When Perkins+Will purchased the building at 1315 Peachtree Street that would come to house its Atlanta branch's new office, it was "all post-tension concrete, which is gorgeous. And we loved it," effuses Paula Vaughan, codirector of sustainability at the firm's Atlanta arm. But large swaths of the building were left unused: the main, western facade stepped down toward the street in four clunky tiers, eating up precious office space. "So we fully reglazed this entire facade," Vaughan explains, gesturing toward the newly transparent frontage of the renovated building, which rises on busy Peachtree Street, a main thoroughfare and a cultural destination in the city (Richard Meier's High Museum of Art is just across the way). But the overhaul went beyond a simple face-lift: the team at Perkins+Will decided to make its building a test case for the sustainable-design practices it touts to its clientele, in addition to providing additional workspace for its growing staff and fostering collaboration. "We wanted the building to be a teaching tool for us," Vaughan explains. "Now we can point to a chilled beam and say, 'Hey, that's a chilled beam.'"
Location Atlanta, Georgia (Chattahoochee River watershed)
Gross area78,956 ft2 (7,335 m2)
Completed November 2011
Annual purchased energy use (based on simulation) 97 kBtu/ft2 (1,102 MJ/m2), 20% reduction from base case (58% cost reduction)
Annual carbon footprint (predicted) 21 lbs CO2/ft2 (103 kg CO2/m2)
Program Offices, conference rooms, collaborative spaces, exhibition space, public library
TEAM & SOURCES
Glass Viracon VNE-24-36
Doors Centria Architectural Systems Profile Series, Super-Rib Metal Panel Paints and stains Benjamin Moore
Paneling Carnegie Xorel
On the way to achieving LEED Platinum certification and meeting the 2030 Challenge for reduced greenhouse-gas emissions, both of which were early goals for Perkins+Will, the design team did very little demolition work on the six-story, 79,000-square-foot building, opting instead to retain 91 percent of the original structure. The heart of the project, Vaughan explains, involved removing "chipboard, lay-in carpeting, drop ceiling, and miles and miles of cabinets" from the offices of the previous tenant, an investment firm. The team then cataloged the reusable items for donation to area nonprofit organizations.
In the newly cleared building, Perkins+Will created open-plan workspaces on the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth floors (the Museum of Design Atlanta occupies much of the first level, save for Perkins+Will's lobby and some workspaces, and the second floor houses a branch of the Atlanta Public Library). Long tables occupy central areas on work floors, and several glassed-in conference rooms and private offices line the outer perimeter. Light streams in through the glazed west facade and large windows along the north elevation. On a recent visit, few employees made use of individually controlled overhead lighting fixtures, despite the deep, sunless gray of early winter outside. "Initially, we had three times as many lights in the studio, until we realized that we really didn't need that many," explains Vaughan, who likened the process of editing out such elements to that of convincing clients that certain standard practices in office design, like walled-in offices and cubicles, aren't the only way.
Even for the employees of an architecture firm, the transition hasn't been all smooth sailing. "Moving toward benching and smaller workstations was a big deal for some people," Vaughan reports, adding that, on the whole, employees now appreciate the intra-office collaboration this layout encourages. "People understand that there are other spaces for more private working or teaming."
While an open plan and abundant natural light help support Perkins+Will's desire to foster interdisciplinary collaboration, the building's unconventional mechanical and environmental systems also increase employee comfort and uphold the firm's green mission. "We generate 40 to 50 percent of our electricity here" via a "power plant" on the roof that burns natural gas, Vaughan explains. This on-site power generation increases the building's site energy-use intensity, even as it reduces overall carbon emissions and energy cost. The microturbines also produce heat that both warms and—using an adsorption chiller—cools the building through radiant heating and cooling systems in the ceiling. "The eye-opener here was not just that radiant heating and cooling works in the Southeast, but how well it works," says Vikram Sami, a sustainable-design analyst at Perkins+Will's Atlanta office. "It's great to be able to use the building as an educational tool."