Office, Warehouse Twist
and orientation optimizes daylighting, energy
In buildings with warehouses and offices, often the
warehouse is the larger part. At a safety training company in
Canada, it's the opposite. SafeStart's headquarters has about
23,000 square feet of office and meeting space and a
Ample, well-lit office and meeting space was one of many of the
owner's requirements. Belleville, Ontario-based SafeStart, a
division of Electrolab Ltd., shares the building with Electrolab.
Previously, the company operated from two locations: one for
administration and another for warehouse space, which it leased.
The company needed an energy-efficient facility to centralize and
expand its operations. A fulfillment warehouse, large meeting
spaces, spaces for video conferencing, a cafeteria and other
elements had to be included.
Additionally, with the 35-year-old company's future growth in
mind, the owner wanted an appealing building that would support
employee retention and recruitment. In anticipation of additions,
the building needed to be designed to expand. Outside, the owner
wanted to carry over a connection to the outdoors it had at its
previous location, where there were woods, foliage and wildlife
To meet all the design requirements, Bel-Con
Design-Builders Ltd., in Belleville, and Ernest A. Cromarty
Architect Inc., in Kingston, Ontario, pulled out all the tools from
A series of metal building systems from Kansas City, Mo.-based
Butler Manufacturing was assembled into a reverse Z-shaped
footprint, like a straw with two twists and ends pointing northeast
One metal building system houses the warehouse on the north end,
the top of the Z running northeast/southwest. The largest section
in the middle, running northwest/southeast, was built with another.
A third metal building system was used for a large meeting room at
the southwest corner. Additional metal building systems were
constructed for a cafeteria in between the mid-section and large
meeting room, and the main, front entrance at the northwest
Tom Gunsinger, co-owner and president at Bel-Con, says, "This was
really totally off the wall for us; it's essentially five different
Butler buildings put together."
Besides practical functions such as fitting the facility to the
site, driveways and warehouse access, it was oriented north to
south to conserve energy and maximize interior daylighting.
"That's why it's at an angle. The building is orientated for the
sun. It was situated to help with the natural daylighting, and we
positioned overhangs to keep the high sun away from the windows
without losing the benefit of the daylighting."
Designed for Daylighting
SafeStart's building is filled with daylight from
skylights and curtainwalls. Bel-Con installed Butler's SunLite
Strip daylighting system with 26, 10-foot by 2-foot, prismatic
domes. In addition to conserving energy, the bright, natural light
fits the company's concepts about safe work environments.
"Part of their safety training is being alert and being refreshed
and ready to work; that's important to them," Gunsinger says. "They
wanted people to interact with each other and not be holed up in
windowless offices. If people have a nice workspace, they're more
likely to be engaged and thinking safety."
To mitigate the most intense sunlight, deep
overhangs were installed on the south and west sides. "The
overhangs are large enough to knock down the hot sun without
eliminating the natural daylight coming in through the windows,"
On the east side of the building's large mid-section, where there
aren't deep overhangs, Belleville-based Moira Glass and Mirror Ltd.
installed Woodbridge, Ontario-based Commdoor Aluminum's
10-foot-wide by 14-foot-tall curtainwall.
"There are some large windows facing northeast, so they do take
some benefit from the morning sun, but by and large, they don't
have sun shining on them," Gunsinger says.
Insulated Roofs, Walls
Each section of the building is topped with a single-slope roof.
Bel-Con installed 32,000 square feet of Butler's MR-24 standing
seam roof panels in Galvalume and Butler's ThermaLiner Insulation
With an insulating capacity of R-40, the roof exceeded building
codes, Gunsinger says. "You can easily ramp that up from R-30 to
R-40 for a pretty nominal cost that's going to pay off. There are a
few more pounds of steel in the substructure, but by and large it's
just the insulation that you're adding."
The walls are insulated to R-28. Bel-Con installed 18,000 square
feet of Butler's Shadowall and eShadowall metal wall panels in Cool
Shell Grey. It also installed about 2,000 square feet of Butler's
StylWall II flat metal wall panels in Cool Harvest on the fascia of
the large overhangs. Bel-Con capped the beams of the overhangs with
1,000 square feet of London, Ontario-based Ontario Panelization's
metal composite material panels.
The project received a Butler Design Award in April, a year after
it was completed. "We used pretty much every product in Butler's
repertoire," Gunsinger says.
Ready to Grow
SafeStart wanted its new headquarters to be attractive to employees
and expandable for future additions.
"This company is growing, and they need to attract people,"
Gunsinger says. "So part of what they want to do is have a nice
workplace that people are going to want to be associated with and
come to, as part of both acquiring new talent and retaining
On the northwest and southeast sides, there are
expandable endwalls with structural frames designed to carry the
load of additions. At the northwest side, 5,000 square feet of
warehouse space could be added; at the southeast side, 10,000
square feet of office and meeting space could be added.
"Basically, that frame is no different than any other frame that's
in the building, and it's as heavy as they are," Gunsinger says.
"If that was to become an interior, then the siding, girts and wind
columns come out and it becomes part of the interior of the
In addition to having an attractive building, the owner wanted the
entire 7-acre site to have as much greenery as possible. W.R.
Bonter Landscaping Ltd., of Belleville, completed traditional
landscaping in the immediate area around the building. Beyond that,
the site is being naturalized with wild flowers, grasses and native
trees. The landscaping leads to a large storm water management
pond, which has drawn the attention of waterfowl.
"The idea was the offices would be facing south and west, which is
all landscaped," Gunsinger says. "And there's a stormwater
retention pond and a nice, natural environment. It's not as wooded
as their former place, but it's going to be nice in a couple more
years. You'll have a very similar feel, which is something they
were trying to maintain."
SafeStart, a division of Electrolab Ltd., Belleville,
Architect: Ernest A. Cromarty Architect Inc.,
Kingston, Ontario, www.cromarty.ca
Design-builder/installer: Bel-Con Design-Builders
Ltd., Belleville, www.bel-con.com
Acoustics, drywall and steel studs installer: JP
Rowland Construction Ltd., Peterborough, Ontario, jprowland.ca
Glazing supplier/installer: Moira Glass and
Mirror Ltd., Belleville, moiraglass.com
Landscaper: W.R. Bonter Landscaping Ltd.,
Curtainwall: Commdoor Aluminum, Woodbridge,
Metal wall panels: Ontario Panelization, London,
Metal building systems/skylights: Butler
Manufacturing, Kansas City, Mo., www.butlermfg.com
Photos: Ash Murrell, Phoenix Designs