GSK’s Daylit Philly Office Gets Double LEED Cert

Getting a Platinum-level LEED certification for a major office building is impressive in its own right, but earning a double certification can really start turning heads. The new Philadelphia headquarters for pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) recently achieved this feat by a combination of natural lighting, high-tech HVAC systems and an innovative floor plan design.

Located in the heavily redeveloped Navy Yard section of Philadelphia’s Delaware River waterfront, the 208,000-square-foot GSK building, which opened on April 6, was designed by Robert A.M. Stern, with a sustainability strategy from Buro Happold and an open workplace plan by Francis Cauffman. Platinum certification was awarded for both LEED-CS (Core & Shell) and LEED-CI (Commercial Interiors).

Exterior of new GlaxoSmithKline building at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Image by Francis Dzikowski/Esto for Robert A.M. Stern Architects, LLP.

Exterior of new GlaxoSmithKline building at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Image by Francis Dzikowski/Esto for Robert A.M. Stern Architects, LLP.

One of the building’s most notable features is its high-performance envelope, with its abundant use of mirrored glazing to let natural daylight flood most of the interior, including a spacious central atrium. The amount of available light is monitored continuously with an astronomical time clock and a cloud sensor program to track weather conditions. During periods of strong sun, the system automatically deploys sun shades to decrease glare and solar gain.

“Using an interdisciplinary approach and sophisticated building analysis, we were able to focus on the key things that made the building platinum — primarily, the façade and mechanical systems — and to make them as energy efficient as possible to meet the goals,” said Denzil Gallagher, principal at Buro Happold.

Artist's rendering of GSK's LEED Platinum-certified, daylit interior atrium. Image by Francis Dzikowski/Esto for Robert A.M. Stern Architects, LLP.

Artist’s rendering of GSK’s LEED Platinum-certified, daylit interior atrium. Image by Francis Dzikowski/Esto for Robert A.M. Stern Architects, LLP.

To provide a comfortable work environment, the building employs variable-speed chillers that use a series counterflow arrangement, according to Buro Happold. Ventilation is maintained via a heat recovery system using “enthalpy wheel technology” to reduce energy costs by up to 30 percent compared to a standard commercial building, the company said.

The office plan from Francis Cauffman is also designed so that no single employee gets a separate office or even a specifically assigned desk, include the CEO and upper management. This flexible, open floor plan allows employees to work at whatever workstation fits their needs for each day, including conference rooms, traditional desks, quiet rooms, lounges and outdoor courtyards.

GSK workers are also allowed to set up a work station on the building’s green roof, which also absorbs rainwater and provides an extra layer of insulation for the building. Smart meters have been installed to track energy usage throughout the four-story building. All lighting and interior equipment is also Energy Star-rated to reduce energy use.

Randy Woods is a Seattle-based writer and editor with 20+ years of experience in the business publishing world. A former managing editor of Seattle Business, iSixSigma, Claims and Waste Age magazines, he has covered topics that include newspaper publishing, entrepreneurism, green businesses, insurance, environmental protection and garbage hauling (yes, really). He also contributes to the Career Center Blog for The Seattle Times and edits a photography magazine called PhotoMedia. When not working, he likes to hide out in Seattle movie theaters and attend film festivals—even on sunny days.