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Creativity Sustaining Community

University of Maryland

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Project Description


[1] Design and Innovation

The project [Creativity Sustaining Community] focuses on meeting the program needs with interactive figural pieces, while using material to frame these figures and act as shell that responds to the surrounding environment. These frames are regulated by the grid of the Whitehurst Bridge, and in between the frames, the glass curtain wall and green roof create a datum to guide the frames vertical and horizontal movement. Our site is located in Georgetown, Washington D.C. and is straddled by the Key Bridge to the West and the Whitehurst Bridge to the south. The steep topographic change also allows for interesting design when handling the connection between M street, to the north, and the Potomac River, to the south. Pigmental Studios, an animation studio, worked to give guidance and advice as the client for a building that inspires artists and designers. Sustainable design fosters a healthier atmosphere for the artists and an interactive experience fosters a relationship between Pigmental and the community.

[2] Regional/Community Design

Sitting adjacent to the Key Bridge, this building is the last building in the Georgetown Potomac Waterfront. On the north side of the site runs the C&O canal, and past that a steep slope up to the busy, retail focused M street. A small, pedestrian foot bridge crossing the canal allows heavy foot traffic down past the East side of the building. This dual approach comes together in an interactive pocket park, which brings relief to the hard waterfront edge and a sense of place to the highly trafficked area. On the canal side, the building gives an interesting layered effect to those who run and bike past on the heavily trafficked canal walkway. The site has a walkscore of 94, a bike score of 86 and a Transit score of 75. People are continuously biking and walking past the site and the building celebrates this. A priority for the client was to engage the community with this building, and for the community to experience their passion and art. The public is allowed to enter the triple story main lobby where there is a layered effect of people working at their different crafts. As a community member you can see anything from artists drawing, to people acting on the motion capture stage, to people recording in the soundstage, to people learning in a hands on classroom.

[3] Land Use and Site Ecology

The animation studio creates a sense of place for artists through parks and intimate views, but it also strives to give back more to the local ecology then what was there before. There are many features in and around the building to accommodate wildlife habitat, starting with the densely vegetated terraced stormwater management system on the west side of the building. It uses shrubbery, like chokeberry, that attract local birds, such as Chickadees and Goldfinch, as well as insects. The wildflower gardens on the canal side use species like milkweed, purple coneflower, daisies and bee balm to cultivate caterpillars and host butterflies. The building itself also invigorates the ecology of the site using native grasses on the roof, such as Little Bluestem, turning brilliant shades of green, blue and orange and red in the fall. This creates on-site ecosystems that surround and interact with the building. These ecosystems are all used to manage water through the site, collecting, filtering and reusing it.

[4] Bioclimatic Design

The frames that wrap around the building were designed to react to the site by blocking and letting in sunlight in appropriate areas, collecting rainwater, and pulling back to allow airflow and promote passive strategies throughout the year. The frames around the building act to shade important areas from the harsh southern sun. As the frames wrap around the building to the North side, or canal side, they stop before the reach the ground, allowing views into the building for the highly traveled pedestrian path. This allows ambient northern light to penetrate into the open plan work spaces. The frames extend up at varying heights, letting in different levels of sunlight through the clearstory windows to different areas. Summer wind comes from the North in this area, allowing for operable windows on the canal side. This creates visual porosity for the community and environmental porosity to optimize passive cooling in the summer months with natural ventilation. The green roofs and green walls in and on top of the building act to reduce the urban heat island effect and improve air quality indoors and outdoors.

[5] Light & Air

The north and south facade are treated completely different in design for environmental conditions. The floor slabs on the south side are pulled back ten feet on each floor below the Whitehurst Bridge so light can penetrate down to the first and second floor. This design strategy creates a ventilation shaft that is used as a double skin, two curtain walls 10 feet apart to capture hot summer air and pump it out and to act as an insulator during the winter. Interior louvres are used within this shaft to allow occupant control over the southern light. On the north side, curtain walls allow diffused northern light into all the work spaces in the building. Light through the clearstory windows creates a healthy atmosphere within the building, allowing an abundance of natural light to enter and views to the tall grasses and ecosystem on the green roof. This enhances the lives of the building occupants, making a more pleasant and healthy working experience. Under each frame, the drop gypsum board ceiling is pulled back two feet on each side of the frame, revealing the steel structure behind it. LED strip lighting then sits on top of that drop ceiling, up lighting the room and creating a “halo” effect. There is task lighting on the desks for detailed animation. Under the green roofs and in the curtain wall bays, the structure is exposed. There are interactive, motion censored lights that back lit the mineral composite panels, creating light a unique interactive experience. All of these lighting techniques strive to create a place where people want to go and work, a healthy environment and a space that they want to occupy, but also a place where they can be inspired to create.

