High performance and cultural relevance meet in concrete, metal, and steel mesh envelope.For the stakeholders involved in building the new Rev. Avery C. Alexander Academic Research Hospital (also known as University Medical Center, or UMC) in downtown New Orleans, the project was about much more than replacing facilities damaged during Hurricane Katrina. "The grander story is the effort to rebuild New Orleans," recalled NBBJ principal Jose Sama. "There was a lot of emotional attachment to the original hospital, Charity Hospital, and also—rightly so—the pride the community has for the character of the city. Everyone wanted to make sure the project was going to be something that was of New Orleans." In a joint venture with Blitch Knevel Architects, NBBJ rose to the challenge with a design that subtly reflects the city's cultural heritage. The building envelope, a combination of precast concrete, metal panels, high performance glazing, and stainless steel mesh, contributed significantly to both the project's aesthetic aspirations and its performance goals. The overarching concept for UMC, explained Sama, was to "create a performance in place." For the architects, "performance" holds a double meaning. "Performance is embedded in [New Orleans] culture, but this is a more high-level sense of performance," said Sama. "Place," in turn, draws on the city's climate and character. "We looked at various clues in the urban environment and how those could affect the design," said Sama, recalling visits to the hospital's Canal Street neighborhood and the French Quarter. Then, of course, there are the environmental threats made all too clear by the Katrina experience. "We completed [the design] with the understanding that we had to create an envelope that could withstand hurricane-force winds and missile impact," said Sama. "That was an important piece of selecting the glass and the curtain wall system." In fact, most of the damage sustained by Charity Hospital was the result of flooding rather than high winds. As a result, the architects faced a mandate to elevate all critical hospital functions above 22 feet. "We envisioned this as a floating hospital," said Sama. "The notion was that the more public zones, the softer spaces like dining, registration, and the lobbies, would occur at the ground level. Then you move up to an elevated plane of critical services. That way they could function regardless of flooding." The building envelope reflects this programmatic move: The first floor of the central campus structure—the diagnostic and treatment center—is wrapped in a transparent curtain wall with a strong emphasis on the horizontal while the upper, critical floors feature a precast concrete facade. The two other project components, the medical office building and the inpatient towers, offer variations on the theme. The former is clad in an insulated metal panel system, the latter in precast concrete, glass, and stainless steel mesh. A number of subtle gestures connect the hospital exterior to New Orleans' history and culture. One thing Sama noticed on his site visits was that "the notion of the garden is important, and the notion of getting outdoors." With that in mind, the architects created a central entry pavilion "designed such that you have a very pronounced sense of entry created by a porch, or a projecting eave—it almost has the effect of a trellis," said Sama. They also created informal gardens wherever possible. The signature garden, nestled between the towers and the diagnostic center, is water-based, and imagines the seating areas as lily pads floating on a pond. "The idea that here in the middle of New Orleans you find a water-intensive garden was really critical," said Sama. The patient towers, too, embody a strong connection to the outdoors via balconies for patients and staff. Metal scrims in Cambridge Architectural's Mid-Balance architectural mesh simultaneously provide aesthetic interest and fall protection. "We studied what we could do with the scrim," said Sama. "We think we picked just the right scale. It's appropriate for someone sitting on the balcony, but also for someone walking by." The mesh panels produce a "soft veil effect," he observed. "In the morning light, it glistens. The intent was to create a memory of Mardi Gras beads, in terms of color and glistening. People will pick up on that different times of day." Cambridge Architectural contributed to several other elements of the project. Mesh fins in the Scale pattern are attached with a custom cable tensioning system to the upper levels of the patient towers, to provide solar shading. On the parking garage portion, designed by Blitz Knevel Architects, 86 panels of Scale mesh again add both visual impact and fall protection without compromising ventilation. On the south elevation of the garage leading to the UMC helipad, a custom-built shade mesh fin system cuts solar gain and glare. Many of the references embedded in the new UMC hospital—the way in which the towers' orientations recall traditional New Orleans shotgun houses, or the connection between the stainless steel mesh and Mardi Gras beads—are so understated as to operate on almost a subliminal level. But like the city itself, the building comes alive at night, finally, and literally, revealing its true colors. "The building from the outside is very neutral," explained Sama. But thanks to accent colors on the inpatient tower stairs, revealed through translucent glass, plus accent lighting on the bulkheads above, after dark the towers shine, he explained. "The whole point was that at night they would glow with color from within."
