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Erdy McHenry Architecture
915 Orianna Street
Philadelphia PA 19123
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Vertical Screen Headquarters

The Vertical Screen headquarters is constructed on a brownfield site that was part the Johnsville Naval Air Development Center, which was the primary training facility for the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space programs. The building’s unique architecture speaks to the technological innovation and heroic scale of its place. The open hangar-like structure provides a spacious, open office environment that is connected to the surrounding landscape. The owner’s extensive artwork collection focuses (paradoxically) on seminal imagery of industrial innovation once considered progressive by our carbon-addicted society as an inspirational counterpoint to the building’s expressive environmental features.

Additional innovation is evidenced by the “green pods” where nature is brought inside with a vegetated wall, fresh air is more efficiently delivered through under-floor raised access floor and nature is indoors and out. Live plants grow on top to provide oxygen and decor.  They are watered with the rainwater collection system when available.  This harvesting system collects rainwater from 60% of the roof and stores it in a 50,000 gallon underground tank. The water is used to flush low-flow toilet fixtures and water faucets as well as to irrigate interior green walls and onsite landscaping.

Automatic window shades and light-dimming systems allow precise balance between daylight and artificial light, while numerous windows allow for a direct connection to the natural environment.  The building is made up of an array of re-purposed materials, including certified cut wood products, bamboo casework and doors, recycled glass counter-tops and carpeting made from recycled tires.  All interior spaces that needed to be enclosed by the program are condensed into a two-story massing that is covered by an exterior shell. These include mechanical rooms, stairs, bathrooms, the data center and conference rooms.

Located on the roof, 900 solar panels generate 164 kilowatts to provide 20% of the building’s energy requirements.  A cylindrical solar panel design captures both direct sunlight from above and reflected sunlight from a white “cool” rooftop. The unique shape of the panels allows wind to naturally flow through the spaces between the panel cylinders.  In addition to increasing the efficiency of the system by keeping it cooler, the reflective white roof also contributes to energy savings by providing a more efficient building envelope that reduces the building’s air conditioning load.

A closed-loop, geothermal water source heat pump includes approximately 65 closed-loop wells installed at a 500 ft. depth in order to utilize the earth’s mean temperature—utilized to heat and cool the building. The use of groundsource heatpumps at a brownfield site and for a large commercial building is very unusual and required additional care due to the site’s former use. Geothermal wells and horizontal manifold is routed beneath the parking area, with the remainder of the site dedicated to a corporate farm and greenhouse.

The building has an exceptional system for real-time monitoring and automated controls for water and energy use.  In addition to building management having access, the information is displayed in the lobby and is available through the company’s website.  Vertical Screen has also begun the process of obtaining LEED for Existing Building certification, ensuring that it is being managed to the highest sustainability standards.

Since the building opened in April 2011, more than 2,000 individuals have toured the facility.  These tour participants have ranged from professional groups of architects, green consultants, and engineers to teachers, government administrators, artists, and art collectors.  Also, many “lay” persons have toured the facility ranging from classes of elementary school children to older adults.  Each tour, tailored to the specific group, reviews the key energy saving strategies that the building uses to achieve its energy saving performance, as well as the materials and construction methods used in constructing a LEED Platinum building.

The new headquarters was awarded LEED Platinum Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council in November 2011, the highest sustainability designation granted by the USGBC.  Vertical Screen’s LEED Platinum score of 58 points, which made the building the greenest in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and tied it for the seventh-highest LEED score for a newly constructed office building in the United States. It is also ranked as the ninth highest in the world.