Booth Hansen - Design Bureau

30 West Oak

Booth Hansen

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

How does Booth Hansen create buildings that look good and are environmentally friendly?

With all-encompassing “Total Performance Buildings." With a 21st-century focus on green initiatives and LEED certification in design, architects today find themselves faced with the double challenge of creating buildings that are both environmentally friendly and aesthetically pleasing; not always an easy task within the stringent limits of LEED. So how does Chicago-based Booth Hansen ensure that both of these criteria are met? With what’s known as a Total Performance Building.

Sometimes referred to as a whole-building approach, Total Performance Buildings are a relatively new concept in the architectural world. It’s a systematic approach and process that goes a step beyond LEED certification and was created to unlock a building’s values. Larry Booth, architect and founder of Booth Hansen, considers Total Performance Buildings “a public interest” concept as it gives points to buildings for installing things like bike racks and recycling programs. “A Total Performance Building doesn’t have to look like a contraption,” says Booth. “It needs to fit where it is.” Founded in 1980, Booth says that his firm always strives to achieve Total Performance Buildings, whether constructing a museum, high-rise building, personal residence or place of worship.

To keep the environment in focus, the planning team chooses energy-efficient sites and sustainable building materials. “We need to build buildings that support our lifestyle,” says Booth.

One such Total Performance Building that Booth Hansen constructed is the residential high rise at 30 West Oak Street in Chicago. In addition to offering great views of Lake Michigan, the building offers residents the opportunity to live in a LEED certified environment without having to sacrifice stunning architectural style. The double-glazed, high-performance glass windows on the building were strategically placed facing the south so that when the high sun beats down during the summer months, the rays bounce off the glass, keeping the building naturally and efficiently cool. Then, during the cold winter months, the same floor-to-ceiling windows absorb the low sun and, in turn, heat the building. The north side of the high-rise is made up of a concrete façade and small windows that add a dynamic sculptural form and stability to the structure.

Following the Total Performance standards and checklist, Booth Hansen’s 30 West Oak project managed to come in on time and stayed within the original budget of $50 million. And to keep the environment in focus, the planning team chooses energy-efficient sites and sustainable building materials. “We need to build buildings that support our lifestyle,” says Booth. Total Performance Buildings approach zero energy through architectural design and energy efficiency. Since the architect can’t do anything about the plug load inside a building (the amount of energy used by all electrical equipment from appliances like televisions and computers) they decided to focus on the windows and insulation. Sweating these often-overlooked details of a project allows a building to be simple and durable, and conserve energy.

Booth also considered the look of the street corner and the landscape around the building so he enlisted Ernie Wong of Site Design to beautify the area in front of 30 West Oak. Many options were discussed on how to set the building apart, yet make it feel accessible from a pedestrian point of view. “The landscape is the first thing that people really engage with,” says Wong. “I think it was important to create a very welcoming street presence, but at the same time establish a border.” Booth and Wong eventually settled on a serene reflecting pool and a lush corner landscape, which softens the edge of the property line, creating a boundary from the street and further accentuates the building’s overall design. During the entire process, Booth says its important to keep the client in the loop and understand their needs, purpose, and mission. He says to set goals for the people, not for the space. “Buildings should run like Swiss watches,” says Booth. “It’s hard to get a good building built, but with more thought and investigation, the results deliver a greater value.”

By Sara Newton

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