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Powerful Presence

New wine county agricultural HQ grows with green features

Ag Credit July 1

Santa Rosa, Calif.-based American AgCredit is the nation’s sixth largest agricultural lending cooperative, and its slogan is money for agriculture. Because it wanted to celebrate its centennial anniversary in a new home, it set out to create a magnetic headquarters. The result is a distinctive architectural presence in the center of California’s wine country that brings all of the firm’s local employees into a single workspace that has a real focus on sustainability.

The new, 120,000-square-foot, three-story building is comprised of two curving segments that create and wrap a private, oval courtyard in the middle. Enclosed bridges, exterior roof walks and patios encourage people to explore and enjoy their workplace.

This design takes advantage of the shape and exposure of the site, while providing great views of the outdoors from most locations. A forward-thinking, open-plan environment with demountable office partitions accommodates AgCredit’s constantly changing structure while allowing for maximum flexibility to meet the needs of its occupants well into the future.

To accomplish all of this, Santa Rosa-based TLCD Architecture teamed with Santa Rosa-based general contractor Jim Murphy & Associates (JMA) as well as American AgCredit. With this design partnership, Audrey Giroux, marketing manager at JMA, says this team successfully met the project’s greatest challenge: responding to the demanding programmatic requirements. “American AgCredit was in active acquisition mode during the design phases, continually changing the interior space configuration as they added new teams and departments,” adds Marina Starkey, marketing director at TLCD Architecture.


With the company facing rapid growth and change, the notion of movement heavily influenced its new HQ’s design. The slender building shapes are clad in curtainwalls to bring daylight deep into the space, and fulfill the client’s goal of an open and expansive interior. Environment-controlled roller shade systems from Long Island City, N.Y.-based MechoSystems Inc. change position during the day to reduce glare and daylight harvesting minimizes energy consumption, all of which provides a comfortable workplace.
Glassy interior pathways wrap around the courtyard to maximize views into the landscaping. The daylit hallways encourage a culture of transparency for executives and staff as they travel through the building. Late afternoon is a great time of day to enjoy the roof walk that connects the upper wings of the building.

From the patio, visitors are afforded a close-up view of the structural shading system that forms a key strategy in achieving a highly energy-efficient project. The open patio links the boardroom suite with the third-floor work zone, and is often used as a breakout space for quarterly board meetings, which bring in stakeholders from across five Western states.

Another one of the project’s sustainability features is a raised floor system, which aids indoor air quality. A displacement ventilation system chills outside air and distributes it through under-floor plenum to individual air diffusers. “It circulates 100 percent outside air and routes power, electrical and data systems within the same under-floor space,” says Steve Ronchelli, JMA’s vice president and the project manager for the American AgCredit project. “It enables private offices and workstations to be added or reconfigured with minimal impact on the surrounding environment. During construction, JMA was able to adjust to the clients' ever-changing needs and wants for power and data without adding to the cost or delaying the aggressive construction schedule.”

The office building exceeds the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED requirements for Gold-level certification. “The building performs 26 percent better than required by California’s stringent Title 24,” says Don Tomasi, AIA, principal at TLCD Architecture.


Exterior, pigmented zinc panels placed over the curtainwall glazing create a veil that wraps around the building. Tomasi says multiple mock-ups of the metal cladding system allowed the design and construction team to work out panel design and installation issues well in advance of actual construction. “Strategic panel location provided sunshading at key orientations,” he adds. The 1-mm Perforated Series Wall Panels from Holland, Mich.-based Dri-Design are made from Raleigh, N.C.-based Umicore Building Products USA Inc.'s VMZINC Pigmento Red, a colored zinc. “Dri-Design was selected for its panel fabrication technology, including customization and coordination of panel bending and perforation,” says Jeff Blechel, an architect with TLCD Architecture. “Also, Dri-Design’s fastening system allowed the material to be adapted to curvilinear forms.”

“The panels act as a screen from the direct sun, while the perforation pattern and size ensure the Sonoma views are not blocked by the panels,” says Jason Zeeff, vice president of sales at Dri-Design. “The perforations also provide airflow, which prevents the buildup of heat between the panels and the curtainwall. Without the perforated panels, the occupants of the headquarters would be uncomfortable or the HVAC system would have to work that much more to cool the space.” Architectural Metal Inc., Hopland, Calif., installed 48,198 square feet of Dri-Design panels for the project. Dave Roderick, president of Architectural Metal, notes, “The walls on this building were curved on a radius, so the layout had to be precise. The panels had to be fastened to the arc in segments of 6 feet and aligned with the windows.” Roderick forecasts that this building’s application of materials and design concepts will be the basis for green building projects today and into the future.