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Open Expression

Metal building system, open floor plan convey functionality and company culture

Compu Tech City July18 266
Photo: Chad Baumer Photography

Extending from the front of an office building in Longwood, Fla., exposed structural beams and columns reach out and support a building-length canopy. Exposed structure continues throughout the building, designed to draw attention to, instead of cover up, its metal building system. The judging panel praised CompuTech LLC and Billed Right LLC’s headquarters for optimizing its metal building system for functionality and architectural expression and gave it the 2018 Metal Architecture Design Award for the Metal Buildings category.

Fielding Featherston, AIA, LEED AP, principal at Orlando, Fla.-based Process Architecture LLC, says the overall concept was to create a modern, casual workplace with an open floor plan and flexible gathering spaces. At every level, metal was used to achieve functional and aesthetic goals.

Framed Entry

The exposed structure in the front of the building performs several functions. It frames the main entrance, creates shelter with a canopy and angles the roof for optimal daylight exposure to two Crystalline Silicon (c-Si) photovoltaic (PV) glass arrays supplied by New York City-based Onyx Solar Energy SL, one of which forms the canopy itself.

“In some cases, metal buildings are clad in materials that make the metal building go away,” Featherston says. “We thought the metal building was nothing to hide; instead, it was something to embrace. Instead of burying the columns within the building, we created a sense of entry, framed the entrance and expressed the structure. We wanted to express the structure because we find these systems to be inherently beautiful.”

Photo: Chad Baumer Photography

Columns and Canopy

The exposed columns look a bit like spider legs and add outdoor space by supporting the PV canopy, Featherston says. “Extending the structure beyond the envelope in the form of spider-leg columns creates shaded areas that frame the façade and form a refuge from the harsh Florida sun.”

In addition to being bookended by exposed steel columns, the front entrance is identified by a break in the canopy and a parapet that hides rooftop units.

“We integrated the solar panels into the architecture, as opposed to them just being an appliqué that was just stuck on the roof,” Featherston says. “The parapet not only pronounces the entry, it also screens mechanical equipment. We accomplish a lot with a few moves: we frame the entrance, hide the mechanical equipment, celebrate the structure and showcase the solar photovoltaic panels.”

The spider-leg-like columns align with the project’s overall intent to provide inviting, open spaces. “The building reaches out and embraces its site literally with the columns,” Featherston says. “This suggests another level of openness; it’s reaching out to the visitor, there’s nothing to be hidden. There’s a lot of transparency in the building, despite the fact that it’s covered in ribbed metal wall panels.”

The exposed structure continues inside the building in a large open workspace, conference rooms and offices. “In no areas did we want to hide a column,” Featherston says. “Wherever [the columns] pass down into the building, the walls and flooring materials stop short, nothing covers the structure.”

Photo: Chad Baumer Photography

Community Culture

Since it was founded in 2003, CompuTech City and Billed Right’s company culture has centered on its working groups and a sense of community, a theme that is woven throughout the design. In addition to a large, open office floor plan, there are numerous gathering spaces for working and socializing. For example, at the east side of the building, a large kitchen opens to a covered patio overlooking a volleyball court.

The floor plan is organized in three zones. The west side of the building contains the warehouse, the middle holds office spaces and the east side contains gathering spaces. Open spaces connect the zones. “Another thing that suggests a modern, casual workplace is connectivity within the building in terms of spaces bleeding into each other,” Featherston says.

Exterior Reveals Interior

The exterior of the building echoes the opens spaces within, Featherston says. The majority of windows are concentrated at the front of the building in horizontal bands. They indicate where activity in the interior is concentrated, and that the interior spaces are large and open, Featherston says. “Where the building expresses most of the structure and glazing, that’s associated with open office and community spaces.”

The overall span of the structure also reveals the open floor plan. “The openness is expressed spatially inside, but outside it’s expressed through a very open, wide-span structure,” Featherston says. “The structural nature of metal buildings is something that invites openness, which was clearly a value of our client’s operationally, and a value of ours from a design standpoint.”

Mount Dora, Fla.-based Evergreen Construction Management Inc. installed 10,300 square feet of Charlotte, N.C.-based Nucor Building Systems’ 24-gauge CFR standing seam roof system in Galvalume finish and 8,342 square feet of 26-gauge Classic Wall panels in Burnished Slate. The project also utilized Norcross, Ga.-based Kawneer Co. Inc.’s 1600CW curtainwall, Trifab VersaGlaze TF 451T windows and Trifab TF 400 storefront system.

Photo: Chad Baumer Photography