A Forlorn Corporate Center is Brought to the Forefront of Sustainable Design

Connecting the Indoors to Outside

It took a clever act of repositioning to take full advantage of the existing building’s intrinsic value despite all its flaws, but doing so had major benefits in sustainability. By using previously developed land instead of a greenfield site, there was minimal environmental impact caused by demolition and construction. Materials from the old building, including the exterior ornamental steel and many of the steel and concrete structural elements inside, could be recycled and reused instead of scrapped.

BEFORE: The original building's steel did not weather properly and created unappealing rust stains on the facade.

BEFORE: The original building’s steel did not weather properly and created unappealing rust stains on the facade.

What emerged from the design team’s creative efforts is a beautiful, 277,000-square-foot office building with an innovative and eye-catching design that is almost entirely constructed of products made by Saint-Gobain and its family of companies. To create Saint-Gobain’s desired “iconic” image, Core and Shell Architect BERNARDON, Kennett Square, Pa., developed a curved glass facade partially inspired by the Saint-Gobain Pavilion at the 1937 Paris World’s Fair, paying homage to its identity as a historic French company.

The dramatic, two-axis curve gives the impression of an arm reaching out to embrace visitors. This quintessential effect is heightened by the use of electrochromic glass, which automatically adjusts the level of transmitted light based on the desired illumination, glare or temperature conditions in the space.

Curving around a spacious outdoor area conceived to enhance casual interaction, the campus has a simultaneously trans- parent and embracing ambience. To maximize the use of the site’s natural features and give Saint-Gobain the desired outdoor amenities, the team added exterior design features, including a patio adjacent to the pond, terrace at main entry level with canopy and an open-air amphitheater that provides a relaxing outdoor meeting environment with a beautiful cascading step fountain.

The interiors were designed to reflect the collaborative culture of the company and provide the best possible working experience for employees. The abundance of glass on the exterior provides occupants constant access to natural daylight and beautiful views. The existing lobby was recreated with the addition of a massive skylight, transforming an old atrium into a much brighter usable space that is so spacious and attractive it has been considered as a potential venue for future company functions.

Sustainability through Innovation

This board room's glass is Saint-Gobain’s PRIVA-LITE, an active glass that can be switched from clear to opaque via a range of wall switches, remote controls, movement sensors, light sensors or timers.

This board room’s glass is Saint-Gobain’s PRIVA-LITE, an active glass that can be switched from clear to opaque via a range of wall switches, remote controls, movement sensors, light sensors or timers.


It was essential the project emphasize Saint-Gobain and CertainTeed’s commitment to sustainability. The project was designed to achieve the highest certification level in the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program, and representatives from USGBC and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, spoke glowingly at the grand opening about the building’s sustainable features.

Additionally, the building is a living showcase of the innovative and sustain- able products produced by Saint-Gobain and its corporate partners. (See the “Materials” sidebar, below.)

The new headquarters not only is a model of environmental sustainability, it is an inspiring story of how technology and design are products of their time. Fifty years ago, the original building was a testament to cutting-edge corporate design that over time has become obso- lete. Years later, thanks to a visionary and dedicated team, this dinosaur was rebuilt into a beautiful and efficient masterpiece, bringing it once again to the forefront of cutting-edge design.

Retrofit Team

Developer Team: E. Kahn development, Downington, Pa., (610) 873-5585; J. Loew & Associates, Downingtown; and Aegon Realty USA Advisors LLC, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

In addition to the main cafeteria, there are more intimate break spaces throughout the facility.

In addition to the main cafeteria, there are many intimate break spaces, like this, throughout the facility.

Core and Shell Architect: BERNARDON, Kennett Square, Pa.
Interiors Architect: Jacobs, Philadelphia
Site Engineering: Nave Newell Inc., Wayne, Pa.
LEED and Sustainability Consultant: The Sheward Partnership, Philadelphia
Structural Engineer: Di Genova Associates Inc., Plymouth Meeting, Pa., (610) 270-9511
Core and Shell MEPFP Engineer: PWE Engineering, Cherry Hill, N.J.
Lighting Consultant: Architectural Lighting Design LLC
General Contractor: D. Fickler Construction, Downingtown

Materials

Sustainable Insulation creates a quiet, comfortable environment and conserves energy and resources. Used in interior walls, AirRenew Essential IAQ Gypsum wallboard removes VOCs from the air.  SilentFX Noise-Reducing Gypsum wallboard is also used to help reduce noise where acoustic management is needed, like this workstation adjacent to a hallway.

Sustainable Insulation creates a quiet, comfortable environment and conserves energy and resources. Used in interior walls, AirRenew Essential IAQ Gypsum wallboard removes VOCs from the air. SilentFX Noise-Reducing Gypsum wallboard is also used to help reduce noise where acoustic management is needed, like this workstation adjacent to a hallway.


Electrochromic Glass: SageGlass
Common-area Facade Glass: Climaplus Solar with SGG Cool-Lite SKN 163II
Wallboard: AirRenew Essential IAQ Gypsum Wallboard, SilentFX Noise-Reducing Gypsum and Diamondback Glasroc Tile Backer
Wallcoverings: Novelio Cleanair Wallcovering and Novelio Mold-X Wallcovering, which prevent bacteria, fungus and mold in the air
Drywall Tapes: Fibatape Mold-X10 and FibaFuse
Fiberglass Insulation: Sustainable Insulation
Acoustical Ceilings: Gyptone and Gyptone Quattro perforated panels and ceiling tiles, Decoustics Quadrillo, as well as Ecophon FocusTMDs and Solo Circle
Duct Insulation: ToughGard TGR Rotary Duct Liner and SoftTouch Duct Wrap
Entrance Canopy: Sheerfill Fiberglass Architectural Membrane, which has the potential to transmit up to 17 percent of daylight with more than 70 percent long-term reflectivity
Exterior Metal Panels: Alucobond
Curtainwall Frames: Kawneer
Roofing: Coolstar reflective roofing underlain by Flintboard roof insulation sheets
Siding Used in the Building Interior: Cedar Impressions individual sawmill polymer shingles

AFTER PHOTOS: ©Jeffrey Totaro, 2016

About the Author

Neil B. Liebman, AIA, LEED AP
Neil B. Liebman, AIA, LEED AP, is a principal of BERNARDON, an architecture, interiors, and landscape architecture design firm in Kennett Square, Pa., and Wilmington, Del. He has more than 35 years’ experience in designing corporate headquarters.

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