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Office, Warehouse Twist

Butlers Safestart Pic 1 Low Res

Building design and orientation optimizes daylighting, energy conservation

Photo: Ash Murrell, Phoenix DesignsIn 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 5,000-square-foot warehouse.

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 nearby.

Reverse Z-Shape

Photo: Ash Murrell, Phoenix DesignsTo 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 the toolbox.

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 and southwest.

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 corner.

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."

Photo: Ash Murrell, Phoenix DesignsTo 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," Gunsinger says.

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 System.

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 talent."

Photo: Ash Murrell, Phoenix DesignsOn 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 building."

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, Ontario, Canada
Architect: Ernest A. Cromarty Architect Inc., Kingston, Ontario,
Design-builder/installer: Bel-Con Design-Builders Ltd., Belleville,
Acoustics, drywall and steel studs installer: JP Rowland Construction Ltd., Peterborough, Ontario,
Glazing supplier/installer: Moira Glass and Mirror Ltd., Belleville,
Landscaper: W.R. Bonter Landscaping Ltd., Belleville,
Curtainwall: Commdoor Aluminum, Woodbridge, Ontario,
Metal wall panels: Ontario Panelization, London, Ontario,
Metal building systems/skylights: Butler Manufacturing, Kansas City, Mo.,


Photos: Ash Murrell, Phoenix Designs