Sometimes the best architecture is borne not of solving problems, but turning them into assets. The new headquarters for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) headquarters is a project that does just that. IFAW's search for an affordable Cape Cod location ended with a tract along the historic Old King's Highway, occupied with the remains of a long-defunct wholesale plant nursery. "We took soil samples expecting to find pesticides," recalls Robert Miklos, principal of Boston-based designLAB Architects. "We didn't expect to find extensive heavy-metal contamination, suggesting that the site had once been a landfill."

A minimally contaminated site suddenly became a brownfield. Rejecting the simplest solution of capping the surface and building over it, IFAW chose the more complicated route—the removal of all toxins from the soil to a depth of 10 feet and the construction of a traditional Cape Cod landscape on a drumlin with native vegetation, rain gardens, and bioswales.

The centerpiece of the landscape is a large meadow around which the architects placed three buildings. "A single structure of 55,000 square feet would have been out of character with the region's vernacular architecture," explains Miklos. "The [buildings] are modeled on the classic Cape Cod barn." The shed interiors are lofts with large expanses of glass. While the open plan reduces the square footage of individual workspaces, it responds to IFAW's unique corporate culture by providing bigger conference "collaboration" rooms, private telephone rooms, and open staircases to encourage interaction.

An innovative structural system also opens the interior. The floor plates are column-free at the along the walls around the courtyard, where a screen of wood louvers hangs from the roof by steel straps. Views out of the floor-to-ceiling windows showcase the natural environs, and thus the site reclamation, proving, ultimately, that the effort was worthwhile.

Project Credits
Project: World Headquarters for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Yarmouth Port, Mass.
Client: International Fund for Animal Welfare
Architect: designLAB Architects—Robert Miklos (principal-in-charge and project architect); Sam Batchelor (project manager); Robert Caddigan (senior technical architect); Brent Stringfellow, Whitney Hudson, Scott Slarsky (project designers)
General Contractor: JK ScanLan Co.
Lansdscape Architect: Stephen Stimson Associates Landscape Architects
M/E/P Engineer: TMP Consulting Engineers
Civil Engineer: Down Cape Engineering?Daniel A. Ojala
Structural Engineer: ODEH Engineers
Geotechnical Engineer: Norfolk Ram
Lighting Consultant: Sladen Feinstein Integrated Lighting
Owner's Representative: KVA Associates
Furnishings: Leslie Saul Associates
Size: 55,000 square feet
Total Project Cost: $17 million


Jarrah Louvers
The exterior decks and wood louvers are constructed of jarrah, a species of eucalyptus that is abundant in Australia and has a 10—15-year growth cycle. Similar in appearance to mahogany, jarrah is fire- and rot-resistant and requires no chemical treatment. Weyerhaeuser sources jarrah hardwood lumber from Gunns Ltd. Jarrah grows in Western Australian forests, which are managed by the local forest ministry.

Septic System
F.R. Mahony;
DesignLAB Architects, in collaboration with Down Cape Engineering, chose an amphidrome septic system because they wanted a process that would filter wastewater before returning it to the water supply. The amphidrome system uses a bioreactor process, forcing wastewater through a deep bed of sand to clean the water. The system is designed to remove soluble organic matter, nitrogen, and suspended solids within a single reactor, as opposed to other systems that require multiple steps. Since it removes nitrogen, the amphidrome system is also considered a biological nutrient removal process.

ArchiCAD 12, Building Information Modeling (BIM) software
The designLAB team decided to use BIM software for the design of the IFAW headquarters in part because ODEH, the structural engineer on the project, already use BIM for all of its designs, and working with one BIM model facilitated work between the two firms. But when it came time to choose a program, designLAB chose Graphisoft's ArchiCAD because it worked within the firm's existing Macintosh platform. Principal Robert Miklos notes that the ability for both architects and engineers to access the same product database and to collaborate on the 3-D model saved time and money, a bonus for the client.