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As adventure travel company, when ASI Reisen explored design partners for its new head office in Natters, Austria, paramount consideration was given to the ability to create a space which reflected and amplified the company’s core philosophy of sustainability. To realize this goal, they partnered with Norwegian architecture and branding firm Snøhetta, famed for their integrative approach to design and landscaping. The result is a striking four-story timber structure enclosed by a metal frame which doubles as a living green wall. Inside, an open office concept developed in collaboration with ASI Reisen’s employees offers flexible workspaces that were designed with employee comfort in mind. The company’s working culture was brought into the new space through both spatial and eco-conscious means.
In terms of materials, resource-saving light timber comprises the primary building material, being used for the multi transom façade, floors, windows, and acoustic panels. Reinforced concrete makes up the building core and basement, and large glass windows offer panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. PV panels cover the roof, partially offsetting the power needs of the building. Materials were selected not only for durability and design flexibility, but also as part of a more sophisticated sustainable energy concept that ensures a minimal environmental footprint over the long term.
Sustainable construction methods were applied throughout. Yakisugi, a traditional Japanese wood preservation technique involving charring and thus carbonizing wood was used on the building’s timber façade, making it more durable, waterproof and insect repellent, in addition to creating and aesthetically ‘naked’ effect in symbiosis with the lush natural surroundings.
An additional suspended metal façade ‘wraps’ the wood and serves as a green curtain wall via a combination of 17 warm weather and evergreen species anchored in planters and 118 climbing plants and vines snaking the frame. The plants not only act as a living art installation changing throughout the year but also act as a glare shield, shade cover, and through generating their own microclimate assist in adapting the thermal insulation needs of the interior to a lower energy footprint. Rainwater from the roof is used to feed the irrigation system for both the green curtain and garden surrounds. An additional 1,215 plants reside in open space and all are local species, enhancing biodiversity and emphasising the symbiosis between nature and humans that reflects one of the company’s foundational principles in promoting eco friendly travel.
Interior design components include a bright, welcoming, double height foyer inlaid with panels presenting the history of the company. Timber throughout is complemented by cool beige furnishing tones giving the space an airy forest feel. The open concept plan has been customized for ASI Reisen’s 65 employees, but a gallery style design means it has the adaptability to be reactive and responsive to alternative future needs or uses. Individual workspaces coexist with communal spaces for work and rest, including reading and meeting rooms, a relaxation room, showers and changerooms, and a cafeteria. Shelving units provide storage space and are generously littered with plants, creating a link to the green curtain outside and doubling as flexible sub-dividers between various working zones.
Green interior solutions include an underfloor reversible air-water heat pump system that regulates temperature. Sophisticated sensors measure temperature, humidity, C02, and wind; these readings in turn are used to regulate the operation of a series of ventilation flaps which control the circulation of fresh air throughout the building.
Across the project, it is Snøhetta’s inspired combination of both high-tech and low-tech solutions which has allowed the design to preserve the naturally sustainable processes and features of the envelope whilst simultaneously leveraging them to optimize energy efficiency to highest use at lowest ecological cost. The result is a headquarters whose design and functionality inhabit the mission of the company. Core values of the corporation are extended into the needs and comforts of employees in both a consciously designed and simultaneously intuitive way.