Architectural sleight of hand transforms a FEMA safe room from bunker to glass box.Tasked with designing a community center on a shoestring budget, Des Moines–based ASK Studio was unsure how to fit the program to the project's finances. Then an attendee at a community feedback session suggested applying for FEMA funds to build a combination community room and storm shelter. The FEMA tie-in solved the money problem, but it created an aesthetic challenge. The architects had originally diagrammed the community center, sited atop a central knoll in a large park in Urbandale, Iowa, as a connection point that would orient visitors without obstructing views. When the project was redefined as a safe room, said ASK's Brent Schipper, "I just cringed, because how do you have a transparent node that's also a tornado shelter? I thought, 'We're going to make a bunker, and pretend it works as the node of the centerpiece of the park.'" Luckily, Schipper's gut reaction proved wrong. A triumph of architectural sleight of hand, ASK's Giovannetti Community Shelter is built evidence that "welcoming safe room" is not an oxymoron. The modified program in place, the architects began by asking themselves, "How do you achieve transparency when all you have is concrete walls?" said Schipper. They turned first to the roof line, adding a sense of weightlessness with a broad overhang above a picnic area. Though not part of the shelter function—it would likely shear off in the event of a serious storm—the overhang plays an important role in the structure's aesthetic identity. Thanks to the canopy, "there are parts of the building that are light," said Schipper. "You can't tell it was a concrete box." A second gesture further forestalls any temptation to identify Giovannetti Community Shelter with Cold War-era bunker architecture. A glass storefront (again not included in the shelter program) encloses the walkway connecting the shelter room to the rest of the park. "When you use the building, you're always circulating in the corridor, so you're always visually connected to the park," said Schipper. "The glass belies the fact that the room you were just in is a storm shelter." The curtain wall also defines the building's exterior appearance, particularly on the south side. "What you see from the south elevation is a mostly glass structure with these very minimal roof lines," said Schipper. The tornado shelter itself was constructed from a 12-inch-thick precast concrete roof and wall panels. To keep the room from feeling too closed-off, ASK initially sketched in storm doors between the protected space and the glass corridor. Then the architects heard about Insulgard, whose tornado-safe windows had recently received FEMA approval. The architects ditched the door idea and instead installed safety windows (approximately 1 1/2 inches thick) on both the exterior walls and the wall between the shelter and the corridor. "[The design] would not have worked if you were in that room and you never had any glimpses of the outside," said Schipper. "I was amazed by the technology of the storm windows." Though ASK faced several challenges in designing the Giovannetti Community Shelter, none of the firm’s solutions were overly complicated. "In the end, it's a very simple parti," said Schipper. "We were staking all of the drama, all of the messaging, on two moves: the overhang of the roof, and the transparency of the glass facade. When you back away, it's like, 'you only did two things.' But those two things are particularly unique to the fact that it's a tornado shelter."
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In the midst of Greenbuild's International Conference & Expo, held from November 18–22 in Philadelphia, AN sought out the newest and most innovative sustainable building products. We found attractive new finishes and furnishings, including a new chair derived from carbon polymers, and a plethora of building components that aim to harness the Earth's energy for optimal building performance. Green Roofing Xero Flor America This vegetated green roofing solution (above) rolls out in a mat system for easy application, as well as rapid access for repairs. Each 40-inch wide panel is comprised of a root barrier, drain mat, water retention fleece, growing medium, and pre-vegetated layer of sedum. Also known as stonecrop, each order is grown in one of Xero Flor's six regional fields, so living roofs are acclimated to the installation environment and contribute to local LEED credits. Ecoflex Mortise Lock Assa Abloy The Ecoflex Mortise Lock runs on only 10 Watts of energy, whereas standard electrified locks draw nearly twice the wattage. Used as a stand-alone electronic access control or in conjunction with a wall reader, the reduced power draw cuts operating costs and its actuator reduces the risk of failure from voltage drops. Basotect BASF Basotect is made from an open-cell melamine resin foam, a thermoset polymer that does not contain mineral fibers. It is comprised of 99 