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Auburn Research Park Building One

Traditional aesthetics and sustainability combine to attract forward-thinking tenants

Very environmentally conscious... Good, rich, solid design.

Auburn Research Park is the result of the partnership between the State of Alabama Governor’s Office, Auburn University and the City of Auburn. The Park is being developed as a mixed-use campus that will include high-technology companies and university research facilities. Building One was a design-build collaboration between B.L. Harbert International and Gresham, Smith and Partners with the goal of producing a facility that would help the Auburn Research & Technology Foundation (ARTF) attract world-class businesses while complementing the look and feel of Auburn University.

 

 

This project has the distinction of LEED Gold, even though it was not originally slated for certification. How was the decision made to pursue LEED certification?

Michael Mann: The client originally requested just a spec office building with the goal of attracting high-tech companies and high-end users. After developing a quick design proposal for the spec building, we approached them with the idea of designing a building to LEED standards since many of the national companies they wanted to attract specifically seek sustainable buildings.

What was their first reaction and what were their concerns?

Robert Murphy: Initially, the cost was a concern. Once we explained sustainability and the LEED aspect, they realized that the cost impact was fairly minor. You don’t really pay that big of a premium anymore. The technology implied with having a LEED building in the Auburn market intrigued them. This would be only the second LEED building in that area and a unique offering in the market; the first was the Gorrie Building Science Facility.

Why was it important to Auburn University to attract high-tech businesses?

Robert: The park is basically an incubator site that provides space for companies to do research and technology development. It was very important for the client to attract companies on the leading edge of these markets.

The client wanted the building to embody the University’s traditional design. How much flexibility did you have?

Michael: We were limited in our material choices, so to design a building that would appeal to high-tech companies, we incorporated modern detailing. We blended modern elements with traditional proportions, scale and rhythm. For instance, instead of having traditional Auburn windows, we used large expanses of glass to give it a modern feel. We incorporated traditional campus materials, including Auburn brick and shingles, to blend the timeless Auburn design with modern detailing.

The project received LEED views and glazing credits. How did your design achieve them?

Michael: In LEED V2.2 certification, there are 63 possible credits you can achieve, one of which is the views credit. It requires providing views to 90 percent of regularly occupied spaces, and our design incorporated views to 93 percent. Our use of glass was limited because of our client’s desire for a traditional campus building, so we used as much high-performance glass as we could to provide as many views as possible from inside the building.

What sustainable features were incorporated during construction?

Michael: One feature was the implementation of a construction waste management process by B.L. Harbert. Usually, construction sites have a single, common point where all refuse is collected before ending up in a landfill. At Building One, six dumpsters were set up to support all recyclable waste. The main goal of multiple dumpsters was to provide a separate area for all of the different materials used during construction. In this project, approximately 236 tons of building construction waste were diverted, which was 78.5% of the construction waste generated on site. All of that waste would have otherwise gone to a landfill. Instead, it went to different recycling points for reuse.

Anne-Marie Gianoudis: We were fortunate to work with a design-build contractor that was extremely familiar with the LEED process and their responsibilities associated with it. A huge responsibility was the creation and implementation of the indoor air quality management plan. The construction process is usually an indoor air polluting activity and often results in the contamination of the building both during construction as well as after the building is occupied. B.L. Harbert adopted a plan to protect the HVAC system during construction, which involved controlling pollutant sources, interrupting pathways from contamination, and sequencing the installation of materials to avoid contamination of absorptive items.

What sustainable features were used in the landscape design?

Robert: In a LEED program, the percentage of land disturbed, repaired or replaced is actually quantified, so the goal is to have minimal disturbance of the native site. Part of this involves containing stormwater runoff rather than dumping it into the area’s water system. We used containment devices called bioswales where water is collected and slowly dissipates into the ground.

What type of vegetation or other techniques are used in a sustainable landscape design?

Robert: One aspect of sustainable landscape design is to avoid a permanent irrigation system so that plants don’t have to be constantly watered. We used native vegetation and low-water plants, eliminated gutters and downspouts, which helped aesthetically, and routed watershed off the roof into a French drain, which is an underground open drain system that takes the water to the bioswales.

What sustainable considerations were applied to the interior design?

