Building technology research center features wood, integrated photovoltaics, and green wall.When John Robinson began formulating a vision for the University of British Columbia's (UBC) Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS), he did not start small. Robinson, who is responsible for integrating academic and operational sustainability at the university's Vancouver campus, dreamed of constructing the most sustainable building in North America, a monument to and testing ground for energy-generating strategies. Invited to join the project in 2001, architects Perkins+Will sought an approach combining passive design and innovative technology. Featuring a facade of locally manufactured wood panels, high performance glazing, solar shading with integrated photovoltaics, and a green wall sunscreen, CIRS is a living laboratory for the research and practice of sustainable design. The initial concept for the building included 22 goals centered on three themes, explained Perkins+Will's Jana Foit. First, CIRS was to have a net positive environmental impact. In addition, the structure was designed to provide an adaptive, healthy, and socially generative workplace for researchers, staff, and students. Third, CIRS would utilize smart building technologies for real-time user feedback and testing. The building envelope was a critical component of the project's overall environmental strategy on both conceptual and practical levels. "The overarching design idea is to communicate sustainability, to make it visible and apparent," said Foit. In terms of pragmatics, the architects focused on reducing heat gain and providing 100 percent daylighting to the interiors. To reduce solar gain, Perkins+Will reduced the window area from the current code of 40 percent maximum to 31 percent. They installed fixed and operable triple-glazed windows on the ground floor, and fixed and operable double-glazed windows above. For cladding, the architects selected Multiple Ply Cedar Panels from locally-developed Silva Panel—one of the first solid wood products designed for rain screen application. "The exterior panels were detailed and designed to be removable, to allow for material testing and research," said Foit. CIRS' two-pronged solar shading program includes a network of fixed shades with integrated photovoltaics and a green wall. The former results in 24,427 kilowatt-hours per year in energy savings. The architects designed the green wall, meanwhile, to protect the west-facing atrium, which lacks a mechanical heating or cooling system. Together with a combination of solid spandrel and vision glass, the living screen achieves 50 percent shade during the warmer months. "The plants are chocolate vines, which lose their leaves in winter, allowing passive heat gain into the building," explained Foit. "In the summer, when the vines are in full bloom, the leaves provide shading for the atrium." In an important sense, the CIRS story did not conclude once construction was complete in 2011. Rather, the proof of CIRS' value as a demonstration tool is in its ongoing operations. The building returns an impressive 600 megawatt-hours of surplus energy to the UBC campus each year—and continues to rack up sustainability prizes, including the Royal Architecture Institute of Canada's 2015 Green Building Award. But perhaps more importantly, thanks to publicly available performance data and a "lessons learned" document compiled by UBC, CIRS has fulfilled Robinson's dream of promoting green design through the construction of a transparent, replicable model.
Posts tagged with "Glass":
A geometric corrugated metal and glass facade integrates industry and nature.Barkow Leibinger's original scheme for HAWE-Werk Kaufbeuren, developed for a competition several years ago, was "a completely crazy origami thing," recalled partner Frank Barkow. But upon winning the commission and learning that the factory's owners wished to build it in a single phase, "we had to be careful not to kill them with the budget," he said. "We really dumbed it down." The architects did, however, hold on to their original pinwheel plan, with production wings rotating around a communal courtyard. Inspired by Le Corbusier's "green factory"—a humanizing alternative to the "black factories" of the nineteenth century, which prioritized the flow of goods over the experience of the workers—Barkow Leibinger's design opens the HAWE plant to the Bavarian countryside with a geometric facade of corrugated metal and glass. In addition to drawing upon Le Corbusier's "green factory" concept, Barkow Leibinger also looked at industrial designs out of northern Italy in the 1960s and 70s, which in turn led them to experiment with a prefabricated concrete frame. "Usually we do steel," explained Barkow, "but in this case the client liked the precast concrete. It's a dirty industry—there's a lot of milling going on." The factory's exposed mechanical systems are integrated directly into the structure, passing through perforations in the horizontal beams. "It's not a very finicky factory," said Barkow. "We just put it where they needed it." Steel-framed shed roofs sit atop the concrete. Skylights look to the north, while the roof's south slopes are designed to accommodate photovoltaic panels. "The north-facing shed is a classical industrial solution," noted Barkow. "It brings in a lot of light, and saves a lot on artificial lighting." The arrangement of solids and voids on the facade emphasizes the resulting sawtooth profile. The architects carved the envelope into a repeating pattern of triangles and trapezoids, clad in glass and corrugated sheet metal, respectively. Most of the building's glazed surface is translucent white channel glass, with