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United States of America
Challenged with a typical suburban office paradigm, the design team had the vision and fortitude to deviate from the typical to create a truly unique and compelling design solution. Rather than the conventional three story center core building with surface parking, this concept is based on a long narrow fully transparent floor plate with core elements on each end of the building, linked to a parking structure and visitors entry. In response to exponential company growth and positioning for future success, Consumers Credit Union created a new 92,000 SF building as the first of a planned three phase Headquarters campus. Guiding principles of the design process involved site sensitivity, workplace quality, environmental response, corporate culture and flexibility.
The heavily wooded 22-acre site with considerable topography provided a wonderful opportunity to create the privacy and peaceful respite from traditional suburban office environments. The challenge of a highly undulating site informed a design solution that minimizes impact on the site, while enabling the building orientation to maximize views into the woods. The building was sited to form a bridge across the two most prominent hills, preserving the natural watershed and minimizing the footprint and impact on natural topography. A three level parking structure was integrated into the west end of the building responding to the topography and minimizing the parking footprint and tree loss. The building orientation maximizes southern exposure while being sensitive to the prevailing northwest winds and adjacent highway noise to the north.
Sustainable Design Intent and Innovation
Paramount to the site design is the awareness of a small footprint and minimal intervention of the building. Situated in a forested suburban location, respect for the site and maintaining as much of the natural topography as possible was the epitome of the design goal. By utilizing an urban approach to this naturally forested suburban location, the design culminated in a non-obstructive, harmonious building with a minimal footprint and impact to the site.
The building was placed to form a bridge across the two most prominent hills, a design concept that sought to minimize topography alteration and tree removal to what was only necessary for construction. By respecting the site, the design solution preserved the natural watershed through the site to an on-site retention pond and minimized the building’s footprint on the land. As the building spans over a natural valley, the resulting open space provides a faux cavern to provide wildlife with cover from the elements as well as minimizing negative impacts on existing migration patterns. This cavernous space preserves the natural topography of the site allowing for water drainage into the surrounding forested area and the on-site retention pond.
To further protect the forested land, the design consolidates the significant parking requirement into a single 3 level structure recessed into the site’s largest hill to minimize its physical impact on the overall experience of the site while harmonizing through verticality of the environment. The parking garage is the first in Texas Township, Michigan, where the building is located highlighting the uniqueness of this urban approach to parking in a suburban/rural context.
In concert with the focus of preserving the natural topography and tree cover of the site, the energy consumption of the building was refined to support AIA 2030 Commitment targets. Within the Office - Medium use type category, the building has a predicted EUI of 63.0 kBtu/sf/yr with no contributing on-site renewable energy contributions. Of this particular category, the national average of similar building types consumes 90.0 kBtu/sf/yr within the United States. With a predicted EUI of 63.0 kBtu/sf/yr, this building will promote a 30% reduction of energy consumption. The building is rated at a 41.6% energy savings compared to ASHRAE 90.1-2007 baseline, which provided more than $60k utility incentive for the owner.
Through the employment of passive strategies, the building takes advantage of sunlight during Michigan’s lengthy fall and winter seasons. The south façade curtain wall is designed with a gentle curvature in context with the site that also mimics the trajectory of the sun throughout the year. The interior environment is organized around a three story, south-facing atrium that receives this abundance of natural light. Through the utilization of natural light there is a resulting diminished need for supplementary lamps at active workstations. In addition, the interior lighting functions through a combination of motion sensor activation and automatic switch off further reducing the energy required to maintain the illumination within the interior environment.
As the heart of the office, the atrium culminates in a large collaborative stair that serves as an interactive statement of the community’s commitment to health and well-being while dually serving as an informal auditorium and company gathering space to further foster a familial workplace community, integral to the culture of Consumers Credit Union. Strategically placed, the collaborative and interactive stair, secondary stair and stair wells at opposing ends of the building continually promote a focus on health and well-being while also minimizing the usage of elevators resulting in a lowered energy consumption.
The building features on-site generation of heating and cooling with efficient air-cooled chiller plant and natural gas condensing boiler plant that feed the perimeter and interior systems. A two pipe changeover fan coil unit system at the perimeter facilitates efficient heating and cooling of the envelope independent of the interior space and enables steady efficient operation of the air handling systems. In addition, the interior environment features underfloor air distribution which uses low velocity air supply to enable the space to stratify and only condition the occupied zone, providing energy savings. Underfloor air is also a one pass system, with high ventilation effectiveness and flexibility for expansion and reconfiguration. By keeping air movement focused in targeted locations, the environment remains more stable throughout the working day, resulting in less wasted energy and a higher level of physical comfort.
