Three Part Harmony
The California Independent System Operator Corp. is responsible for the management of the
California electrical grid. This mission puts them squarely in the
high-profile tech arena and requires a very sophisticated data
center. It also forced two goals when the non-profit built a new
headquarter building in Folsom, Calif.: first to educate the public
about energy consumption and second to attract workers in the very
competitive tech sector.
Kristopher Barkley, design director at Dreyfuss & Blackford
Architects, Sacramento, Calif., responded to those needs with a
building that comprises three parts: a dynamic public space, an
enticing office environment and an efficient mission critical data
center. The three wings of the California ISO headquarters house
each element and work in concert to deliver on its mission.
"They have 750 employees in the tech business," says Barkley.
"But it's not as exciting as Google or Yahoo, so they wanted to
create an atmosphere to become an employer of choice." The building
helps fulfill that goal.
The California ISO headquarters is situated on a rolling expanse
of land outside Sacramento, Calif., and designed to fit in
naturally among the native vegetation, which includes native oak
trees. It also was designed to achieve LEED Platinum status, and
through careful use of daylighting, solar energy, water
conservation, material choice and other decisions, it has been
The Public Wing
A building has to do more than just be sustainable to attract
tech workers, though. It has to have a contemporary feel, and the
use of metal panels from CENTRIA, Moon Township, Pa., provide the
contemporary look. The silver shades and blend of smooth and
profiled panels offer texture and sophistication that speak to the
youthfulness of the tech sector, which was a concern since the
average age of workers at California ISO far exceeds that average
age of workers in the California tech sector. Most of the metal
panel work appears on the public wing, which
includes conference rooms, food service and an open dining
The public spaces open to an outdoor area where workers can
gather. The use of metal and glass breaks down the barrier between
the indoors and outdoors. "We tried to create a place with a lot of
natural daylight, was very dynamic and exciting atmosphere,
bringing the outside in," says Barkley. "And we also created spaces
where workers can escape the entire building and still be within
the security envelope of the property."
One side of the public wing faces west, so Barkley employed a
stainless steel metal mesh from GKD Metal Fabrics, Cambridge, Md.,
to shade about 50 percent of the glass and still allow diffused
light to enter. "It's become a very popular spot," Barkley
The Office Wing and the Data Center
The office wing of the building is a three-story, glass
structure that provides ample daylight for workers. "We were most
concerned about daylighting in the office wing," says Barkley. "It
has the higher number of people. And we were concerned not only
about the energy savings there, but the feeling of the environment.
We kept the building width fairly narrow and it's aligned so that
it is on a north-south axis with the primary faces of the building.
On the north side, we maximized the glass to bring in the diffused
natural light, which doesn't have much energy consequence if you do
that. And on the south side, we used the sunshades to control the
light coming in. Also, they reflect light up into the ceiling areas
of interior spaces." The sunshades on the public wing were
manufactured by C.R. Laurence Co., Los Angeles, and the sunshades
on the office wing were custom designed by Royal Glass Co., Rancho
The heart of the building is the data center. It's a one-story
wing, which angles off to the southwest from the central lobby.
Because it requires a more secure environment, it stands more
separate from the other areas of the building to control access.
The roof of the data center provides the platform for one of the
solar arrays, which deliver 750 kilowatts of energy and offset
about 20 percent of the building's energy consumption.
The company was, understandably, very focused on the operation
center, since that is the primary mission. "We delivered a lot more
than they were expecting," Barkley says. "They were very pleasantly
surprised at what they got."