vision glass in the sliver of space closest to the ground. At the end of each wing, a broad horizontal window features a larger central section of channel glass framed by floor-to-ceiling panels of transparent glass to either side. "This is a kind of Corbusian idea: large end facades that look into the countryside," said Barkow. The factory wings are designed to be expansible, the end facade deconstructed and then rebuilt after the installation of additional bays. Barkow Leibinger gave HAWE-Werk Kaufbeuren's extra-production facilities distinct treatments. The lobby and office area is "a more blocky structure," said Barkow, with a transparent curtain wall. The cafeteria, too, plays up the connection to the courtyard with plentiful glazing. The architects designed the "edge spaces'" facades to contrast—but not clash with—the factory floor, explained Barkow. "They're adjacent spaces, but quieter and cleaner." HAWE-Werk Kaufbeuren earned a silver rating from the DGNB (German Sustainable Building Council) thanks in part to the architects' emphasis on daylighting and use of triple glazing, plus careful attention to the window-to-wall ratio. "Nothing spectacularly complex" was involved in the sustainability strategy, said Barkow. Indeed, the very simplicity of the design led to its success, practically and conceptually as well as in terms of environmental performance. From a complicated initial scheme to their final, streamlined, solution, Barkow Leibinger pared the plan and material palette to the bare essentials, with an eye to speeding construction while keeping the "green factory" ideal at the fore. "It's a large project in this landscape," said Barkow. "It's at a different scale, and more robust, than the factories we typically work on."
Concrete, glass, and brick facade balances the promises of the future with respect for the past.When Farmingdale State College administrators commissioned Urbahn Architects to design a new building for the School of Business, they positioned it as a beacon for the school's shift in focus from agriculture to science and technology. But the architects saw a second opportunity in the project: a chance to restore some of the coherence lost during successive campus expansions. "While the building mission, program, and design look forward, the facade includes gestures that preserve its connection with the college's roots," explained Urbahn's Peter Verne. With a high-performance envelope characterized by a checkerboard pattern of concrete composite panels and glazing, the School of Business building achieves a delicate balance between FSC's history and its future. Besides housing the first classrooms on campus equipped with cutting-edge audiovisual technology, the School of Business was designed to foster a new, conversational mode of exchange among faculty and students. "The dean felt strongly that the building should promote casual interaction" among its users, said Verne. To this end, the architects arranged the faculty offices along the front of the building, directly across a circulation spine from the classrooms. The main facade's variable array of Taktl panels and windows "was designed to reflect the office program," said Verne. "The vertical orientation of the panels and glazing suggests a series of smaller spaces within, akin to monastic cells." Urbahn developed the pattern of solids and voids "through a combination of rigor and intuition," he explained, adjusting the window widths to animate the face of the building. The building's larger glazed elements provide visual connections to the historic FSC campus. A full-height curtain wall on the main facade looks out to The Mall, the main academic quadrangle, whose coherence was compromised by the demolition of an older structure. Meanwhile, curtain wall-clad cantilevered lounges at the northeast end of the building, which Verne described as "contemplative treetop-level spaces," face the original heart of the college, including the central ellipse and ornamental gardens. "While past development has steadily moved campus activity to the south and west, this gesture is intended to help reconnect the campus population with its origins and re-energize the historic campus center," said Verne. At the main entrance to the School of Business, a free-standing elevator shaft wrapped in faceted metal panels projects from the facade, reinforcing the exchange between interior and exterior. Urbahn selected the envelope's materials to refer back to different stages of campus growth. "We chose to respect [the historic] palette, updated to reflect a modern understanding of building expression and current building technology," said Verne. The classroom facade, whose horizontal emphasis—delivered through a cantilevered third floor—distinguishes it from the office facade, is clad in brick to echo the first buildings constructed at FSC. Charcoal mica finish aluminum composite (ACM) panels surrounding the stairs and elevator shaft similarly draw on the earliest era of campus building. The material's "iridescence reflects that of the slate roofs on the nearby historic buildings," explained Verne. Even the concrete composite facade was inspired by historic precedent, namely the Brutalist buildings constructed at FSC during the 1960s and 70s. Throughout their exploration of FSC history, the architects nonetheless remained committed to the dean's goal of reinventing academic dialogue. "I love how much the building design both shapes and is shaped by social interaction," said Verne. "Ever since the main facade began to take its final configuration, I've enjoyed imagining the negotiations between professors and administration over who gets the offices with the bigger windows."
