The Virginia Center for Green Technology is both a reconciliation of the historic Woolen Mills and an innovative approach to facilitate community interaction. Most of the material choices are local and reflect the character of the site. For instance, the existing stone bearing wall is considered through both materiality and composition. The southern glazed curtain wall transparently extends the historic stone wall and provides phenomenal views to the Rivanna River and Monticello on the forested hillside. This curtain wall is structurally supported by cantilevered steel-I beams. This steel framework connects to the concrete bearing walls veneered with bluestone, which extend laterally through the interior and exterior spaces in order to reinforce the historic stone wall. The copper standing seam roof is sloped in order to bring rainwater to the cisterns on the northern side. This water is then recycled and used for grey water purposes. The water treatment also runs longitudinally along the site where a series of terraced water gardens shapes the pedestrian access to the building. The entire hydraulic network attempts to prevent contaminated run-off from entering the river where the water is already extremely poor due to the convergence of water from the southern sewage plant and the more natural water coming from where the remnants of the northern damn. The southern skin is mostly glazed and is protected from heat gain and harsh light by the three foot overhang of the roof. The other elevations are composed with a combination of bluestone walls, glazing, and treated douglass fur cladding. The Virginia Center for Green Technology relates to several case studies, as shown on the left. The material composition of Renzo Piano’s Beyeler Foundation Museum is very similar. The roof construction of the Grandstand in Bregenz is adopted at a smaller scale in the roof construction of the Virginia Center for Green Technology. The glazing of the Finnish Embassy facing the landscape is the visual appearance that the southern curtain wall is trying to capture. The structural and material hierarchy of Alexandar Gorlin’s Rocky Mountain House is also translated in the Virginia Center for Green Technology.
The Virginia Center for Green Technology uses local materials in order to minimize the overall cost. If the project were to be fifty percent over budget some of the finishing work could be reduced. For instance, the concrete masonry walls are veneered with bluestone in order to reflect the historic stonewall on the site. Also, the cantilevered curtain wall is entirely glazed in order to provide views of the Rivanna River and transparently continue the stonewall. This southern wall is double glazed with low-emissivity glass. The construction will initially be expensive due to the large size and number of glass sheets that are needed to stretch the double-storied space. However, this also will increase the amount of day lighting and reduce heat gain which is cost-effective towards to overall building costs. The recycling of rainwater for grey water purposes also reduces the building costs because this water supply system is much cheaper then conventional water supply system. Optimally, the building could completely rely on water for all electric and power systems in order to provide more money for sustainable materials that would increase the overall life expectancy of the building.
Design Studio || Betsy Rottener || UVA Spring 2008