GSA
Los Angeles, California
GSA
Los Angeles, California

This project aims to renovate an existing GSA building in Los Angeles to reach net zero energy. We identified the existing problems of the site and function and sought practical and expressive solutions to last for the next fifty years. Like reconstructive surgery, this application addresses the core issues of an unhealthy building and seeks to revitalize the site into a vibrant part of society.


The design removes the existing center core and lifts the skin. With telecom-muting woven into new business models, we are able to reduce area within the core to provide energy savings at a 1:1 ratio. Obsolete offices are replaced by cloud computing servers, allowing employees to work from home, the park, the beach or anywhere. This area reduction substantially mitigates the environmental impact of commuter automobile traffic. It also allows for a slimmer office footprint to reduce cooling load and bring more daylight into the building. The skin is opened to allow prevailing breezes into the core and provide a welcomed pedestrian entry. The roof rises to become an occupied solar lens, harnessing solar energy for the building’s use and creating an active green roof, physically bending upward and toward the incoming sunlight at the location of highest solar exposure. The sustainable systems are made visible to all. The core of the atrium hosts the mechanical systems, exposed and celebrated as functional sculpture within the building. This gesture displays the ‘motherboard’ of the building to educate occupants citizens and visitors as to how their sustainable systems are working for them. Among these systems are living machines incorporated into the landscape and an operable ETFE panelized cover embedded with Building Integrated Photovoltaics. By revamping and revealing the building’s elements, we offer an environment in which members of the community can fully understand and enjoy the rewards of a thriving and sustainable workplace.

Sustainable buildings are not often synonymous with evocative architecture. They are many times literal interpretations of prescriptive strategy, and they can end up looking like it. We feel that in order for the GSA Headquarters in Los Angeles to become an ambassador to sustainable design, not only building industry professionals, but also the people who will use it, walk by it and look at it every day, it must blend the “cool’’ with the “machine.” This existing building has this unique opportunity, and with our reconstructive surgery it will do just that. We will elaborate on the parts-to-whole relationship from form to components in order to make clear the intent, function and composition of the elements. 

The city of Los Angeles is filled with eccentric buildings that nourish the creative spirit. Disney Concert Hall and High School Number 09 are two nearby examples that excite the imagination and illustrate what architecture can do with vivid form and space. These buildings are beautiful and evoke the imagination, but they do not communicate sustainability.  

On the large scale, we remove the center core, lift the skin, and install a living machine. With telecommuting woven into new business models, the area reduction within the core will not pose a problem with usable office space and will contribute to energy savings in a 1:1 ratio. Cloud computing brings the introduction of server space in the new building to allow many employees to work from home, the park, the beach or anywhere. This area reduction is huge in mitigating the environmental impact of commuter automobile traffic. It also allows a skinnier office footprint, bringing more daylight into the building. 

We then lifted the building’s skin to allow prevailing breezes into the core of the building and to provide pedestrian entry with a welcoming gesture. Adding program that we lost from the skirt lift, the roof becomes an occupied solar lens, both harnessing solar energy for the building’s use and creating an active green roof, physically bending upward and toward the incoming sunlight at the location of highest solar exposure. Psychometric charts are shown for the building location, including the benefits of strategies such as thermal mass, night-purge ventilation, and passive solar heating.  

Atop the atrium, an operable ETFE panelized cover embedded with Building Integrated Photovoltaics regulates the heat gain within the space. In addition to the roof systems, the building exterior gets a face lift by replacing its minimally productive skin with a high performance exterior. These sustainable strategies are compared with the existing building output to demonstrate the efficacy of our moves to maximize efficiency and comfort and, therefore, productivity. Productivity has the capacity to add value, and value is essential for true growth of society in both the economic and cultural sense.

To clean both black and grey water, living machines were incorporated into the landscape. By lifting the buildings mass, air currents are diverted into the interior of the building, allowing hot air to be pushed out through the atrium roof and exterior envelope. This envelope is a system of operable fritted ETFE panels embedded with Building Integrated Photovoltaics. Fritted ETFE panels  clad the exterior skin.  

In the core of the atrium the mechanical systems are celebrated and become functional sculpture within the building that reaches up to the canopy. This gesture displays the “mother board” of the building to educate occupants, citizens and visitors as to how their sustainable systems are working for them. By revamping and revealing the building’s elements, we offer an environment in which members of the community can fully understand and enjoy the rewards of a thriving and sustainable workplace.