Architecture of Sustainability

Friday, May 05, 2006


Posted by John Morris Dixon, FAIA

The morning of Day Three, conferees gathered at AIA Headquarters and boarded buses taking them to the remainder of the event.

First top was the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)
Satellite Operations Facility nearing completion in Suitland, Maryland. A vivid example of GSA’s Design Excellence Program, the complex was designed by Morphosis of LA with Einhorn Yaffee Prescott’s DC office. A rooftop array of satellite dishes mounted on a huge truss assemblage proclaims the project’s purpose, as does a superscaled NOAA on the flank of the building below.

The 208,000-sq-ft complex consists of a visible five-story “bar” building resting on a broad “mat” with a single layer of offices, atop a 280-car garage, all of that under 140,000 sq ft of planted roof. The “mat” is slightly domed in section and merges with the natural terrain around most of its perimeter. For part of its perimeter, the office layer is exposed, with continuous glazed walls under heavy concrete overhangs that support planted roof. (This description may sound highly complex, because the building actually is.)

So what you have, visually, is a thin “bar,” bristling with equipment, signage, and Morphosis’s signature trusses and outriggers, above a “mat” that literally disappears into the landscape – or will, when the sedum planted on its roof matures in about two years.

The most critical satellite launch and tracking control facilities are in the “bar,” the hundreds of support workers under the green roof. They’re not in a cave, however, but in spaces up to 28 ft high, with four planted courtyards sunk to their level to provide daylight and view. Daylight is also supplied by numerous circular skylights cut through the landscaped roof. Surrounding the large open-office spaces are double-decked support areas, with conference rooms and such on the office level, computer rooms and other equipment space on a mezzanine.

Representatives of Einhorn Yaffee, NOAA, and GSA briefed the conferees and led tours of this unique – to put it mildly – building. Designed to meet GSA’s required LEED Silver rating, the building is now almost certain to earn a LEED Gold, say the professionals who have worked on the application. In fact, they have used the LEED application form from early in the design process to help guide and communicate decisions related to sustainability.


At 8:10 PM, Anonymous Bill L said...

Does anyone know if the NOAA center is conducting tours of this facility in the future? As architecture becomes more important in our understanding of energy and consumption, buildings such s this one from NOAA and Morphosis can serve as great teaching tools.

At 12:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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