Anne-Marie: We always try to select recycled or regional products. The Alabama white marble and the granite that were used in the lobby areas were local products, and the carpet had recycled content and can be recycled again. The millwork and MDF panels were made with binders and adhesives containing no urea-formaldehyde.

Do chemical-free or other sustainable materials cost more?

Anne-Marie: Within the last five years, manufacturers have caught on to green materials. It’s more the standard now than a trend. That being said, for items such as certified wood or low-emitting materials, you can expect to pay an upcharge of two to six percent.

What were some of the solutions implemented to address the client’s specific exterior and interior design requests?

Michael: One of the main requests was the creation of a prominent front entry element. The entry on our initial design was prominent, but asymmetrical and modern to appeal to high-tech industries. Auburn wanted something more traditional and symmetrical. In order to keep a fairly modern aesthetic, we added an entry element with two brick pilasters and proportions that hint at a traditional temple front. Modern brick detailing and extensive use of glass at the front entry gave the client the look they wanted without losing the contemporary appeal.

Anne-Marie: The Alabama white marble is one of the most prominent wall features inside. It’s a traditional finish used in a very contemporary way. By using large blocks of it, the design sort of pushes and pulls to create recesses and protruding elements in the lobby. The floors are granite and are polished, reflective, traditional elements used in a modern fashion. The lobby has a formal aspect, yet it’s attractive to any tenant.

Michael: The client also originally requested a large, two-story monumental communicating stair at the entry with a large elevator lobby. Unfortunately, we had to cut some square footage, so the elevator lobby became smaller. As a design solution, we placed storefront glazing on both sides of the lobby, allowing natural light to stream through the space.

What will you take from this experience and apply to future LEED projects?

Robert: From a project manager’s point of view, I have a better understanding of what it takes to achieve LEED certification. There was a learning curve, but it was a very manageable process.

Anne-Marie: When we first started this project, there was only one LEED-accredited professional on the team. Now, all of us are LEED accredited. We also worked with an outstanding design-build contractor. I can’t say enough about B. L. Harbert and their experience and knowledge on this project. They made it easier, and having them on our team made all the difference in the world.

Michael: The actual production of a LEED building is fairly similar to our typical design process. Getting a handle on all the LEED documentation took the longest in terms of a learning curve. We learned that even if a building isn’t attempting to achieve LEED certification, we can still implement sustainable design elements.

What part of this project has been the most memorable and gratifying?

Anne-Marie: Achieving LEED Gold certification on a project that wasn’t even slated to be LEED certified was such an accomplishment for the entire team. It was a truly collaborative process, and we worked well together. Also, Michael did all of these wonderful renderings of the exterior and interior. Once the building was completed, it looked identical to the sketches. It’s really nice to see something you design come to fruition and exceed everyone’s expectations.

Robert: We’ve done several buildings on the Auburn campus. As one of the prominent entry points to both the city and Auburn University, this building is essentially the University’s gateway. It’s great to see your work displayed so prominently, especially since this was GS&P’s first LEED project. Gold certification was really a nice reward when you realize how labor-intensive the process is with all of the forms and calculations that have to be completed. The team did an amazing job of staying on top of that.

Michael: I’m most proud of producing a building that meets the client’s traditional design requirements that also still appeals to a modern design sensibility. Balancing the client’s desire for a traditional Auburn campus building with the modern preference of the technology companies was challenging at times, but the entire team worked together to create a building that is highly appealing to the end users the client wanted, and that is very rewarding.

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Project Info

  • Client: Auburn University and the City of Auburn
  • Location: Auburn, AL, USA
  • Market: Corporate + Urban Design
  • Services: Architecture, Engineering, Interior Design, Sustainability, Civil Engineering
  • Team:
    • Robert Murphy, AIA, LEED AP Principal-in-Charge
    • Keith Starnes, AIA, NCARB, LEED GA Project Manager
    • Jeff Miller, AIA, LEED AP Project Architect
    • Anne-Marie Gianoudis, IIDA, LEED AP Project Interior Designer
    • Michael Mann, AIA, LEED AP Project Coordinator
    • John Beason, IIDA, LEED AP Project Coordinator
    • Terra Douberly, IIDA Project Coordinator
    • Kevin Kirby Project Coordinator
    • Chuck Kelly, ASLA Project Landscape Architect
  • Awards:

    Associated Builders & Contractors Excellence Award for Commercial Projects ($5-$10 million category)

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