Team of architectual engineers, architects win green design contest

Penn State architecture and architectural engineering alumni were part of a team that designed the winning entry in the recent 2011 Metropolis Next Generation Design Competition.

The winning design team was composed of three engineers from Vanderweil Engineers and 11 architects from HOK Architecture. Four members of the team are Penn State graduates. Brandon Harwick, a 2002 architectural engineering alumnus, was the lead engineer on the project. Patrick Murphy, a 2007 architectural engineering alumnus, served as the project engineer. Antony Yen, a 2003 architecture alumnus, was the lead interior designer for the project. John Jackson, a 2004 architecture alumnus, served as a project designer.

The annual competition is hosted by Metropolis Magazine and the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). The goal of the project is to transform an existing 1.2 million-square-foot U.S General Services Administration building in downtown Los Angeles into a self-sufficient structure with net-zero energy consumption while also improving the indoor environment. 

The team calls their design "Process Zero: Retrofit Resolution," which aims to improve the utilization of daylight and airflow of the existing building. The team used forward-thinking ideas to address the site, the exterior of the building, mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, lighting conditions, the work environment and human behaviors in the design.

The final proposal includes a redesigned exterior to increase the efficiency of insulation and heat gain control.

A system of algae tubes that feed off pollution from the nearby highway produces fuel on site and improves local air quality.

Photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal panels were placed on the roof and PV shading was placed on the windows to reflect light deeper into the interior of the building. The roof was opened to provide for better utilization of natural sunlight.

Inside the building, the workspace was redesigned to provide a more flexible work environment with areas for group work and meetings. 

Metropolis Magazine characterized the design as "a conventional glass-and-concrete office block of the Mad Men era is transformed into a living, breathing 'bioreactor' powered by tubes of energy-generating algae." The publication called it "a healthy, fully empowered, and strikingly beautiful example of sustainability."

An in-depth description of the design process and the final submission are available at

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Last Updated October 25, 2011