The Government Canyon Visitor Center by Lake|Flato Architects, An AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Project in 2007, floats in a field of native grasses and restored oaks at the mouth of the canyon, forming a gat...
Entrance to the building, including salvaged wood and concrete repurposed from the renovated warehouse Photograph: Frank Ooms After 10 years of leasing space in a suburban office building, the Livestrong Foundation found its permanent home in the 1950s-era Gulf Coast Paper Co. (GPC) warehouse in East Austin, an underserved community in the process of revitalization.
The adaptive reuse of the GCP warehouse transformed the concrete tilt-wall building to provide office space, meeting rooms, multi-use facilities, an in-house gym, an open-air courtyard, and parking for the staff of 62. Ongoing plans call for adding a community-based cancer-support program to provide direct services, with an emphasis on uninsured and underinsured East Austin residents.
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FALLINGWATER Edited by Lynda Waggoner
Satellite image and series of photos illustrate the conditions at the site before the project began Image courtesy of Lake|Flato ArchitectsThe building is situated on an inner-city, culturally diverse, and underserved neighborhood at the intersection of East 6th and Robert Martinez. The site was selected to take advantage of existing and new multi-modal transportation in the heart of Austin, including pedestrian, bus, rail, and bike. Its southern boundary is defined by Austin’s new commuter rail and the Lance Armstrong Bikeway, a six-mile bike path that enables bicyclists to travel east and west through downtown. Main entrance to the building Photograph: Hester + Hardaway and Ten Eyck Landscape Architects The 30,000 ft2 "block" floor plate created challenges in providing the desired daylight and views for the foundation staff. This challenge was intensified as the building's zero-lot line relationship with the site's eastern boundary prevented the introduction of window openings. The south façade adjoins the freight railroad right-of-way, also used as a commuter rail and cyclist thoroughfare. Achieving LEED Gold certification, the project reflects the LiveStrong mission "to inspire and empower people affected by cancer."
The foundation went through a careful process in selecting the site of its new home. Several options were evaluated. The final selection was made in large part due to the foundation's desire to relocate into a currently underserved portion of the East Austin community, bringing new life and value to an area long neglected. An extensive feasibility analysis of the property was performed prior to purchase, ensuring that the existing structure was compatible with the intended use. This sped the process of early design work, as much was understood about the building from the start.
Site plan and floor layout Courtesy of Lake|Flato ArchitectsSpace designed for staff and visitors to use Photograph: Hester + Hardaway While there was a clear desire for a highly interactive, collaborative space without walls, the differing departments had entirely different needs, even when sharing immediate relationships between each other.
The designers carefully arranged the little blocks of support space to create a "village" of flexible, interconnected spaces within the shell of the warehouse. A village of distinct but interrelated department "neighborhoods" utilizing carefully arranged common-use support space areas and a "main street" circulation spine for staff and visitors alike.
The site is surrounded by the older commercial urban streetscape typical of gritty East Austin, industrial rail, and a low-income 1920s era bungalow neighborhood. The integrated design team wanted to be careful not to “upstage” the neighborhood with a flashy re-development. Instead, a balance of open space, landscape, and welcoming entries fits the scale and context of the place. Graffiti art will soon adorn the façades as part of an invited effort to add richness, texture, and a touch of East Austin culture. Space designed for staff and visitors to use Photograph: Hester + Hardaway The old paper warehouse included a small, asphalt-covered parking area that was fenced in with eight-foot chain-link fencing and barbed wire immediately adjacent to the pedestrian walkways on the north and west sides. This area provided security for employee parking but also had a damaging effect on the character of the overall streetscape. The asphalt and fencing were removed. A new “front porch” entry courtyard was designed to join a new pervious parking area and native landscape between the street and the building. Parking area before and after the renovation. Photographs: Hester + Hardaway and Ten Eyck Landscape Architects Precast panels removed from the old building to create the new entry were reused to scale down and define the property while creating a welcoming relationship to the pedestrian streetscape. Native plants were used exclusively, and they provide shade, water, and urban habitat for birds, butterflies, and people.
