Two projects to which WSP USA contributed design services were honored with 2017 Top Ten Award recognition from the Committee on the Environment (COTE) of the American Institute of Architects (AIA).
The honored projects included the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) Daniel K. Inouye Regional Center in Oahu, Hawaii, for which WSP USA provided mechanical-electrical-plumbing (MEP), built ecology and lighting design; and the Chatham University Eden Hall Campus near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where the firm served as the lighting designer for the Esther Barazzone Center.
The COTE Top Ten Awards celebrate sustainable design excellence, highlighting projects that exemplify the integration of great design and great performance. Submissions are required to demonstrate how the project aligns with COTE’s rigorous criteria for social, economic and ecological value.
“It was very exciting to learn that we contributed to not only one, but two of this year’s AIA COTE Top Ten projects,” said Tom Marseille, senior vice president and director of sustainability for WSP USA’s buildings practice.
The 350,000-square-foot NOAA headquarters is located on Ford Island and includes 12 NOAA offices, wet laboratories, marine animal tanks, and space for research, conservation management and law enforcement programs. It is also the home of the Pacific Ocean tsunami warning center.
When it was completed in October 2013, the new headquarters consolidated 800 employees previously scattered across the island of Oahu into one facility.
The building incorporated two historic World War II-era airplane hangars into its design. The hangars were rebuilt and remodeled, with a new building constructed between them, turning the site into one state-of-the-art research and administration facility.
“This was a highly innovative project, requiring a great deal of collaboration within WSP and with the larger design team,” said Todd See, project manager. “It is a good example of how a building can be successfully designed for integration.”
By making the most of natural daylighting, the building requires very little artificial lighting during the day. The building also takes advantage of outdoor air currents to maintain a comfortable climate inside, uses rainwater for the toilets, and uses treated gray water from condensation and plumbing to irrigate the landscape. “One design element led to the next, which resulted in a remarkably integrated project,” he said.
See called this a “once-in-a-lifetime project” and credited much of its success to a client fully invested in the process.
“Everybody on our dedicated team put forth great effort into achieving this result, and it now stands as an example of the breadth of services WSP can provide,” he said. “As the project was reaching its conclusion, we could tell that it was going to be something special. It’s rewarding to achieve this Top Ten recognition.”
The NOAA Inouye Center project marked the beginning of the WSP built ecology group in the U.S.
“While our firm had always placed very high value and importance on sustainability and designing responsibly, we realized this project was something of a new breed that would require us to push the boundaries of high-performance design,” Marseille said. “The best way to do that, in our view, was to create a boutique practice focused solely on the cutting-edge of sustainability – things like passive design, façade optimization, systems integration, and net-zero buildings.”
Today the built ecology practice is spread throughout the U.S. and rapidly growing.
“Projects targeting high-performance outcomes similar to the NOAA Inouye Center are becoming more prominent,” Marseille said. “It’s very exciting to see the success of the project, and the growth of opportunities for our built ecology group.”
Completed in 2016, the 388-acre Eden Hall Farm is the world’s first net-positive college campus and is the home of the Falk School of Sustainability, which generates more energy than it uses.
“The campus acts as a living lab for teaching sustainability to students,” said Jay Wratten, project manager for WSP. “To achieve that goal, the design had to not just talk the talk of sustainability, but also walk the walk.”
WSP worked on the lighting design for 23,000-square-foot dining commons now called the Esther Barazzone Center. WSP was part of a team assembled by Mithun, the architect responsible for the campus design.
“WSP’s lighting design solutions needed to be extremely surgical in their application in order to establish visual and aesthetic interest while balancing stringent energy goals, functional requirements, and budgetary constraints,” Wratten said.
The lighting design adopted a “holistic focus” on sustainability, which established low-light level targets for non-task areas, such as circulation and gathering spaces. It also relies on natural light for many of the daytime functions. At night, site lighting is mounted low to the ground and heavily shielded to minimize impact on the rural surroundings.
“It is extremely rewarding to be involved in a project that focuses not only on the completed result, but on the role that project plays in both environmental stewardship and our future sustainability,” Wratten said. “This larger vision was a constant driver behind the myriad of smaller decisions made over the course of the project and certainly shaped the final result.”
He hopes the collaboration and success of this project will inspire future projects that place sustainability at the forefront of its design.
“Being recognized by our peers for this ambitious project is an honor, and I’m hopeful that some of the features realized in this project will help inspire future designs,” Wratten said.
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