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Ultra efficient curtain wall system marries transparency and sustainability.For some institutions, building "sustainably" means doing the bare minimum—checking the boxes of government or in-house requirements and then moving on. Such was not the case at Colorado State University, where campus officials aspired to a higher standard for the new Suzanne and Walter Scott, Jr. Bioengineering Building. Though mandated by state law to achieve LEED Gold on new construction, the dean urged the architects—design architect RATIO Architects and architect of record Hord Coplan Macht (previously SLATERPAULL)—to aim for Platinum. At the same time, school authorities placed an extra emphasis on a tight envelope, having had difficulty maintaining pressurization in another recently-constructed facility. Thanks to a combination of an ultra-efficient curtain wall system, spray foam insulation, and exterior and interior sunshades, the designers exceeded the client's performance expectations without sacrificing the program's focus on visibility and connectivity. The ultimate goal of achieving LEED Platinum directly shaped the facade of the classroom and office building. "[The dean] wanted to get to Platinum," recalled Hord Coplan Macht's Jennifer Cordes. "We knew the only way to get there was if we had a significant building envelope designed to add photovoltaics." The PV panels themselves would have to wait, due to budget constraints. In the meantime, Hord Coplan Macht focused on two other challenges: the desire to prevent any loss of pressurization; and the need to rectify the design architect's vision of a glass box with the reality of the Colorado climate. "When we added these issues together, we had to get creative with the building envelope," said Cordes, who also acknowledged the role local municipal rebates played in incentivizing a high-performance design. The design concept for the Suzanne and Walter Scott, Jr. Building, said Cordes, "was to create the space in between. The space between the research laboratories and the student classrooms was really where the students were going to learn from the researchers." The architects arranged the labs along the north side of the building; faculty offices and teaching spaces line the south elevation. The programmatic separation allowed them to sequester the two components' mechanical systems—a boon to efficiency—and to carve the center of the building into a naturally-ventilated three-story atrium that is a perfect space for casual interactions among students, faculty, and staff. Elsewhere, the focus on connecting students with faculty and researchers is materialized in large expanses of glass. Hord Coplan Macht's principal challenge was to rectify the emphasis on transparency with the mandate to minimize thermal gain. "We started to look at the window to wall ratio," recalled Cordes. "Our first [number] was outrageous. [So we looked] at how we could insulate a curtain wall system and get an R-value of 20 even within that." The solution, which the architects developed in concert with Kawneer, involved back-panning, adding polyiso behind all the spandrel glass to effectively decrease the window to wall ratio. They then added a sheet metal back-panning system inside the curtain wall frame for vapor barrier, plus insulation and GWB. Large panes of stone backed with spray foam insulation provided additional energy savings. "Spray foam insulation is very cost-effective, and you get a high R-value per inch," explained Cordes. "It allowed us to get some significant walls into our system." On the vulnerable south facade, the architects deployed both external and internal sunshades. On the exterior, an integrated sunscreen helps cut back on solar gain. On the interior, the designers sloped the ceilings to help bounce light into the space. The internal light louvers they used, which Cordes compares to "good-looking mini blinds," are "pretty impressive and work really well," she said. The interior shading system "managed the glare and also increased the daylighting, pushing light deeper into the space." All of the exterior glass carries a low-e coating, but the architects chose a higher visibility glass for use on the south facade, to further enhance daylighting. Installing the thermally broken Kawneer 1600 curtain wall system proved trickier than Hord Coplan Macht had anticipated, said Cordes, in part because the contractors—working during the winter—installed the back panning from the inside out, rather than the reverse. But the extra coordination was well worth it, as the project's LEED scores and post-occupancy energy and water use data have demonstrated. "With the caveat that the building is being used a little more than was projected in the model, it's performing better" than expected, said Hord Coplan Macht's Ara Massey. "Per the facilities manager, it's one of the best performing buildings on campus." For Cordes, no reward could be greater. "I think the one [thing] we're most proud of is that it's performing so well," she said.
