When high-tech instruments firm Reliable Controls commissioned a 4,000 square-meter expansion to accommodate its growing research and development department, D’Ambrosio Architecture + Urbanism had to rethink building systems from first principles. The result was a certified LEED Platinum wood-structured building that integrates passive technologies and sophisticated energy-conservation systems.
In order to preserve a stand of indigenous trees, the addition was fitted within the boundaries of an existing parking lot. The addition links to the existing building to functionally integrate the two structures. A landscaped “outdoor classroom” courtyard, between the buildings, optimizes access to daylight and forms a gathering space for the company as a whole. A sequence of rain planters and bio-swales, beginning in the courtyard, follow the site topography and make evident the storm-water management system.
Inside, the exposed structure (regionally-sourced wood and concrete) forms a warm and human-scaled workspace. Narrow office floor-plates are arranged around an atrium that brings in ambient light and draws ventilation to the roof. The state-of-the-art environmental control system was designed and produced by the client firm in collaboration with the project team. Motion-sensors and photo-sensors work in combination with a rooftop weather station to wirelessly monitor and adjust the building’s lighting and ventilation, as well as water and energy use. Both hardware and software can be controlled and experimentally modified by the resident research and development engineers through their computers and mobile devices.
The exterior expression of the building combines a palette of natural materials with mechanistic components; the fenestration is designed as an array of modules punched into warm-toned brick and board-formed concrete walls. Each window module integrates fixed and operable glazing with automated exterior blinds and “trickle vent” fresh air intakes. The façade represents both the literal product of the company and the building’s function as part of a research campus.