Building A Greener Office
Thursday, March 13th, 2014
Photos by Bruce Damonte
What do you get when a sustainably minded architecture practice designs a new office for a high-end builder who also specializes in eco-friendly construction? For San Francisco design studio Jones | Haydu and its client Buck O’Neill Builders, the result is a space that is green from the top of its second-story, air-filtering living wall to the bottom of its cork floors. Principal architects and LEED-accredited professionals Paul Haydu and Hulett Jones discuss how they collaborated with their builder client to turn the basic 1,100-square-foot commercial condo into a showcase for sustainable construction practices that is on target to achieve LEED Gold certification.
DB: What was it like to have a green builder as a client?
Paul Haydu: It allowed for quite a lot of discussion. Buck [O’Neill] noted that he wanted the space to reflect his commitment to high-quality construction and his interests in green building practices. Though there were many constraints (the space was small, in a fairly non-descript building in an industrial area, his budget not excessive), he still wanted to make a ‘jewel.’ That intrigued us.
Hulett Jones: Early on, the notion of a living wall was brought up, as were ideas of reclaimed and green materials. Buck had access to certain reclaimed items from his other project sites. For example, a project of his was the source for the fir on the partitions. When he mentioned access to it, we said ‘grab it!’
DB: Was LEED Gold a goal from the beginning?
PH: We were hoping to get LEED Gold from the onset, but weren’t sure we could get there. Given the space’s small size and relatively limited systems and infrastructure there are fewer variables that we can control and sculpt to LEED standards.
HJ: Workstations were positioned near the storefront glazing and their partitions sized to allow access to light and view. Lights are on occupancy sensors. Selected materials are either reclaimed or have requisite percentages of recycled content. As well, they are sourced from fabricators and factories within LEED-compliant distances.
DB: How did you achieve a balance between sustainability and aesthetics without sacrificing either?
HJ: The key is simplicity: A simple, well-chosen materials palette. Minimizing spatial gymnastics. Not placing too many things within the space. We selected a few key moments and details and attempted to do them well and thoughtfully. The remaining components are simple and quiet and do not compete.
PH: The living wall, the cantilevered stair, and workstation and office partitions were discussed, debated, and mocked up. That they comprise air filtration, reclaimed materials, and visual access to natural light only adds to the delight.