Regardless of materiality, we have had great success—and fun—in our exploration of computational design and digital fabrication methodologies. For the ongoing LA Rams stadium, we worked with Zahner to develop the metal cladding system. Our team was able to optimize the structural performance and detailing of the perforated metal skin by leveraging parametric design tools and fabrication technologies. In the end, the design of a custom perforation pattern was able to be realized by a digital workflow that exported analytical models directly into fabrication files for over 150,000 panels.AN: Minneapolis is experiencing a period of tremendous growth. A factor in this growth is the concentration of manufacturing and facade management firms. In your opinion, how does this proximity between design practices and manufacturers influence the execution of projects in the area? JS: We are somewhat spoiled by access to world-class glazing, sheet metal, and curtain wall fabricators right in our backyard. In many ways, one of the biggest benefits is easily facilitated collaboration between makers and designers, especially at those early "what if" design stages when fabricator expertise can help give an innovative concept legs. I think one of the biggest areas for untapped collaborative potential is the very unique brain trust that exists in the local region in terms of custom curtain wall engineering. I'm especially looking forward to this panel to see representatives from some of these influential players together in the same room to discuss the current climate and what the future holds for Minneapolis and beyond. WB: The most dynamic and successful designs attain prominence only by close cooperation and understanding between the design, manufacturing, fabrication, and installation teams. This is true in facade design perhaps more so than in any other subset of the building industry. With the importance of the building enclosure being far from lost on a design community in such a climate, combined with the fact that Minneapolis is a national hub for the production of cutting-edge systems; this design and construction community is exceptionally well-positioned to capitalize on this collaborative potential. As the desires and needs for high performance, increased quality, and more formally demanding skins continue to evolve; it’s exciting to see what creativity and innovation, whether in the form of panelization, various fabrication technologies, or other, will permeate into local works and how. AN: Increasing regulation coupled with the growing demand for sustainable design is fueling the proliferation of high-performance enclosure systems. How are Alliiance and StudioNYL addressing this challenge and what lessons can be learned from Minneapolis? JS: To start with, we're trying to set our goals on every project well beyond the minimal baseline of code regulation and treat performance and sustainability as integral components to the design process. Our office is a signatory to the 2030 Commitment which means we're also doing as much measuring as we can so that we can build a living data set to analyze and track trends as we go. The surge in the accessibility of analytical tools is having an impact across the profession, and we're incorporating these tools more frequently and earlier in the process to predict performance and even feedback into the process as a design-driver. Being located in Minneapolis, our frame of reference, of course, is cold climates and all the challenges they bring—so that means we often come to a project with a critical eye towards envelope performance. Marrying these technical demands of thermal performance, durability, and occupant comfort with early design concepts can make for a very rich approach to facade design—an approach that can be a valuable reference outside the region as all buildings become more closely scrutinized for performance. WB: As a firm, we’ve been pursuing sustainable initiatives in our enclosure, as well as in our structural, projects for years. Fortunately, this has become a prevailing sentiment found in not only my ASHRAE committee work where widespread thermal bridging code provisions are near, but also on the job site where the application of thermal break technologies is no longer viewed as a “specialty item."
As a result, “high performance” is being pushed even higher. Our work with Payette on Amherst College’s new Science Center, a 2019 COTE Top Ten award winner, is one shining example of this; while the recladding of the Social Security Administration’s half-century-old HQ we have underway with Snow Kreilich and HGA in Maryland is another.
One of the most compelling byproducts of such works is how quickly these tenets are reaching the mainstream, where I’ve even witnessed firsthand how net-zero and developer-driven goals can align on a mixed-use project. Another collaboration with Pyatt Studio on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation is seeing 21 net zero, low-income homes being built.More information regarding Facades+ Minneapolis can be found here.
Plate tectonics, honeycombs inspire new Denver Botanic Gardens research center.For their new Science Pyramid, the Denver Botanic Gardens sought a design that delivered more than just aesthetic impact. "They wanted an icon, but they also wanted to show an icon can be high performance," said Chris O'Hara, founding principal of Studio NYL. Studio NYL and its SKINS Group worked with architect Burkett Design and longtime Botanic Gardens general contractor GH Phipps to craft a structure to house the institution's conservation and research efforts. "People think of the Botanic Gardens as a beautiful place to go, but what most of them don't realize is what happens behind the scenes," said O'Hara. "The whole concept was to showcase that, and to educate the public not just about what the Botanic Gardens are doing, but a little more about their environment." Clad in a Swisspearl rain screen that serves as both roof and wall, the Science Pyramid's biomimetic design reconsiders the relationship between the built and natural worlds. Tasked with building a pyramidal structure with dynamic glass elements, the Burkett Design team turned to two natural metaphors. The first was the tectonic shifts that created Colorado's mountains, the second, the defensive structures built by honeybees. The geological metaphor influenced the building's form, a twisting, reaching variation on a pyramid designed to take full advantage of its site. The biological metaphor informed the building's skin, dominated by cement composite panels cut into honeycomb-like hexagons. Though they originally imagined a heavily glazed facade, Studio NYL soon realized that transparency would be impractical, given the projection elements involved in the Science Pyramid's exhibits. They opted instead for a rain screen system comprising custom-cut Swisspearl panels. The rain screen reduces thermal gain by venting hot air before it reaches the building. It encases the roof as well as the facade's vertical elements, the second such use of Swisspearl panels worldwide, and the first in the United States. "Here you don't hear about rain screen roofs often," said O'Hara. "Using the technology as a roof system was a little different." Because they still wanted some glass, Studio NYL incorporated electrochromic glazing from View. "They can tune the building—the user has a flip switch to black it out," explained O'Hara. "At the same time, you can have a visual connection to the gardens." To further boost performance, Studio NYL worked with Cosella-Dörkin to layer a UV resistant weather barrier system under the open joint rain screen. "Whereas the form was about this iconic, biomimetic structure, on a technical level, everything was about performance," said O'Hara. Fabrication and installation were complicated by two factors: a compressed timeline, and a need to work around the Botanic Gardens' ongoing operations. To help with the former, the Burkett Design team leaned heavily on digital fabrication, including having the structural steel digitally cut. As for the latter, the construction crew was forced to develop creative solutions to spatial restrictions. "There were a lot of logistical problems given that we were in the center of an active botanic garden," said O'Hara, noting that only machinery below a certain size could be brought to the site. "The primary axis we had could only go up twelve feet, to the extent that we were pushing tree branches out of the way with a broom." The design-build team came through in the end. "It's really quite spectacular," said O'Hara. But while the Science Pyramid achieves the landmark status the Botanic Gardens had hoped for, it nonetheless defers to its context—the gardens themselves. "The building is very oriented to the paths you take," said O'Hara. "Everything has a different moment. If you enter one way, you see the glass spine; if you come another, you see the canopy. It's playing constantly against the juxtaposed landscape."