Marc Jacobs flagship store features a tripartite facade of aluminum, tile, and glass.Commissioned to design Marc Jacobs' flagship Tokyo store, Jaklitsch/Gardner Architects' first order of business was to rectify the desire for an iconic urban presence with strict local regulations. To make the 2,800-square-meter shop more visible from nearby Omotesando Street, the architects took advantage of a loophole in the building code that allowed them to double the height of the structure as long as the top half was not occupiable. The catch was that the code required a 500-millimeter gap between the occupiable and non-occupiable spaces. "Our first strategy was to create a louvered facade system that would disguise [the divide]," recalled principal Stephan Jaklitsch. But after an afternoon walk through the Imperial gardens, they reversed course. "We were inspired by the vernacular architecture," said project architect Jonathan Kirk. "We wanted to somehow utilize the language of proportions, but also the materiality within that experience. Rather than trying to create something that was monolithic, we began to look at different materials for each of the building's components." The result, called Tōrō Ishi Ku (lantern-rock-void), makes its mark on the city with a tripartite facade in punched aluminum, bespoke tile, and glass. The top, non-occupiable half of the store is wrapped in stamped aluminum panels. Jaklitsch came up with the idea of a patterned two-dimensional facade after a trip to Prague Castle. "There was a smooth facade, but it employed a visual trick to deliver an illusion of depth," he said. "We were in a sense doing the same thing [in Tokyo]. It looks like a quilted facade, and appears to wrap around seamlessly." The texture of small punched holes was derived from a method of fabrication common throughout Tokyo. Behind the aluminum, the architects installed a fabric scrim that in turn reflects light from a series of LEDs, so that the upper portion of the building—the tōrō, or lantern—glows at night. A second optical illusion concerns the size of the aluminum panels themselves. Each large rectangular aluminum panel in fact comprises four separate aluminum pieces bolted together. Deep reveal seams between each four-part component result from turning the edges over to create rigidity, and also allow for thermal expansion and movement during seismic activity. "What ends up looking very simple in presentation is actually quite complex," said Kirk. Jaklitsch/Gardner defined the central portion of the building—the ishi, or "rock" containing a ready-to-wear showroom—with an opaque rain screen of bespoke tile. The building falls within a fire zone, so the architects were restricted to either fire glass or a non-combustible material. "Because it was also a more private program, and because we were dealing with various conditions in the adjacent buildings, we clad the entire thing in porcelain tile," explained Kirk. The sole exceptions are a single window on each of the building's east and west faces. The blade-shaped tiles were made from molds with a score joint in the middle. Each larger component was broken in two to create bespoke texturing along two edges; the half-tiles were then randomized and arranged in offset rows to form an interlocking pattern at the building's corners. The architects had originally intended to adhere the tile directly to the second floor's extruded concrete exterior, but the porcelain proved too heavy. Instead, they worked with the manufacturer to develop a custom fixing solution, in which the tiles are held off the wall by a series of metal studs. As a result, said Kirk, "the tiles can appear continuous across the concrete panels, which have seams about every three feet. The tiles are independent of the seams because the mounting brackets aren't affected by them." Like the aluminum panels above, the tiles are designed to move freely in case of an earthquake. Tōrō Ishi Ku's "void"—its ground-floor display room—is a transparent glass box. "We went through a number of different studies to get the proportions of the first and second floor just right," said Jaklitsch. The architects discovered that by restricting the height to three meters, they could eliminate the need for anchoring fins, thus increasing the sense of openness to the surrounding buildings. The feeling of continuity between inside and out is further emphasized by the use of honed granite for both the interior floor and the surrounding sidewalks. In this case, Jaklitsch/Gardner's sleight-of-hand worked too well. After several pedestrians collided with the glass, the architects modified the design by applying a subtle vertical striping to the exterior glass at eye level. One final consideration helped shape the shop's unique envelope: the rapidity with which the surrounding built environment is changing. The life expectancy of structures in the area averages only 26 years, explained Jaklitsch. Even as they were designing Tōrō Ishi Ku, the building across the street was torn down. "It became a matter of balancing the massing with this transitional zone between the commercial and residential districts," he said. "We were trying to anticipate the next three chess moves in this urban game."
