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Allan Heller , Special to the Local News 08/23/2004

On Friday, the American division of a German manufacturing company concluded a weeklong charette introducing Valley residents and businesses to the concept of a "green" building.

Aerzen USA, which currently employs 30 people at its Valley headquarters in Highlands Corporate Center, is working with Philadelphia-based Re:Vision Architecture to develop a new office building that is both more energy efficient and more environmentally friendly.

On Aug. 16, Aerzen held its introductory charette at the Coatesville Moose Lodge on Airport Road.

"That was like Green 101," said Jeff Hammond, an engineer at Aerzen who is overseeing the new building project.

Between 50 and 60 people showed up at the company’s current location at 645 Sands Court late Friday afternoon to look at maps and design sketches of the proposed facility, which will be constructed near Sadsbury in the Meeting House Business Center on Route 30.

Architects and Aerzen employees fielded questions from attendees. A piece of paper reserved for public comments was posted beside each of the four sketch plans, which were taped to chalkboards set up under a tent.

According to Scott Kelly, a partner at Re:Vision Architecture, the new building will realize an almost immediate energy cost savings of 40 percent. Kelly said other prime considerations in the design dealt with making the whole complex environmentally and socially responsible, as well.

As examples, he cited good ventilation and optimal use of natural light. There are also plans to build an interactive walking path through the site.

Kelly explained that there is a system known as LEED, which is used by the U.S. Green Building Council of Washington, D.C., that gauges how environmentally sound a building is. LEED is an acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

"There are about 100 LEED-certified buildings across the U.S., and this one will soon join them," Kelly said.

"It was important to have an organic form," said Jennifer Rezeli, also a partner at Re:Vision. Pointing to one of the design sketches, Rezeli added, "You’ll see more curves and less sharp edges than you’ll see in a traditional building."

Assisting both Re:Vision and Aerzen in the process is Rob Fleming, associate professor of Architecture at Philadelphia University.

"We’re really looking at a market transformation in the design and construction industries," said Fleming.

Aerzen USA President Pierre Novak highlighted some of the major features incorporated in the company’s proposed new building. During the actual construction phase, Novak said, there would be an effort to use minimal excavation and work with locally imported materials.

Even the direction that the building faces will be geared toward achieving optimal heating and cooling, and the parking lot will be the proper distance from the actual building.

The latter, explained Novak, will help minimize the effect that heat rising from the asphalt on a summer day will have on the temperature of the building. Lighter colors will be used, in order to reflect rather than absorb the light.

Novak also emphasized the importance of using natural light. An employee later confided that Novak never holds company meetings in rooms without windows.

Finally, Novak touched upon aesthetics.

"The shape of the building should express beauty and harmony," said Novak. To illustrate the positive effect that this has, Novak used the example of the large, colorful murals found on some buildings in Philadelphia neighborhoods.

Novak anticipates that construction will start sometime this winter, and estimated that completion would be in one year. The new building would be about 35,000 square feet, Novak said, 15,000 square feet larger than Aerzen’s present accommodations.

İDaily Local News 2004

 

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