Wood siding and high performance glazing invite nature into the workplace.For their new headquarters in Wilmington, North Carolina, Live Oak Bank's leadership sought a design that reflected the institution's unique culture, particularly its focus on cultivating meaningful relationships with both customers and employees. "Their employees work hard," reflected LS3P's Laura Miller, whose firm was selected to design the building after a small local competition. "The folks who run Live Oak Bank want to recognize that." At the same time, she said, "they wanted it to be somewhat unassuming as well. They want to just quietly go about their business, and be the best at what they do." The architects' solution, a two-story U-shaped structure clad in local cypress and high performance glass, gives equal measure to both concerns. Plentiful glazing maximizes daylighting and views for occupants, while the long wood facades are designed to reflect attention back to the natural environment, further integrating the building into the site as the material weathers. The headquarters building's previously undeveloped site was a perfect fit for the project brief. Located in the heart of the city, the parcel is nonetheless adjacent to a nature preserve. "It's a little island of tranquility in the middle of Wilmington," said Miller. "It's convenient, but once you enter it, you feel like you're in a secluded, calm environment." Unlike the traditional office block, LS3P arranged the interior program in a U shape around a central courtyard. "It's not the most efficient in terms of square footage, but the bank wanted every single employee to have beautiful views either to the lake or to the grove of live oak trees," explained Miller. Courtyard terraces, decks, and a full-length second-floor balcony can be used as workspaces on nice days, and further encourage a dialogue between indoors and out. In light of Live Oak Bank's desire for a building that blends into the natural environment, the architects gravitated toward wood siding. "We looked at quite a few images with different types of wood," said Miller. "Cedar is often used for building exteriors, but it's not something you find naturally here in eastern North Carolina." Instead, LS3P chose cypress, a local product that ages gracefully. Because they had a contractor on board right away, the architects were able to construct a series of mockup walls on the site even before it was cleared, demonstrating the appearance of the siding at installation, after one year, and after ten years. Per the client's wishes, LS3P designed the bank headquarters to provide every employee with daylighting and views. But the large amount of glazing that resulted presented a potential problem with thermal gain, especially on the south-facing facade. The architects selected a high performance glass, further protecting against glare and solar gain with fixed sunshades. Tested through a series of sun studies in Revit, the airfoil-shaped shades are integrated directly into the curtain wall system. Interior motorized blinds provide an additional layer of environmental control. On the stair towers and at the main entry, the architects offset the wood siding with grey metal panels. "The company is growing so quickly that we were constantly adjusting the design to accommodate more people," said Miller, noted that the project's square footage more than doubled between concept and construction. "The two legs of the U got pretty long. We wanted to break up the long horizontal facade, but we didn't want it to be jarring." Instead, the metal panels match the curtain wall framing and stucco base, maintaining the project's neutral palette. Live Oak Bank's new home does not look like the headquarters of a national bank. Rather, it looks like a comfortable place to work and visit, a place where ego takes a backseat to service. Fortunately, that is exactly what the project's clients—and its architects—wanted. "It's not a typical bank where people just drive through and get their cash," said Miller. "Their bank is really more about customer service and employee satisfaction."
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.
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."
Newport Beach's central government complex emphasizes transparency, sustainability.Bohlin Cywinski Jackson's (BCJ) Newport Beach Civic Center is in one sense classically Southern Californian. With its light steel structure, plentiful windows, emphasis on indoor-outdoor spaces, and roofline inspired by ocean waves, it evokes a timeless delight in Pacific coast living. But it also represents something new, both for the city of Newport Beach and for civic architecture more generally. Built on a marshy site that had previously been written off as uninhabitable, the LEED Gold Civic Center and adjacent 16-acre park, designed by BCJ in cooperation with PWP Landscape Architecture, acts as a different kind of anchor for the automobile-oriented community. "It was shaped in part by a desire to create a great public space," said principal in charge Greg Mottola. "How do you make an urban civic space in the context of the suburbs?" The architects choreographed the Civic Center's entry sequence to transition from highway speeds to the pedestrian scale. The freestanding Council Chambers sits at the entrance to the complex, its white Gore-tex fabric "sail" doing double duty as sunshade and visual trademark. "The sail was really a way to help people understand the Civic Center at 40 miles per hour," said project manager Steve Chaitow. "You turn in there, and as you slow down the scale of the project begins to become more fine-grained." Past the Council Chambers and neighboring community room is the long, low City Hall building, which upends the traditional emphasis on monumentality in favor of democracy. "One of the key issues was the metaphorical and literal transparency of government," said Chaitow. The focus on transparency is expressed both in City Hall's plan, which eschews a grand lobby in favor of outdoor circulation and separate entrances for each department, and its glass facade. To create a public front porch for the building, BCJ covered each bay with a curved roof composed of whitewashed hemlock soffit on a steel frame. The panels provide crucial shading for the east-facing curtain wall, which opens onto the Civic Green. "That roof overhang is 20-30 feet, it's really out there," said Chaitow. "That's what allowed us to have this facade of glass and not pay a penalty." Custom horizontal aluminum louvers on the curtain wall's lower level furnish additional protection against thermal gain. The architects worked with Arup to study the structure blade by blade, to maximize shading without sacrificing visibility. The aluminum extrusions were also designed to stand off the curtain wall, to facilitate window washing. For ventilation, BCJ installed operable clerestory windows between each pair of roof panels. The windows run on an automated system and let in an even northern light that often negates the need for artificial lighting. "A big pull for the client and for us was to try to make this building responsive to its location," said Mottola. "It's been a pretty successful change for them as far as changing the culture at City Hall." Vertical aluminum louvers over City Hall's clerestory windows and other north-facing glazing prevent interior lights from disturbing the neighbors at night. The back-of-house spaces, including conference rooms and patios for staff, are gathered along an open circulation path along the west side of the building. The emphasis on common space prompted the mayor to remark, "I have met more of our City Staff in two weeks here than I did in seven years in our old city hall." Two of the Civic Center's other structures, the Council Chambers and community room, which both feature large sliding glass doors, are partially clad in stone. "We wanted to use some stone because it has a nice relationship to the concept of civic building, but we wanted to use it selectively," said Mottola. Brazilian marble was used on portions of the Council Chambers envelope, while the community room is wrapped in French limestone. The slightly darker French limestone serves to make the community room more recessive, highlighting the Council Chambers. At the same time, the location of the community room within the Civic Center as a whole reveals that it may be the complex's most important building. "The first project you see as you slow down when entering the Civic Center is the city's 'living room,'" said Chaitow. "That's intentional. Symbolically, it was important as a gesture about twenty-first century democracy."