Virginia Tech students demonstrate a light touch with glass and steel pavilion.The undergraduate architecture students enrolled in Virginia Tech's design/buildLAB begin each academic year with an ambitious goal: to bring a community service project from concept through completion by the end of the spring semester. In addition to the usual budget and time constraints, the 15 students taking part in the course during the 2013-2014 school year faced an additional challenge. Their project, a public pavilion for Clifton Forge Little League in the tiny hamlet of Sharon, Virginia, was entirely lacking in contextual cues. "It was interesting because our previous design-build projects have been downtown, with lots of context," said Keith Zawistowski, who co-founded and co-directs design/buildLAB with his wife, Marie. "Instead, we had a pristine, grassy field with a view of the mountains. We joke that this is our first group of minimalists." The students' understated solution—three geometric volumes unified by the consistent use of a vertical sunscreen—turns the focus back to the pavilion's surroundings with a restrained material palette of concrete, glass, and steel. Design/buildLAB assigned a separate structure to each element of the Sharon Fieldhouse program, nestling the open-air public pavilion between glass boxes containing the restrooms and concessions kitchen. Different roof heights distinguish the spaces, yet a common material vocabulary and their arrangement along a single horizontal axis allows them to be read as a single object. "The students describe the field house as a linear incision through the site," said Zawistowski. "Basically it's just light cut through the green landscape." Because Sharon Fieldhouse is intended for seasonal use, the students focused on maximizing environmental performance for the warmer months of the year. "Everything's about cooling and ventilation," said Zawistowski. A no-energy ceiling fan cools the kitchen, and tempered laminated white glass helps cut solar gain inside the enclosed areas. "The glass has a translucent quality, so that the spaces are bathed in even light, eliminating the need for electrical lights during the day," explained Zawistowski. The external sunshade, comprising vertical steel plate elements painted white, serves both conceptual and practical ends. "The shade screen is about intimacy and privacy—not just under the open-air pavilion but in the enclosed spaces," said Zawistowski. "The elements vary in density. They're tighter together toward the more private parts of the building." At the same time, larger gaps between the screen's members on the east side of the pavilion welcome in the morning sun, while to the west the steel bars draw together to provide afternoon shade. The screen simultaneously functions as skin and structure. "In most cases, the sunshade is tacked on. In this case it's part and parcel of the architecture," observed Zawistowski. Wider steel bars take the weight of the building's roof, and help conceal downspouts. "Everything is hidden there in the screen," said Zawistowski. "We brought a new group of students to the field house and asked them if they could figure out how rainwater could get off the roof. They didn't know." The students prefabricated portions of the pavilion at Virginia Tech's Blacksburg campus, panelizing the screen members and roofing. "One thing that bothers us in design-build education is that multiple generations tend to work on one project," said Zawistowski. "It's important for us that the same group sees the implications of what they design, so we rely really heavily on prefabrication." On campus, he added, students are able to take full advantage of the university's resources. Once on site in Sharon, the students completed assembly in just a couple of weeks. Given the fact that his students conceived of, fundraised for, programmed, planned, designed, and built Sharon Fieldhouse in less than ten months, it's no surprise that Zawistowski refers to the supernatural when he talks about the project. But when he brings up hocus-pocus, it is as much about the pavilion's aesthetic impression as it is about the speed with which it was brought into being. "We say that it's put together with magic," he mused. "All the connections are hidden—everything's just light and shadow."
