- Key / Essential / Unique Design Features
- Your Big Successes
- Your Big Challenges
- Lessons Learned
The layout of the building was two “separate” L-shaped structures that were connected through the central atrium space.
Essential to the design was the use of wood for the structural system, which created a space that had a more natural ambiance. The use of sustainably sourced mass timber also allowed for a decrease in embodied carbon/associated emissions. The floors were also finished with wood, which created a natural continuation from the structural system in terms of material choice.
Unique design features include the double story exhibit that can be used for taller plants (cutouts in the floor on the second level allow plants to grow through), as well as the central atrium space that connects the two buildings. The central atrium will feature seating, and connect areas such as the cafe and kid zone with more natural light.
The building envelope was also where I implemented several strategies to reach my net zero site energy goal. I considered insulating materials with high R values to reduce heating needs, as well as the use of natural light in the winter months to reduce heating loads. A shading overhang was incorporated in the front of the building to reduce cooling loads in summer months. A green roof was also created, which will provide natural insulation in addition to its aesthetic purpose.
The successes of my design include the double story exhibit that I wanted to create in order to have a greenhouse/plant space. The double story height would allow for taller plants to grow and extend into the upper floor. The greenery in this space would make it inviting and make visitors excited to learn about the different plants and sustainability.
Another success was the open spaces that I was able to keep, even with the difficulties regarding the structural system. These spaces include the central atrium and the triple floor height lobby.
Sustainability successes include the abundance of natural light, the greywater system in the building, as well as the green roof that can be accessed from one of the exhibit spaces.
Challenges for this project came up mostly when the architectural, structural, mechanical, and plumbing systems were merged. It was difficult to fit all the systems within the space, while maximizing the exhibition areas.
One specific challenge was organizing the structural system around the architectural layout. I attempted to make changes to preserve the open spaces that I wanted in the building, which meant that some columns were taken away. This meant that larger girders/beams were needed to carry the additional load that would have gone to that column. Similarly, other columns needed to be larger to take on the additional load. Although changes to the structural system were made, an area that still has this issue is the fourth exhibit, where the columns are in the center of the middle pathway. I decided not to remove these columns, as the roof garden was above this level, and would likely need these columns to support it.
As an alternative, I may have started with the structural system and designed the architectural layout around the structural members. This would have given a clearer picture of where the open spaces could ideally be located.
Another big challenge was the incorporation of the mechanical system with the structural system. In an attempt to maximize the clearance height, I decided to place the structural beams and HVAC ducts on the same plane, which ultimately caused a lot of clashes. Because I originally had a floor to floor height of 15 ft, I think it would be feasible to put the two systems on different planes. This would solve most issues with the clashes between the structural and mechanical systems. I would have also considered where the mechanical system might run while I put together the structural system (and linked the structural plan to the mechanical file while putting together the mechanical system - to make sure both systems fit smoothly).
There are several systems that go into the building space, so the design must keep all systems in mind (architectural, structural, mechanical, and plumbing). The mechanical room may need to be larger than one might think, in order to fit the HVAC needs, as well as the plumbing needs. After setting design goals and key features of the building, it might be worth starting with the structural system to figure out where the programming of larger or smaller spaces make the most sense. The structural system is also dependent on the material choice (steel would allow for longer spans than wood, but provides a different ambiance to the space).