Double Skin Facades - US Examples - Occidental Chemical

This is a series of listings of currently constructed double skin buildings in the North America. I'll make a separate post for each example as there is a good bit of information out there to highlight.

The Occidental Chemical Building - 1982
(also called the Hooker Chemical Building)
Niagara Falls, New York
Approx. 200,000 sf
Architect: Cannon Design

This was a nice idea. Floor to ceiling glass with views of an amazing natural wonder; Niagara Falls. Somewhat clunky in execution but still makes for an interesting visual presence.
Conceived in the midst of the oil crisis of the early 1980s, this landmark structure continues to maintain its place as one of the most energy efficient commercial buildings in the world.
-From Cannon Design's website
These kind of claims by the architect highlight the need for more research and follow up by designers. Yes this building was forward thinking and innovative, but was the solution elegant enough to withstand the test of time? 20 years is probably just barely the payback period for much of the added cost of the "innovation".

Energy Star Propoganda
-A description of what this building aspired to be. And a nice night image.

Terry Boake, U. Waterloo
Has some interesting follow up research and good photos of this building.

A Protocol to Determine the Performance of South Facing Double Glass Façade System-A Preliminary Study of Active/Passive Double Glass Façade Systems
A masters thesis by a Virginia Tech Student. Chapter 2 has a good section of the wall and more information on Double Skins. A pretty good primer for double skins.

Hope Springs Eternal - Trouble in Paradise

No longer the symbol of an energy efficient corporate headquarters, this was the state of things for the Occidental building in 2006. Now called One Niagara Center, the new owner has turned the building into a Falls welcome center. "Mrs. Ribs", "Punjabi Dhaba Restaurant", "Niagara Therapeutic Massage"; it seems the very attraction of the location has made it a local attraction.

New York Times - Daylight Control

“On the 51-story tower façade, low-iron, water-white, double-pane spectrally selective glass forms the inner wall of the façade…”

“The New York Times selected a design that codified its philosophy of a "transparent" organization and one dedicated to creating a high quality work environment for their employees. The exterior of the building was proposed as a transparent floor-to-ceiling, all-glass façade that encouraged openness and communication with the external world.”

Central to the NY Times headquarters project was the desire to share what was learned and move the market toward cost effective daylighting strategies.

This is the link to a new website by Lawrence Berkley Labs recording the evaluation and field testing of the daylighting component of the NY Times project.

And be sure to read the article by David Thurm, NY Times CIO and client team leader of the HQ project, from “Harvard Business Review” titled:

Master of the House: Why a Company Should Take Control of Its Building Projects


Building Skins was started as a supplement to an in-house seminar presented in September 2007. The postings and links here are meant to serve as a repository and forum for discussions relating to high performance and well designed buildings with a focus on their envelopes. We are most interested in the place where elegant technical solutions become poetic moments. As authors study and embrace grammar, we as designers study the details and systems of our compositions. Through the encouragement of well considered design solutions we seek to elevate the quality of our human experience.

Much of the initial discussion comes out of a study produced at Lawrence Berkley National Labs called High Performance Commercial Building Facades which was finalized this year. This study was a clear and concise survey of the state of high performance building science in North America at the time.

But, it is the keen observations of glass artist James Carpenter which elevate all of these efforts and clearly place the technical developments and the social agenda at the temporal intersection of technesis and poesis:

This trend is a rejection of much work in the 70's, which relied heavily on heat reflective coatings or heat absorptive glasses, to answer solar issues. There is currently a rejection of the methods of construction of those decades and one now sees the reemergence of modernism and its entendant embrace of transparency. It is a rejection of post modernism and a reemergence and a reinterpretation of modernism. That is not so much a fashion as much as a philosophical and aesthetic undertaking that re-states philosophical arguments that were very much in the forefront of societal discussion at the turn of the last century. That discussion focused upon the openness of buildings to enhance interchange of the individual with the public and how urban environments can be more open and communicative in terms of their functions. I think what is really driving this is a coupling of industry developments and a reemergence of a more social agenda, an agenda that attaches a significant value to the energy used being part and parcel of that social agenda." - From the Workshop Session at California Edison

This is what brings poets and gearheads to an intersection that is most fascinating. We look forward to good discussion and open collaboration.