Zinc and glass unite riverfront pavilion and pump house.In 2009, just as construction on its Principal Riverwalk pavilion was about to begin—and following years of funding-related stops and starts—Des Moines-based Substance Architecture received some unexpected news. The firm was commissioned to design a second building, a pump house, on an abutting plaza. At that point, recalled Substance's Paul Mankins, it had been about three years since the firm started work on the pavilion. "There was some discussion in the office about whether the pump house should be an independent piece, or whether it should be formally related to the pavilion," he said. "Our decision was that the pavilion would be stronger if it had this piece as a foil." Using a limited material palette of zinc and glass accented by Jun Kaneko's artwork, Substance succeeded in creating a dialogue between the two small riverfront buildings, despite their differing programs and dates of origin. The pavilion's form was shaped as much by practical circumstances as by a particular aesthetic vision. The Wallace Roberts and Todd (WRT) master plan for the Principal Riverwalk, a joint development of the City of Des Moines and the Principal Financial Group, determined the wedge shape of the site. "We're not a firm that typically does triangular buildings," noted Mankins, "but the inner workings of the floodwall were already in place before we started." The architects were further constrained by a tight budget. Rather than distribute the program across a single floor, said Mankins, "we were able to convince WRT to manipulate the plaza, tip it up to stack the program." The move cut the pavilion's footprint in half and allowed Substance to push the service functions down into the plaza itself, thus decreasing the cost of the envelope. The pavilion's focal element is its glass-enclosed cafe, stacked directly atop the cast-in-place concrete box housing the service functions. The architects created an outdoor seating area by pulling the building ten feet away from the floodwall. This gesture, too, was in part a pragmatic one, as it "eased conversations with the Army Corps of Engineers," said Mankins. "The end result produces an exterior terrace, which is fantastic. But it was not purely a design-driven decision; it was also a political decision." To mitigate solar gain, Substance shrouded the pavilion in folded black zinc that serves as both roof and wall. A broad overhang to the south provides shade in summer without sacrificing the view downriver. On the west side of the cafe, the zinc facade is louvered. "It's basically like an enormous blind with the fins oriented north," said Mankins. "It allows you to view directly north, which is upriver, unobstructed, but it blocks the western sun." The second project, the pump house, entered the mix following the flood of 2008. "We have a storm and sanitary sewer system that's cutting-edge technology for 1750," quipped Mankins. After two 500-year floods in less than two decades, the city decided it was high time to upgrade its flood management system. The pump station designed by Substance contains three pumps, one of which already existed. "There are other pump stations in Des Moines, typically just cinderblock walls around an emergency generator and several propeller pumps," explained Mankins. The architects took a different tack, echoing the neighboring pavilion with a two-part design. They encased the existing pump in translucent glass, then wrapped a triangular zinc wall around the two new pumps and associated components. Below the pump station's zinc walls, Substance used a type of Minnesota limestone deployed by WRT throughout the Principal Riverwalk development. Substance had already worked with artist Jun Kaneko on several pieces for the pavilion. The firm returned to ask for a final artwork, a multicolored glass mural. "When we were designing the pump station, we always wanted this glass mural," said Mankins. The designers collaborated with Kaneko and Germany's Derix Glasstudios on the mural itself, then engaged C3 Lighting Solutions and Commonwealth Electric to design and install an LED system for internal illumination. With the language of limestone uniting them with the rest of the Principal Riverwalk, said Mankins, the pavilion and pump station appear as "two objects placed on plazas formed by flood walls." Their relationship to one another is a (happy) marriage of opposites, thanks to the architects' strategic use of zinc and glass. "One is closed, the other open," said Mankins. "But they're clearly related to one another."
