STRAWBALE OFFICE BUILDING
This new office building for the leading green contractor in the region attempts to mediate the dialectical tension between the pastoral ideal of America and the sweeping transformations of our landscape by machine technology during the twentieth century that brought with it harmful lasting effects on the environment, our health, our workplaces and limited energy resources.
This project is a collaboration between the owner/ builder, the architect and a team of local, national and international experts to design a new 7,000 sf office building and site reclamation with the goal of making it the most energy efficient and sustainable structure possible with the highest amount of low embodied energy and locally sourced materials and labor.
The six-acre site, nestled within a wooded valley with an open meadow and stream on its south side, is located about 8 miles northwest from downtown Pittsburgh. The site development goals are threefold: to heal and enhance the natural features of the site while providing a natural landscape (indigenous meadow) that supports species of wildlife that are native to this region such as turkeys, deer, fox and red tail hawks; to preserve the stream bank; and to connect the building to the bottomland via terraces, decks and access points to the meadow and hillside.
The site strategy achieves these goals by providing amenities such as walking trails allowing the staff to enjoy the natural site and eliminating off-site stormwater runoff by using porous concrete for the parking area to provide stormwater retention from the lot and driveway thus allowing for groundwater recharge. A renovated maintenance building is well integrated as part of the site strategy so each aspect of the site development is considered as part of a comprehensive whole. The building and its relationship to the landscape is a deliberate ensemble enhancing one's awareness of the overall architectural composition when approached by vehicle or as seen in the landscape.
The building's overarching goals are to blend in wIth the natural habitat and to connect to the environment via material selection, systems integration, and design considerations to reduce the project's overall embodied energy. Natural & high thermal mass materials such as strawbale, cobb, earth-based plasters, and concrete are employed to control both temperature and humidity and aid in reducing the capacity and sophistication of HVAC systems. Recycled and salvaged materials, such as doors and door frames, and block and curb stone are re-purposed. Daylighting and view opportunities were well considered to both reduce artificial lighting needs during the day and engage the ever changing views of the landscape. A biophilic space adjacent to the conference room and situated on the south facade acts as a natural ventilation system as well as a heat source in the winter and provides a pleasant year round gathering space for the building's occupants and visitors.