It is no longer good enough to be “sustainable,” more efficient and less bad; buildings must become regenerative, living, breathing organisms that are diverse and produce more than they consume. They must collect solar energy, sequester carbon, reuse water; they must be dynamic and responsive, beautiful and full of light, and should use mass customization and computational, parametric design to create more human-scaled and organic spaces, over exclusively right-angled spaces built in the past for economy and lack of technology to do otherwise.
The program is split into two bars of program – offices and public space on the north, street-fronting side of the site; and labs and the auditorium on the southern end of the site which abut the adjacent children’s museum. Splitting the two bars is a covered courtyard containing the living machine, open-air and open to the public in order to extend the pedestrian plaza along Aldrich Street into a place where people can learn more about sustainable water usage and filtration systems.
Austin Energy Green Building Program
Design: Spring 2017
Size: 22,000 square feet
Type: Mixed Use - Office, Laboratory, + Public Event Space
Location: Mueller, Austin, TX
The two bar buildings are structurally primarily mass timber – glulam beams and columns with cross-laminated timber slabs. In order to create outdoor circulation and green roof opportunities, each level shifts and cantilevers slightly, create more formal interest, although still rectilinear and following with the city grid that is already established. The living machine courtyard takes an approach to contrast the rectilinear timber structure; a freeform ETFE canopy with built-in photovoltaic panels follows the form and bridges the two bars to create a greenhouse effect that holds in enough heat to prevent freezing of the plants on the few cold days here in Texas, while still allowing for airflow and heat exhaust via the chimney effect at the top during much warmer days.
The premise of architecture like an organism comes from the fact that we spend anywhere from 70 to 90% or more of our time indoors, while recognizing that we, as people, were really made to be outside and in nature. Bringing in natural light has long been a strategy to make our inhabited environs feel more connected to nature, but this project explores how we could create buildings more like nature on a holistic level; yes, it includes ample natural light and warm, natural wood tones on the interior, but could we make spaces that filter light and feel enveloping like being under the shade of a large oak tree? That was part of the inspiration for the form and filtering patterns of the BIPVs within the ETFE canopy.