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."
As for the crowded market, Crain's says Mizrachi enjoys an advantage over the competition:
Because the foundation already was poured for the new building years ago when a second office tower was planned, the new tower can be built in as little as 20 months, giving Mizrachi's plan an advantage over some competitors, [J.F. McKinney & Associates Executive Vice President Mark] Gunderson said. Work could begin with as little as 200,000 square feet of office space leased in advance, he said.It also might compete by offering office rents slightly lower than its neighbors, which include 52 and 53 story towers from developers Hines Interests and John O'Donnell.
Parabola cantilever walkway delivers park visitors to the brink.Concerned that visitors to Canada's national parks were becoming increasingly disengaged from both the experience of the outdoors and the reality of climate change, Parks Canada launched a search for private-sector initiatives to reverse the trend toward drive-through tourism. Brewster Travel Canada answered the call with a limited design competition for a walkable structure in Jasper National Park's Sunwapta Valley. "One of the bus drivers suggested that we do something over this particular gorge, Trickle Creek Canyon—something that could be suspended off the side of the mountain that brought visitors into a more intimate relationship with the Athabasca Glacier and its melting," explained Sturgess Architecture principal Jeremy Sturgess. With design-build team lead PCL Construction Management and structural engineer Read Jones Christoffersen (RJC), Sturgess' firm crafted a cantilevered walkway that, clad in weathering steel and glass, defers to its natural surroundings while providing breathtaking views of the glacier and valley floor. Though not a facade itself, Glacier Skywalk warrants discussion within the context of high-performance building envelopes for its innovative structure and streamlined approach to materials—the "+" in Facades+. Though the expected solution to the competition brief was a suspension bridge or other high-masted element, "we thought as a team that this approach would not be appropriate to the site," recalled Sturgess. "As much as we were going to make something courageous and heroic, we also wanted it to be subtle." RJC's Simon Brown came up with the idea of a parabola cantilever that draws visitors 35 meters beyond the face of the cliff. Sturgess Architecture focused on minimizing the material palette, relying primarily on Corten and glass, plus gabion mats filled with local rocks and concrete on the adjoining interpretive walk. "The idea was that the Corten would emulate the ferric oxide outcropping that you see on the existing mountainside," said Sturgess. "We wanted the whole element to feel fractal and extruded from the mountainside. As much as it was clearly manmade, it was to be as sensitive to the local environment as possible." Glacier Skywalk's signature design element is its glass floor, constructed in three layers—two structural, the third designed to be easily replaced if broken or otherwise damaged. "I'm a little nervous about walking on glass floors," admitted Sturgess. Several times he suggested replacing the glass with an opaque material to save money, but the rest of the team refused to let go. "Normally when I've worked in design-build, the gun is to our head and the finger's on the trigger," said Sturgess. "In this case, every time we suggested, 'We can save money here,' everyone on the design team was so in love with the concept, we couldn't lose anything lightly." Sturgess Architecture swapped Rhino models with PCL, RJC, and Heavy Industries, who formed all of the Corten work, throughout the design development phase. "I've never gone through such an extraordinary hands-on design process working with the actual craftsman of the solution," said Sturgess. "This iterative process of working with the team as we crafted every piece kind of by hand—though on the computer—is what led to the success of the project." In combination with its geologically inspired cladding, Glacier Skywalk's minimal structure delivers an illusion of weightlessness that only adds to the sense of exposure. The curvature of the walkway allowed RJC to install a nearly invisible cable suspension system to counterbalance its outward propulsion. "It expresses the thrust from the mountainside, and it does it in a way that makes it feel like a really integral fit with the [landscape]," said Sturgess. "The success is that it's not too much."