[6] Water Cycle

The building itself acts as a filtration tool for stormwater management. When it rains, the water falls through the ½” gaps between the roof’s metal panels. This leads to a slightly sloped roof which collects the water and funnels it onto an adjacent green roof. The green roof then filters the water, collects in, and pipes it down into an underground cistern. The harvested rainwater is then piped into a water reuse room where it is filtered to sanitize it and used as grey water in toilets and as irrigation for the wildflowers on the north side of the building and for the green roofs in the summer. Therefore, all the water that falls onto the building is collected and reused within the building. The approximate amount of harvest rainwater is 346, 739 gallons per year. The percent of storm water managed on the site in a 2 year, 24-hour event is 180%. Almost every surface is collecting or using rainwater. The surrounding site is filled with vegetation and permeable pavers in the plazas, avoiding hard surfaces altogether. The terraced garden on the west side of the building acts to filter high volumes of water to mitigate flooding from the canal and to handle the water from the building if the cistern becomes full. The cistern can hold 2000 gallons of water at once, or 236 cubic feet.

[7] Energy Flows & Energy Future

The animation studio demands high energy use day and night, with employees working long hours, all hours of the day. This building seeks to offset energy usage and create a carbon neutral building. The studios use state of the art equipment with high efficiency and energy star rated products, including their cameras for motion capture, video capture cameras, projecting systems, interactive backlit walls, recording studio equipment and an average of fifty computers. The HVAC and air ventilation is a unique and modern design that senses people in the room and uses less duct work and less energy to run. It is a variable refrigerant system, that uses small pipes to carry hot and cold water, which quickly activates the temperature settings in any given zone, allowing for custom settings in all rooms, quickly creating a comfortable atmosphere. The small units can be placed under the wrapping shell along with the fresh air system, using the shell to completely incorporate it’s systems. As described earlier, the building uses many passive systems to mitigate heat gain and reduce CO2 pollution. The total EUI is approximately 120 kWh/yr, but with the Building Integrated Photovoltaics on each frame, the EUI is offset, with 90% energy efficiency from the BIPVs.

[8] Materials & Construction

Concrete was used as a core to the building, used to carry lateral loads and for steel beams to frame into. Concrete requires less energy to create then most other materials, making it durable, long lasting material that creates the least amount of impact. Steel acts as durable structural material with the opportunity for 20% re-used materials to be added and it is 100% recyclable at the end of its use. Steel represents an aesthetic that is expressive and durable. The glass used in this project is triple paned glass, which acts as an acoustical barrier towards the WhiteHurst freeway and the Key Bridge, an essential solution to challenges of the site, especially considering the delicate, sound sensitive program occupying the building. The brick veneer used on the lower south facade, is recycled brick from the facade of the building currently on the site. It responds to the surrounding Georgetown character, creating a base for the steel frames to intersect and combine with, mixing historic and contemporary schemes. Lightweight composite mineral panels are used for the modular paneling on each large figure. These panels are painted with zero VOC white paint, reducing their carbon effect drastically and creating a more eco-friendly environment. They meet LEED Sustainable Design standards for materials and resources with construction waste management and with indoor environmental quality pertaining to adhesives and sealants.

[9] Long Life, Loose Fit

The animation studio program required many specific, closed off spaces, creating a difficult challenge for the life span of this building and its possible reuse. To create adaptability within the building, we tried to create as much flexible space as the program would allow, by using a wide structural grid that allow large open spaces while still maintaining a circulation route to the north side. The building can easily be stripped of its walls and reconfigured to create new spaces in 50 years because durable foundation materials were used. This leaves a versatile building that is focused on promoting the health and well-being of its occupants through design strategies that advocate for natural lighting and views to greenery.

[10] Collective Wisdom & Feedback Loops

This building inspires creativity and is a home for the people of Pigmental. It was designed to create the best atmosphere possible for the artists to be inspired. This inspiration stems from colorful things like interactive walls, but just as importantly from sustainable thinking that creates a better atmosphere for the body and mind. This design went through many changes, and even in the detail stages kept undergoing changes to make the spaces more successful. Learning to think about how all the systems in the building work together successfully, while not losing sight of creating a captivating space was a big challenge. It is important to design the small details while not losing site of the big picture.

Faculty Sponsors: Carl Bovill, Peter Noonan, and Jordan Goldstein, University of Maryland
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