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."
Sustainability and high design meet in Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects' affordable housing complex.Designing a sustainable building on a budget is tricky enough. But for the Merritt Crossing senior housing complex in Oakland, California, non-profit developer Satellite Affordable Housing Associates upped the ante, asking Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects to follow not one but two green-building ratings systems. "They wanted to push the envelope of what they typically do and decided to pursue not only the LEED rating, but also the GreenPoint system," said principal Richard Stacy. "So we actually did both, which is kind of crazy." Wrapped in a colorful cement-composite rain screen system punctuated by high performance windows, Merritt Crossing achieved LEED for Homes Mid-Rise Pilot Program Platinum and earned 206 points on the Build-It-Green GreenPoint scale. The building was also the first Energy Star Rated multi-family residence in California, and was awarded 104 points by Bay-Friendly Landscaping. Merritt Crossing’s 70 apartments serve low-income seniors with incomes between 30 and 50 percent of the area median. More than half of the units are reserved for residents at risk of homelessness or living with HIV/AIDS. Stacy explains that in the context of affordable housing, sustainability means two things. The first is quality of life for the residents, "the sorts of things that have a direct benefit to the people living there," such as natural daylighting and indoor air quality. The second is energy efficiency. "Both non-profits and [their] residents have limited financial capabilities," said Stacy. "The one time they have funding for that kind of thing is when they’re building a building. So we focused a lot on the building envelope in terms of energy efficiency. At the same time, we wanted to have ample daylight and controlled ventilation.” Finding themselves with unused contingency funds during construction Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects upgraded the exterior skin to a rain screen system of SWISSPEARL cement composite. "We worked pretty closely with the SWISSPEARL company," said Stacy, who noted that Merritt Crossing may be the first building in the United States to use the system. Though the panels are installed like lap siding they offer "the benefits of a rain screen in terms of cooling and waterproofing issues," he explained. To accommodate the thicker skin, window manufacturer Torrance Aluminum designed custom trim pieces, which "had the added benefit of giving us the appearance of deeply recessed windows," said Stacy. Insulation was a special concern for the architects, both because Merritt Crossing was built using metal frame construction, and to minimize air infiltration in keeping with the green ratings systems. The building’s exterior walls are wrapped in 1-inch-thick high performance polyiso insulation from Dow Corning with a Grace Perm-A-Barrier VPS vapor permeable membrane. "As a result we ended up with a very, very tight building from an air insulation standpoint, which means you have to pay more attention to air ventilation," said Stacy. To compensate, Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects’ mechanical engineers designed a special air filtration system for the building’s roof, complete with built-in HEPA filters. The building’s southwest facade faces a freeway, presenting potential noise and privacy issues in addition to exposure to the western sun. "We did a highly layered facade on that [side] where the actual exterior wall is back three to four feet from another screen wall," said Stacy. The outer wall "is a combination of typical wall assembly as well as GreenScreen panels that form a webbing of open areas and solid areas that help with sunshading as well as acoustical [dampening] and privacy." Greenery in balcony planters will eventually grow up and over the screens. On the ground floor, the garage is also enclosed in GreenScreen trellising, to enhance pedestrians’ view without sacrificing ventilation. Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects’ Merritt Crossing proves that affordable housing does not have to look institutional. The facade’s vibrant colors—green on the northeast elevation, red on the southwest—and playful punched texture pay homage to the neighborhood’s patchwork of architectural styles and building uses. The first major building in the planned redevelopment of the area around the Lake Merritt BART regional transit station, Merritt Crossing sets the bar high for future developments.