percent air for maximum sound absorbancy and low density (read: lightweight) in corporate, education, civic, and institutional applications. Smog-Eating Tile Boral Suitable for both commercial and residential applications, concrete roofing tiles feature an embedded finish that converts nitrogen oxide from the air into inert compounds. For a recommended 3-inch headlap, approximately 89 tiles will cover 100 square feet. Six colorways are available in three profiles. Fleece-BACK PVC Membrane Carlisle SynTec Systems To bolster durability and the PVC membrane's puncture resistance, a layer of fleece backing adds thickness up to 135 mils and improves wind-uplift performance when bonded to an adhesive. Specified as part of a comprehensive roofing system, the membrane can help contribute to LEED points, as it did on the South Terrace of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh. AirRenew CertainTeed CertainTeed's new gypsum board features embedded air purifying technology that captures formaldehyde and other aldehydes, converts them into inert compounds, and stores the particulates within the board for 75 years. Water-based acrylic and epoxy paints or breathable wallpaper will not affect efficacy, and AirRenew can be recycled at the end of its useful life. Enverge Cavity Wall Firestone Building Products Firestone adapted its polyisocyanite roofing technology and its insular properties for the vertical surfaces of a building with the Enverge Cavity Wall system. When combined, a suite of products—including a continuous insulation exterior wall insulation, air and vapor barrier, and thru-wall flashing—stops thermal bridging and optimizes building envelope performance according to ASHRAE standards. Reveal Glass Guardian Industries Guardian Industries' switchable glass features an interlayer of liquid crystals laminated between two sheets of glass that, when exposed to an electrical current, reconfigures floating molecules into a transparent grid pattern that appears clear to the naked eye. When the system is off, the molecules rest in a disorganized, natural state that lends opacity to the glass. The line is available in any of Guardian's color offerings, standard textures, and Berman Glass editions. 1630 SS ISO Kawneer Kawneer addresses the growing frequency of high-impact weather systems with a curtain wall designed to withstand hurricane and tornado conditions. The system has withstood blast mitigation testing, ASTM testing, and met building code standards for Florida's hurricane-prone Miami-Dade County, all with a reduced U-factor to meet current energy code demands. Grazie with AirCarbon KI KI's Grazie stacking chair was reimagined in a bio-based polymer(above)—AirCarbon—from California-based Newlight Technologies. A patented production method isolates carbon molecules from naturally occurring chemical compounds, converts them to a liquid state, and bonds them with polymers for a carbon-negative thermoplastic that can be substituted for oil-based plastics. Benchmark Kingspan Panels finished in ACM, MCM, ceramic, brick, and more feature polyisocyanates to eliminate thermal bridging, and a built-in vapor barrier for an air-tight building skin. Kingspan has developed EPDs for all Benchmark panels, which are also UL listed. MagnaShade MechoSystems Mechosystem's interior daylight management—in both manual and automated systems—is available in lengths as long as 40 feet for uninterrupted glare and heat gain mitigation, and the elimination of light gaps. A slim profile on the 6 1/2-inch housing cassette can be installed flush within a ceiling or soffit, or wall mounted. PermaLED Area Light Osram Sylvania Operating at 90, 140, or 200 Watts of power, the PermaLED luminaire for outdoor use generates a 57 percent energy savings when compared to HID lamps. Available with a standard photosensor or a dual-technology motion and photocontrol sensor, the latter provides up to 10kV surge protection. SPEEDHIDE zero PPG This topcoat paint contains no VOCs, formaldehyde, crystalline silica or ethylene glycol. Anti-microbial properties also help inhibit growth of mold and mildew on paint film. SPEEDHIDE zero is GreenGuard Gold certified and meets standards for California's South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD). Harmony Sherwin-Williams Once this interior acrylic latex paint dries, a propriety chemical compound neutralizes aldehydes in the surrounding environment without the presence of a catalyst. Harmony, and 50 percent of Sherwin-Williams' paint offerings, have been certified GreenGuard Gold and contribute to LEED points under Version 4 revisions. ThermaCork Eco Supply Made from the bark of the quercus suber tree, ThermaCork features the inherent dimensional stability, water resistance, fire retardant properties, and acoustical isolation of cork, without additives. To form panels, the sap of the cork bark, or suberin, is heated to a liquid state and, once cooled, binds particles in place. The panels can also be applied as insulation.