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    Architectural Site Representative for Skidmore Owings and Merill at the UNC Bell Tower Development Project in Chapel Hill, North Carolina
UNC Bell Tower Development   
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Skidmore Owings and Merrill, LLP (Chicago)
Campus Master Plan

The development of the UNC master plan focused on redefining the biology quad defined by the existing buildings which housed the majority ofthe programs that would eventually inhabit the proposed Genome Sciences building on the new site. SOM chose to create a central green space (Central Park) at the intersection of the proposed development with the surrounding campus, which included Kenan Stadium, the Stone Center, Coker Hall and the Fordham Building. Utilizing the existing surface parking area which had currently occupied the site, the design team successfully created a new campus open space to invite students to spend time around the new buildings and absorb the connections between the architecture and the green spaces adjacent to them. The proposed project was identified as the Bell Tower Development and incorporated several phases of development over time. These phases included:

Construction on the Advanced Site Utility Package and theNorth Chiller Plant began in November 2007.

Genome Sciences Building

With construction on the advanced site utility package for the building having begun, the focus of the design team became the Genome Sciences Building (GSB). The program forthe building had developed over a three year process with the University, incorporating the review and comments of several key user groups into the final proposal forthe building. The building itself wasdefined as approximately 280,000 square feet of total area which included all of the following program spaces for the University:

Construction Documents for the GSB were developed over 2008 and construction on the building began in January 2009.

Project Sustainability

The University’s holistic goal for a sustainable campus was one that also has come to be a building standard on new projects. With the said, the Bell Tower Development was not an exception to the rule. The overall project integrated many sustainable design features during the course of designand construction. From the create reuse of the existing facilities during the renovation of the North Chiller Plant tothe large storm water reclamation system with an integral underground cistern(pictured), the Bell Tower Development strived to provide a new example of sustainable practice on campus. The Genome Science Building asserted an early goal of LEED Platinum for new construction and would eventually be in route to a final certification of LEED Silver with many innovative design features, some of which are listed below:

Architectural Concrete

The research and development of the use of architecturalconcrete on this project was a team effort, led by SOM and Reginald Hough(FAIA), who brought more than 30 years of industry practice to theproject. The goal was to create anaesthetically acceptable solution for the structural concrete of the building which would utilize the concrete material in as many ways as possible. The environmental impacts that are a resultof the use of cast-in-place concrete almost require that this goal be astandard in the building industry. Over the course of year, the design team developed a structural concrete mix utilizing a local river stone aggregate along with multiple variations of sand and grey cement from the area. This complex development of an aesthetic finish through several architectural concrete mock-ups led to the designer’s ability to utilize the architectural concrete inseveral unique ways on the project:

Research Greenhouse Development

During the course of construction of the new Greenhouse, SOM designed and built an Interim Greenhouse to allow the University to transition into their final home in the rooftop of the GSB. This process allowed the design team, which included the Canadian consulting firm of Agritechnove, to develop multiple strategies for the rooftop greenhouse. The final rooftop greenhouse of the GSB would eventually include (10) separate growth compartments that utilize a low-profile perimeter air diffuser cabinet along the exterior wall of the greenhouse along with clear acrylic ductwork to maximize natural light exposure.

With a fully functioning headhouse and lobby entrance gallery, the rooftop greenhouse of the GSB became one of the unique designfeatures of the building. The development of the structural expression of the greenhouse eventually led to an inverted saw-tooth profile, creating a minimal presence on the roof of the building that was also stylized and in line with the facade of the building enclosure. Once complete, the rooftop greenhouse will both highlight the presence of the Biology department’s new home and will complement the building’s architectural aesthetic.

High Performance Glazing

SOM’s tested experience with high-performance glazing  ystems is most definitely expressed on the face of the GSB. The design team utilized multiple glazing systems to develop a strategy which defined the different aspects of the building as the complexity of the exterior intersected with the interior. The design team was also conscious of the strict energy requirements for the building’s LEED status, and therefore utilizedseveral unique frit patterns to express color and transparency on the exterior face of the building. The complexgeometry of the greenhouse structural steel also led to a unique opportunity to express the simple lines of the rooftop.  In the final design of the building, the glazing system sprovide users with dynamic views of the exterior, permanent interior viewports into adjacent work which encourages interdisciplinary communication and a newdefinition of modern architectural for the UNC campus.

Brise Soleil

SOM and CarpenterNorris worked together to develop anarchitectural strategy to both diffuse light along the exterior wall of thebuilding and allow for the same natural light to penetrate deep in to the concrete structure of the building’s interior. With the use of an integral light shelf and reinforced fiberglass “fins”,the North, East and West elevations of the building were transformed into anarchitectural highlight. Both aesthetic and functional, the fins deflect the early day direct sunlight in the laboratory while the light shelf captures the mid-day sunlight and transportsit deep into the laboratory to provide natural light along the work surfaces ofthe lab benches. Although there is noclear recognition of this design strategy within the LEED guidelines, this feature of the GSB undoubtedly provides its occupants with valuable natural light, retains the visual connection between the interior/exterior and provides a unique aesthetic to the exterior of the building.

For more information regarding this project, visit my personal website online at: http://www.ciraulodesign.com

Note:  The UNC Bell Tower Development is a project that Christopher Ciraulo worked during his employment at Skidmore Owings and Merrill, LLP.  The text and images used are personal photography and implied knowledge based on my employment there.