The site design also resulted in a reduction of available parking. The average amount of vehicle parking in a suburban site is over 30% more than provided by this nature celebrating design, directly reducing the amount of future carbon emissions on the site.
Centered on the idea of creating controlled collisions, the new workplace brings together nearly 150 employees previously working in four separate buildings, creating a stronger and healthier community. The open office environment is designed to foster collaboration and innovation while capitalizing on the efficiencies of bringing staff under one roof. Informal gathering spaces encourage further collaboration while building a defining culture for the organization.
The community-focused nature of Consumers Credit Union is clearly defined throughout building and the site. The active utilization of the south-facing atrium and training facility promotes wellness, learning and a sense of belonging. These flexible spaces are also made available for use by a variety of visiting organizations, companies and other groups through sponsored events, celebrations and private events, promoting the company’s community-driven goals. Access to the building is provided from a meandering approach road that provides the full experience of the forested land and invokes a sense of discovery, belonging and community upon arrival.
Designed to encourage staff to move throughout the space regularly, the internal and external environment makes the workplace an amenity in itself. Staff can work on an expansive outdoor patio overlooking nature, sit in one of many communal gathering spaces or enjoy an outdoor seating area between the hills. A series of fitness and wellness trails connects users to the natural surroundings. This expansive collection of trails are set into the forested and undulating hills of the 22 acres of the site. Other amenities include a food café, coffee bar, bike racks and a fitness center to support the organization’s cultural focus on wellness.
The building site preserved the natural watershed, allowing rainfall and other precipitation to travel through the site to an on-site retention pond which provides habitat and support for wildlife. The design solution allowed for 100% of all precipitation to be retained on the site. This retention allows the site to continue to recharge groundwater in the same way that it previously did as an undeveloped site rather than divert it off-site through municipal storm sewers.
The design solution allows for water drainage into the surrounding forested area supporting the natural ecosystem of the site. Impervious surfaces were minimized throughout the design to assist in the preservation of the natural watershed.
In addition to the preservation of the natural watershed, the building is fully fitted with low flow fixtures intended to significantly reduce total water use.
Composed of brick, metal, glass and concrete, the building palette contributes to an understated simplicity in contract to the visual activity of the site. On the southern facade, the glass curtain wall maximizes natural light and views, the reflectivity of which assists with the management of heat gain, reinforcing the verticality of the forest through the vertical expression of structure and façade elements. At the lobby entry the space is fully enclosed in low-iron glass, acting as the translation between the surrounding forest and the building’s interior. A brick facade along the north references the regional vernacular and protects the structure from harsh northwest winds. Window boxes provide daylight and views for meeting rooms while projecting a dynamic display of light patterning visible to those experiencing the building while traveling the heavily trafficked Interstate 94.
Each material utilized on the site was carefully selected with a focus on sustainability and local sourcing. From the abundant curtain wall glass to the precise fixtures throughout the interior, all materials and pieces were obtained within a 500 mile radius of the site. Similar to the selection of regionally obtainable materials, the constructability of such materials was taken into consideration as the construction of the building was entirely completed with local and regional talent.
Situated among a heavily forested site, the building utilizes an elegantly simplistic palette that addresses environmental impact and inclusion into the spectrum of earth tones and natural greens present on the site. The neutral palette of whites, charcoals, champagnes and delicate greens integrates the building into the surrounding tree cover and natural topography. The palette further supports the building’s inclusion throughout the entirety of Michigan’s four seasons by harmonizing with and enhancing the surrounding forest through color, shadow and texture.
A vertical hierarchy of palette and materials were applied to root and anchor the building to the terrain with darker tones of charcoal and darker grays and concrete, a heavier material. Above the anchoring materials the palette lightens to weightless whites and champagnes and glass and brick, summoning an aura of etherealness and movement within the ever-changing landscape. This aura of movement is further solidified through the multitude of shadows and textures on and within the building, contributing to dynamic interpretations of colors throughout the span of a single day, various environmental conditions and seasons.
Design Architect (FIRM)
Fire and Life Safety