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A Simple and Strong Building

Office building provides a new image while connecting with existing buildings

Adair Apr18 1

Prior to moving into its new office in February 2016, the Adair County Engineer’s office was located on the upper mezzanine level of the Vehicle Maintenance Shed in Greenfield, Iowa. When the engineering staff had outgrown the space, which had limited daylighting and accessibility, Des Moines, Iowa-based ASK Studio was brought on to design a 2,500-square-foot office.

The new building is located to the east of the existing Vehicle Maintenance Shed, where previously open space had been used for staging equipment and vehicles. “The site is adjacent to the public street and is looped by the access drive to the Vehicle Maintenance Shed and materials storage sheds,” says Michael Kastner, AIA, LEED AP, principal at ASK Studio. “This allows for greater public visibility and access to the engineer’s office and allowed the operations staff to maintain control on equipment entering and leaving the site.”

Kurtis Wolgast, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP BD+C, project designer at ASK Studio, says the goal was to assemble a simple program with an unadorned shell that contextually relates to the existing structures on-site. This also provides the County Engineer with a new image and interface with the general public, while allowing the vehicle maintenance staff to expand into the previous space.

Simple Forms

By keeping the design program simple, Wolgast says they were able to maintain a strong, straightforward building form, emulating the shapes of the existing buildings. “The design parti is based on the creation and intersection of the north-south public space axis and the east-west private space axis,” he adds. “This is translated through the building by the organization of space and use of material, color, rhythm of windows and storefront openings.”

With the envelope undecorated, Kastner says the shell becomes the ornament that demands working and reworking each element so it serves an order, which is defined by the exterior materials. To augment the building’s simple gable form, white ribbed metal panels are used on the walls and roof. The roof overhangs and galvanized corrugated panels on the gable ends strengthen the building’s form, while expressing the linearity of the east-west axis.

Beresford, S.D.-based Long Creek Steel’s supplied its 26-gauge R-5 panel in Pure White for both the roof and the north and south elevations. Long Creek Steel also supplied its 28-gauge 2.5 corrugated panels in Charcoal for the end walls. In total, Long Creek Steel supplied 4,182 square feet of ribbed metal wall panels, which were installed by the general contractor, McKee Contracting Co., Emerson, Iowa.

The fenestration is established within the rhythm of the ribs the utilitarian material. Since the building is oriented along the east-west axis, there is no glazing to the east or west. Offices and glazing are oriented to the north to reduce glare with computer and allow glazing without window coverings. The larger, south-facing glass is inset with a larger overhang for shading. For the project, Manhattan, Kan.-based Manko Window Systems Inc. supplied its 2450 Series glazed storefront system, and JELD-WEN Windows & Doors, Charlotte, N.C., supplied the punched windows.

Unifying Reinforcements

Metal panels were chosen for their unifying shape and color that reinforces the simple monolithic shape of the building form. The panels’ linear ribs also tie the roof and wall together into a singular form, while referencing the existing structures on-site. The metal panels also provide long-term durability and low maintenance. “The ribbed metal panels were selected because of its similar style and color to the original building,” says Kastner. “The galvanized corrugated panel was selected to provide contrast on the gable ends, while maintaining a utilitarian connection.”

“The inherent pattern of the ribbed metal panel becomes the organization element across the façade,” adds Wolgast. “The roof and wall panels align, the openings align with the panel ribs, the windows are sized and placed to coordinate with the panel ribs, and the exterior lights work within the pattern. Minimal detailing at the corners and edges allowed the metal panels to connect visually and reinforce the simple forms and shapes.”

Additionally, the size and shape of the exterior openings replicate the overhead doors and windows of the existing buildings. The larger storefront openings and orange color cement board panels express the main entrance and the public axis, which extends throughout the building to the north. “The rhythm of the smaller openings works within the overall pattern of the ribbed metal panels and defines the private axis of the building,” says Wolgast.

Coordinated Colors

Inside the building, the reflective concrete floor surface highlights the colors that were used to accent the interior. Circulation spaces are defined by a green color on the ceiling, while the reception and conference room sport an orange that is a nod to the paint on the trucks the department uses on a daily basis. Orange also represents the entrance and public axis, while green represents the private axis.

According to Kastner, the orange accent colors represents the man made, while the complimentary green color represents that natural environment. The interior walls of the building’s public spaces are given warmth by knotty pine tongue-and-groove car siding that helps differentiate the public axis from the private offices.

“When each of the project constraints are rigidly defined at the outset—meaning that form, materiality and function cannot fluctuate—each element must be celebrated,” explains Kastner. “As given, this project was essentially a Morton building; the stereotypical drag-and-drop utilitarian structure. The execution of this new structure redefines the Morton typology by using the standard materials to establish an order throughout the structure, essentially taking the given archetype and elevating it from mere utility to crafted architecture.”