After 10 years in an 1890s red-brick building in downtown Portland, Oregon, Glumac Engineers wanted a space that better reflected their focus on energy efficiency and quality environments. A real estate search and some serendipity led the firm to the iconic Standard Insurance Building, a 27-story tower designed by SOM for Georgia Pacific. The building's available 16th floor was, coincidentally, the same one occupied by SOM's Portland office when the building opened. SOM no longer has an office in Portland, but a few former SOM employees now work for Glumac and have returned to their transformed old digs.
Location Portland, Oregon (Willamette River watershed)
Gross area 15,150 ft2 (1,400 m2)
Cost $1.5 million
Date completed December 2011
Annual purchased energy use (from simulation, with partial actual-use measurements) 43 kBtu/ft2 (484 MJ/m2), 52% reduction from base case
Annual carbon footprint (predicted)9.3 lbs. CO2/ft2(46 kg CO2/m2)
TEAM & SOURCES
Paints and stains Miller Paint
Paneling, movable partitions Modernfold
Office furniture Steelcase
Glumac set aggressive targets for energy efficiency, but the 50-year-old single-pane glass was not conducive to achieving those goals. After much discussion, according to Kirk Davis, managing principal with Glumac, Standard Insurance agreed to replace it with high-performance double glazing. Pulling all the glazing off the perimeter is "unheard of in a TI [tenant improvement] project," says Chad Yoshinobu, design principal with Gensler Seattle. The designers worked with Standard to ensure that the new glazing matched the appearance of the existing glass. By placing glass where the opaque spandrel panels enclosing the plenum (where the formerly dropped ceilings had been), daylight was allowed far more deeply into the space.
The few private offices are positioned so that they don't block daylight, and all partitions are fully glazed for maximum transparency. That internal transparency was important to offset the visual interruption of the vertical columns on 5-foot centers that define the building's facade, according to Yoshinobu. "We had to go through a lot of studies to counter all those columns on the perimeter and make them feel less ominous," he says.
Both lights and shades are controlled automatically by a Lutron Hyperion system. The shades were originally programmed to block direct sun based on the calendar, but that didn't account for Portland's many overcast days, when occupants want as much daylight as they can get. In response, Glumac worked with Lutron to install special daylight sensors, so the shades only close when there is direct sunlight to be controlled.
Glumac was clear about wanting an open-plan office space, but the transition has been a little bumpy. When the staff first moved in, the breakout rooms were oversubscribed, according to Davis. That demand has since settled down. The resulting workspaces are very open, with continuous shared desktops balanced by a mix of large and small conference rooms to provide privacy when it's needed. The height of the workstation partitions was a matter of much debate, Yoshinobu says, but the values of collaboration eventually won out over those of privacy. Gensler also inserted "team tables" between each row of desks, with personal storage space.
Instead of the old ducted system, Glumac installed a series of suspended radiant hydronic panels, or "chilled sails," throughout the space. They tried to convince Standard to pull out the perimeter heating and cooling loop, but that didn't fly. In retrospect, Davis isn't sorry the loop stayed, because without it, Glumac would have had to spend more on additional chilled sails.
Careful planning kept the clutter in the exposed ceiling space to a minimum. "Glumac did a really good job controlling the layout of HVAC and electrical runs," notes Yoshinobu. "The electrical contractor mocked it up on the floor," explains Davis, "and messed with it until we were happy." The clean look highlights the alignment of structural beams with the exposed columns on the perimeter. Ceiling fans that were included in the mock-up haven't been installed—it turned out they weren't necessary.
The combination of added glazing high on the walls and transparent interior partitions has supported Glumac's goal of minimizing the use of electric lighting. Most of the open work zones have no overhead lighting at all. Instead, each workstation has a combination task-and-ambient fixture that illuminates the work surface while also directing some light upward, to reflect off the white ceiling.
When the exterior glazing was upgraded, Glumac also opted to make some of those high windows operable. The windows were designed to open automatically when conditions allowed, but—unlike the glazing upgrade—adding operable windows did trigger a more involved design review, so they had to come later.
Standard has since made some changes on other floors, following the lead of this renovation. While they haven't removed the dropped ceilings entirely on any other floor, they have raised them and spread out the light fixtures to reduce the lighting power density. There are a few tenants who would like to see those opaque spandrel panels removed, according to Davis.