A Tube to Capture Pacific Breezes

Places / February 25, 2010

At heart, Belzberg Architects’ 20th Street Offices in Santa Monica are a tubular celebration of the Pacific breezes.

They started out that way five years ago when conceived as headquarters for the firm, and remained so when adapted for construction and LEED Gold status a few years back.

A tubular shape, it seems, makes a great deal of sense for a building that backs up to the ocean.

“The air moves through off the water,” said Lauren Zuzack, architect with the firm. “The breezes come through these huge nine-foot by nine-foot sliding doors at either end. There’s not much heating required, and no cooling.”

Inside the three-story structure, natural light penetrates either end through 20-foot tall windows, easily illuminating more than 75 percent of the building and minimizing the need for artificial light.

The building envelope consists of custom-designed diamond patterned cladding fabricated from sheet metal. Combined with high R-value insulation, it minimizes heat gain and places less stress on mechanical systems.

Workspaces are located on the perimeter of the interior, Lauren said, with conference and meeting spaces in the center. For the ten associates who work inside, that means a more collaborative relationship. “Most of us went to graduate or undergraduate school together,” she said. “This big open space makes us feel much more able to work together, desk to desk. We can move our chairs from our offices into the collaborative area, without having to pick up and move to a conference room.”

The building earned its LEED Gold status with a 46 percent water use reduction, 15 percent of its electricity provided by photovoltaics, 70 percent reduction in water for landscape irrigation, and a green roof..

The green theme is carried out throughout the offices’ details. Its floors are covered in a recycled paper pulp called Eco-Cem by Coverings, its furniture is formaldehyde-free, its reception desk is fashioned from bamboo, and its bathroom tiles are recycled glass.

The biggest challenge in designing the building, Lauren said, lay in retrofitting LEED Gold standards to the design after the fact. “It was interesting, coming in from the back end to achieve it,” she said.

But for this small architecture firm that specializes in designing custom homes, restaurants boutique hotels – and next, the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust – it was, well, a veritable breeze.

For more on Belzber Architects, go to www.belzbergarchitects.com

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Michael Welton

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