-way breathable tapes from SIGA, imported (like the pro clima paper) through 475 High Performance Building Supply in Brooklyn. A custom-fabricated stainless steel accordion screen shields the classroom-side glazing from both intruders and the sun. "It's good for security—the university likes that," said Lock. "But the screen was also big for us to control the amount of heat that enters during the summer months and shoulder seasons." The idea, he explained, is that when classes are in session and the weather is nice, the occupants can throw open the doors. When only the laboratory is in operation, the closed screen will cut back on heat gain. In addition, the steel mesh "became something that was also a really exciting design feature," said Lock. "It had a great effect—not just cooling the space, but also softening the natural light."
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Minimalist catenary canopy lends warmth and lightness to office courtyard.When Page design principal Larry Speck suggested a catenary sunshade for the courtyard of the new GSA building in Albuquerque, his colleagues set about identifying precedents. "There were some really great devices that we looked at, but a lot were done in the 1960s out of heavy, monumental materials," said principal Talmadge Smith. "We wondered if there was a way to do it in a lighter, more delicate way that would also introduce some warmth to the space." The architects elected to build the structure out of western red cedar, which performs particularly well in arid climates. Comprising 4-, 8-, and 12-foot boards suspended on steel cables, the sunshade appears as a wave of blonde wood floating in mid-air, casting slatted shadows on the glass walls of the courtyard. The courtyard is an important amenity in the two-story, 80,000-square-foot building, currently occupied by a combination of federal employees, including immigration and customs enforcement staff, and state and local law enforcement. "We said, 'This is a pretty big floor plate, it needs a great courtyard,'" said Smith. "For one thing, in this climate that's just what you build. You get free shading and can create a cooler microclimate." The courtyard also helps bring light into the communal spaces that surround it, which include training areas, circulation, and conference rooms. "It remains a democratic insertion into the floor plan," observed Smith. Finally, the courtyard allowed the architects to compensate for a lack of glazing on the exterior walls, the result of security requirements. Working in Revit and 3ds Max, Page experimented with various patterns for the sunshade. They first tried a regular arrangement of identical slats. "The result wasn't very pleasing," said Smith. "It made a drooping, uninviting shape. It also closed the courtyard, as if you had pulled a big venetian blind across it." They decided to break up the pattern and use three different modules of wood, placing them only where daylighting analysis dictated. They also worked with the cables themselves to identify the appropriate amount of slack. "We tested what it would be if you pulled the cables tight," said Smith. "It negated the effect of the catenary, and led to a courtyard with a little bit of a ceiling, a rigidity that we didn't want." The final design incorporates 18 inches worth of slack per cable. Enterprise Builders used off-the-shelf hardware to assemble and install the sunshade. The cedar boards are attached to the cables via steel clips bolted to one face of each board. Deciding against integrating hardware directly into the curtain walls, Page designed opaque concrete headers for the two short sides of the courtyard, then grouted the anchors into the masonry units. A turnbuckle attached to a pivot near each anchor allowed the builders to make adjustments to the length of the cables once they had been hung. A second, perpendicular, system of cables prevents the shading structure from swaying. "The hardest part was getting it level," said Smith. "There was a little art to that because some strands are more heavily loaded than the others." Fabricated out of standard lumber and mass-produced hardware, the sunshade might have felt bulky or crude. Instead, it provides relief from the New Mexico sun while seeming almost to dissolve into the sky. "When you're standing there, you only ever see half of the shading members at a time," said Smith. "You see a lot of sky, but you feel a lot of shade. It performs, but it feels light."
Textured wood envelope draws on the history and landscape of Oregon’s Willamette Valley.Sokol Blosser Winery's Willamette Valley tasting room, designed by Allied Works Architecture, pays homage to its agricultural surroundings in its massing and materials. Nestled within a set of terraces scooped out of the Dundee Hills, the building plants roots with a below-grade cellar, on top of which its long, low first story spreads like grape vines along a trellis. Both exterior and interior are wrapped in locally-sourced cedar siding—rough grey boards hung horizontally on the outside, smooth clear wood laid diagonally on the inside—whose regularity recalls aerial photographs of the vineyard. "We went with wood for a number of reasons," explained principal Kyle Lommen. "There's a history of wood in the agrarian architecture of that region. There's a history of wood in wineries as well. And there was a desire to create an atmosphere that is warm and had a material quality." Though the open front porch and fissures between the building's several volumes create a fluid interplay between outside and inside, Allied Works Architecture used texture and color to distinguish the exterior skin. "We wanted to create an expression of the outer crust, the outer envelope of the building, and have it play or pick up the daylight that hits the building," said Lommen. The architects chose a few different sizes of cedar boards, stained grey, then flipped them around "so as the sun hits the wood it creates a shadow, a kind of relief," he explained. "The wall has a very random pattern, but it's created from only three different board sizes." The horizontal rain screen system on the tasting room facade contrasts sharply with the interior, where unstained boards set flush with one another travel in diagonal paths along the walls and sloped ceilings. Because the orientation of the boards changes each time they meet a seam, "it almost does this visual trick, creates a kind of complexity through a very simple concept," said Lommen. The interior siding extends onto the ceiling of the porch and the walls of the gaps between rooms, suggesting a solid block carved into a succession of spaces. The architects used sketches and drawings to establish the basic design concept before moving through several iterations of physical models. "We created a digital model as well to create perspectives that helped us understand materiality," said Lommen. "We did a number of perspectives to make sure that we weren't creating an environment that was too hectic, too busy. Through studies we realized it would be quite calm." The material studies, he said, were also helpful for the client, who had never worked on a project of this scale. Yet none of Allied Works Architecture's renderings captured the impact of the built space, said Lommen. "When the project was close to completion I was on site talking to the client, and they said, 'We never really understood what we were getting, even after all these models and exterior perspectives,'" he recalled. "Even for us as the architects, it ends up being more rich going to see the building."