by Lauren Nowicki
Along with America’s economic dominance, our nation ranks first globally in waste. From a per capita perspective, the U.S. contains 4% of the global population yet generates 12% (239 million tons) of the world’s municipal solid waste (MSW). Construction is inextricably linked to this profound problem, with up to 30% of site materials (145 million tons) becoming waste.
With this influx, sustainable design’s ecologically friendly spaces, waste reduction and resource conservation properties are increasingly demanded. There is no direct pathway to optimizing a sustainable site – it is a series of decisions across natural resources, materials and means that constitutes the art of functional design.
Contemporary Spaces and Lifestyles
Within the post-pandemic marketplace, architecture’s lexicon now makes employee comfort, occupant health, flexible spaces and open configurations foundational components. In creating a Silver accredited LEED design for Edwards Vacuum Technologies’ innovation center, an early evaluation of elements began with communicative, cultural and physical facets. From this, a singular design thematic of connectedness arose.
Edward’s core values rest on product innovation, human interaction and commitment to best performance. The firm manufactures vacuum and abatement products that traverse extreme environments for semiconductor, power, R&D, food and chemical processing facilities. The firm’s logo reflects this, accenting the ‘E’ to stress precision engineering, an arc for global reach and a pointer representing direction. In tandem with cultural goals, it was decided that this would be a primary visual asset throughout the facility. Brand colors of radiating red (reflecting 100 years of impact) and metallic grays (representing the base material of their products) became the predominant color palette, reiterating a distinctive brand and energizing culture.
The client requested that connectedness be conveyed both inside and outside of the facility. Bringing that to life began with welcoming guests into the 2-story atrium as an informal social space. Communal areas – a training room, fitness center, cafeteria and locker rooms – radiate around the atrium, which serves as a hub for high traffic. Second story offices are linked to the manufacturing space via a windowed mezzanine viewing area to reinforce transparency between executive and manufacturing teams.
Interrelating Edwards’ facility with nature and the local community acts as another visual form of connectedness. The main entrance serves as the only access point to the walking trails and bike paths leading to public transportation. Markers are planned along the trail to educate visitors about local wildlife and terrain.
While sustainability doesn’t detract from design, it can necessitate exploring multiple options to suit clients’ expectations that meet cost and aesthetic requirements. Edwards’ desire was that their Haverhill headquarters be a statement as a business and environmental steward. To support the space’s dynamism, LEED v4 certified wood ceiling panels created from 80% recycled content add texture, tonality and acoustic control to high traffic areas. Ethically sourced products and low emitting, high-recycled content finishes are used throughout the building. For practicality in delivering design goals in high traffic areas, Patcraft’s 100% recyclable, PVC-free carpet tiles with silver cradle to cradle ratings cover the main stairs, customer care center, meeting rooms, training room and R&D storage. Main corridors, bathrooms and locker rooms are covered in Java Joint Stone by Crossville which has a minimum of 4% pre-consumer recycled content (12 million pounds of filtrate per year) which can be repurposed through its Tile Take-Back Program. Armstrong Imperial Texture Standard Excelon low VOC tile in brand colors is used to highlight floor areas.
To reinforce environmentalism in daily performance, water conservation, green cleaning and recyclable waste programs are put in place. Low flow sensor faucets are located throughout the building to achieve water efficiency credits. Cleaning program components include a strategy for improved hand hygiene, recycled paper products and use of Green Seal certified commercial cleaning products.
In building Edwards’ LEED facility, the conceptual process entailed evaluation of fundamental elements from communicative and lifestyle facets. In this facility, the use of ethically sourced materials was not just a means of accreditation – they also express a business’ cultural attributes. Within a designer’s toolbox, the efficient design of space, use of materials, energy consumption, waste and pollution all coalesce in creating a sustainable design. Through environmentally appropriate product choices, color tonality and textures, this design rationale fulfills the client’s goal of connectedness resulting in a motivating sense of purposefulness for its users.
Lauren Nowicki is chief communications officer at Dacon Corporation.