San Antonio firm transforms vacant industrial building into sunlit workspace.Dissatisfied with their two-story office, San Antonio architecture practice Overland Partners recently went looking for a new home. They found it in an unexpected place: a long-vacant plumbing supply warehouse within the city's burgeoning arts district. The 1918 Hughes Plumbing Warehouse offered the firm exactly what they wanted—a large open floor plan—in an architecturally refined package. The timber-framed, brick-clad building "is simple," said project architect Patrick Winn, "but it's really elegant and beautiful when you're able to look at it." The problem was that years of disuse had left their mark. "When we first viewed it, it was really far gone," recalled Winn. The original windows had been broken up, and the roof had flooded. Undaunted, the architects took on an extensive renovation project, with the result that today the former plumbing distribution center is a boon not just to Overland, but to the neighborhood as a whole. Prior to renovation, Hughes Warehouse was entirely encased in a double-width brick wall, except for a few garage door openings and two levels of clerestory windows. While the clerestories, approximately 16-20 inches and 20-25 inches in width, provided a good dose of daylight to the interior, they did not provide views out, nor did they facilitate the transition from parking lot to studio. "At Overland we really enjoy blurring the line between the outdoor, natural realm and the indoor, built realm," said Winn. "Right from the get-go we said: we have to cut a courtyard into the building and elongate that entry sequence." Overland carved out approximately 2,000 square feet of space for the new courtyard, which is faced with a custom glass and steel curtain wall. The transparent opening floods the office interior with light and frames views for the occupants. It has also become a de facto community space. "What's been nice is that runners' groups and cycling groups are starting to use our courtyard as a hub for activity," said Winn, who notes that live music and other events at a neighboring coffee shop are an additional draw. "It's brought a lot of life and energy into our space from the courtyard." To secure the courtyard after hours, the architects designed custom steel gates to replace the original, graffiti-covered garage doors. To tie-in to the warehouse's arts-district location, and to pay homage to the graffiti, Overland looked to Jackson Pollock for inspiration. They pixelated photographs on Photoshop before transferring the file to AutoCAD and sending the pattern on to Rivercity Industries, who laser-cut the design into the doors. The doors themselves were fabricated by Overland Workshop. "From the exterior, especially when the lights are on, when you drive by, there's almost a twinkling effect," said Winn of the perforated gates. "They're really neat." The architects punched additional windows into the remaining brick facade. "We decided to honor the old brick building," said Winn. "Any new insertion is done with steel and glass." To mitigate solar gain, the new windows are extruded about a foot on the east side of the building, and about two feet on the west. The clerestories and courtyard curtain wall are equipped with automated shades. Though the original steel frames around the clerestory windows would only accept 1/4-inch laminated safety glass, the new windows feature one-inch-thick high performance glass. Additional sustainability measures include a complete board insulation system over the roof. "We loved having brick on the interior, so what we couldn't do there in terms of insulation, we made up for on the roof," explained Winn. "We over-insulated it." A rooftop solar setup offsets about 60 percent of the office's energy consumption. In addition, the architects re-used original materials wherever possible. They built the interior stairs out of old joists, and the contractor saw-cut discarded concrete into pavers for the abutting alley. Even the brittle roof decking found a second life as board forms for the building's cast-in-place concrete elements. The Hughes Warehouse building has exceeded the architects' expectations in terms of bringing the office back together, said Winn. "It's done wonders for us from the standpoint of office culture. People seem to really love working here—it's not a place that's a drag to work in, it's very comfortable." He noted that in less than two years the firm has grown from just over 40 members to about 70, and recalled several recent events, including art shows and a courtyard holiday party, held in the renovated space. "I have to say that Overland's been elevated to a whole other level."