The old truck loading dock on the western street frontage was transformed into an accessible multi-use space featuring visual connectivity and solar screening.
The Foundation’s largest meeting room is designed to be accessible independently through a small entry garden, and is made available daily to local community groups for meetings and functions. The small parking area is designed to accommodate a variety of public outdoor events.
Water Conservation and Use
In an urban context, the site area for landscaping is comparatively small. However, the design team sought to create pockets of green native plants that would provide much-needed shade and habitat as attractors for birds, butterflies, and people. As vines take hold, green screens and shade arbors provide cooling micro-climates at the building entry points. The design for the primary entry court provides a small water basin under the dappled shade of an arbor for wildlife, as well as a calming trickle. Native plants like those seen in these photos provide shade and wildlife habitat while reducing the amount of water needed for irrigation. Photograph: Ten Eyck Landscape Architects Landscaping and irrigation systems are designed to reduce irrigation water consumption by 66.63%. The project is designed to consume 53.8% less water indoors than a typical building of its size by employing high-efficiency faucets and showers, and both low-flow and reduced-flow toilets.
The existing asphalt-covered parking was removed to make way for pervious surface, tree-shaded parking, and reduced stormwater runoff and heat island effect.
Details and infrastructure are in place for seamless integration of Phase II plans for rainwater harvesting as funding sources become available.
Embodied Carbon and Energy. More than 80% of the existing warehouse structure was kept intact in adapting this structure for reuse. This represents an equal reduction in carbon impacts associated with manufacture, transportation, and installation of new materials. Significant embodied carbon reductions were realized through the careful reuse of demolished material and recycling of construction waste. Photograph: Hester + HardawayOperating Energy. The newly adapted facilities are designed to use 39.5% less operating energy than a comparable office building.
Lighting. Electric lighting loads are reduced significantly through the integration of effective daylighting. The design incorporates extensive north-facing saw-tooth clerestories, introducing diffused natural daylight into the open office space within the structure. This strategy virtually eliminates the need for artificial lighting during the daytime hours.
Controls. Automated lighting controls adjust light levels to daylight conditions. Highly efficient ambient lighting is designed to provide minimum light levels for evening hours, as workspace task lighting supplements light levels for 100% of the building occupants as needed. This building section diagram and series of photos illustrate daylighting design intent and strategies. North-facing sawtooth clerestories provide ample daylight to the workspace while affording views to the sky and a sense of being outdoors while inside. Using Maxwell Render, the design team was able to explore the visual qualities of the natural daylight under various envelope designs to provide comparative analysis Illustration courtesy of Lake|Flato Architects
The existing warehouse’s footprint is 30,000 ft2 and orients with its longer axis along a north-south grid line. The old warehouse was nearly devoid of windows or other openings, other than a large, two-bay truck loading dock facing the western sun. Historic building requirements dictated maintenance of the existing western façade and prevented shading elements from being applied beyond the existing building envelope. The flex space seen here was formerly a loading dock Photograph: Hester + Hardaway In response to these existing conditions, the design team re-oriented the building’s approach and solar access from the west towards the north and Sixth Street, allowing for access to diffuse north light. The existing loading dock was adapted into a side entry, incorporating a vine-covered buffer for handicapped access on the west-facing Robert Martinez (side-street) frontage. This solar buffering zone adjoins an internal multi-use space (former loading area), filters light, mitigates glare, and reduces heat gains from the low western sun during hot Texas afternoons.
An effective thermal envelope was established. Insulation was added to both the walls and the roof, and saw-toothed north-facing clerestory windows were added to harvest natural light while shielding the interior from the heat gains associated with the direct light of the harsh Texas sun.
