Green Gets Gold
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 6/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
The National Resources Defense Council in San Francisco needn't pound the drums to promote environmentally responsible workplaces. A tour through its new 19,800-square-foot quarters by Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects is all it takes to get the message.
"NRDC was coming from a bad building," begins LMSA project architect Beth Morris. "There were no operable windows. No fresh air." These commodities were the main draw of the 1927 22-story office building, a historic landmark. Narrow floor plates that optimize ventilation and views, steam radiant heat, and natural light were other attributes.
Lacking, however, was a connection between the U-shape 20th and 21st floors. LMSA rectified the situation with a stairway adjacent to the windows. It was the perfect place to spotlight one of the project's many sustainable products. Resin panels, made of 40 percent postindustrial content and sandwiching thatch, form the stair's guardrails. So appealing was the material that the architects reused it to face the reception desk on the 20th floor.
The previous tenant favored open floor plates, so LMSA didn't have to waste much of the $65-per-square-foot budget on demolition. Instead, they created a 640-square-foot main conference room on the 20th floor and used it to experiment with Alkemi, a sustainable composite. It forms the top of their custom 18-foot-long table.
Another focus of LMSA entailed deploying an aluminum-and-glass storefront system along window walls for 48 private offices. With clear transoms and sidelights flanking bamboo doors, the architects erected full-height glazing.
The LMSA team used the storefront system to integrate storage and inject color. They built out drywall for framing and as surrounds for file cabinets, located in circulation corridors for easy access. They termed the results "thick walls" and coated those of the four quadrants in a different color of non-VOC paint: red and orange are on the east side; lavender and green are on the west.
Supplementing the private offices are 30 open work spaces arranged with careful regard to sight lines. Daylight plus views of the Transamerica Pyramid building to the north and the San Francisco Bay to the south are shared by all.
Planning all but obliterated the need to augment daylight. Whatever artificial lighting is needed is kept to a minimum by virtue of motion sensors and a time clock. Air-conditioning is almost nonexistent; it's installed only for the server and two conference rooms, approximately 10 percent of the overall area.
The project's strong recycling component meant profiting from such inherited conditions as a ceiling with exposed mechanical systems and corridor lighting. LMSA downplayed spatial intrusions but didn't compromise the 12-foot ceiling height—it partially conceals elements with suspended bamboo-plywood panels.
As for furnishings, the NRDC reused most of what it had from its previous quarters. But it did get some new pieces: custom sofas and tables in Forest Stewardship Council–certified sustainable birch. "We made the most with the least," Morris says of the 15-month project, which was awarded a LEED gold rating.
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