Materials & Resources
Gathering spaces are defined by "crates" like this one; the structures are made of repurposed wood from the warehouse Photograph: Casey Dunn The foundation’s collaborative work style allowed the design team to configure an open, flexible space that greatly reduces the amount of material to be used, maintained, and adapted over time. Use of salvaged wood framing material for new support spaces eliminated the need to import new materials onto the site. These elements stand independently from the building’s structure and mechanical systems and may be repositioned or adapted for future uses as the foundation’s programmatic requirements demand.
87.65% of the existing building shell materials demolished for the new facilities were reused on site. Pine from the roof structure were reused for the “crates”, composite beams were transformed into benches and furnishings, while demolished concrete tilt-wall, which was re-cut and used as paving and landscape walls. As a result, 66% of the construction waste was diverted from the landfill. 28% of the remaining material came from within 500 miles.
Design for Adaptability to Future Uses
The building has an open layout modeled after a "main street" thoroughfare, with a variety of structures intended for various uses Photograph: Hester + Hardaway The core challenge for the architect was to design a space that accommodated differing work requirements while maintaining open office flexibility and “loose fit.” The open plan incorporates a variety of flexible-use common meeting spaces built using salvaged framing from the roof. Combined with special-use workrooms, these structures became the warehouse-inspired box “crates” that organize around a main circulation loop, presenting a front door relationship to the metaphorical “main street” dotted with open “park-like” break areas. This seeming ad-hoc arrangement mimics an urban landscape, defining a variety of interrelated neighborhoods of open workspace.
The combination of workspaces creates department areas according to programmatic needs and relationships to other departments. The “crate” structures are free-standing and operate independently of mechanical system and lighting infrastructure to allow flexibility of future adaptations and arrangements over time.
Photograph: Casey Dunn A simple trench chase cut into the existing slab provides access to power and cabling throughout to accommodate future adaptations.
A single kitchen and the adjacent “whole staff” multi-use space serve as the heart of the space, and ensure that folks from different departments’ paths cross daily as opposed to being self-contained within each department.
Indoor Environment Providing invigorating natural light to the interior was a major design focus for the team. The existing warehouse footprint and solid concrete walls presented a particular challenge to creating a well lit interior. In order to allow for the most engaging open office environment, the team replaced the roof’s center bays with north-facing clerestory windows that harvest ample diffused daylight for the core workspace (providing up to 90fc at summer noon).
Low-glare northern sky views provide visual connectedness to the outdoors, interesting cloud watching, star gazing at night, and the vibrant environment desired by the hardworking staff.
99.35% of the regularly occupied space is effectively daylit and 97.30% of the regularly occupied space has access to views.
The project is recipient of the 2011 AIA COTE Awards, and the article is an abbreviated version of the one posted on AIA’s web site.
Photograph: Hester + HardLocation: Austin, Texas Building type(s): Commercial office Renovation Indoor Area : 28,300 ft2 (2,630 m2) Lot size: 39,900 ft2 Cost of construction : approximately $130/ft2 Occupation: 62 people, 40 hours per person per week; and 800 visitors per week, 2 hours per visitor per week Project scope: a single building Urban setting Completed February 2009 Rating: U.S. Green Building Council LEED-NC, v.2.2--Level: Gold
Architect: Robert Harris, Lake|Flato Architects in San Antonio, Texas http://www.lakeflato.com/
Owner/developer: Greg Lee, Livestrong Foundation in Austin, Texas, http://www.livestrong.org/ Contractor: SpawMaxwell http://www.spawmaxwell.com/home.html
Landscape architect: Christine Ten Eyck, Ten Eyck Landscape Architects http://www.teneyckla.com/TX/indexTX.html Lighting designer: Christina Brown, Mechanical engineer, ACR Engineering in Austin, Texas http://www.acreng.com/index.html Structural engineer: Architectural Engineers Collaborative http://www.aecollab.com/ Civil engineer: Baker-Aicklen & Associates in Texas http://www.baker-aicklen.com/ Environmental building consultant: Gail Vittori, Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems in Austin, Texas http://www.cmpbs.org/ Interior designer: The Bommarito Group http://www.bommaritogroup.com/