Approximately 200 New York City design professionals attended the NYSSPE’s first New York City Design Professionals Day on November 20, 2014. Timothy Lynch, PE, DOB Assistant Commissioner of Investigative Engineering Services gave a seminar focusing on urban construction challenges. Chandler City Hall is a low- to mid-rise government complex developed on two city blocks and located with Arizona Avenue along its eastern edge and Washington Street as its western edge in downtown Chandler.
From an environmental and ecological standpoint, the design responds to the harsh desert climate and at the same time provides for appropriate outdoor spaces that introduced much-needed green space back to the heart of the downtown. As part of the overall energy reduction strategy, the western facade of the office tower features an intricate and artistic shading system designed by a public artist. Themes of flexibility, public space-making and sustainable technology are prevalent throughout the complex, establishing a unique civic expression and model for future municipal buildings. The project takes a radical position for typical suburban communities in the Phoenix metropolitan area by placing the new complex in the heart of its historic downtown, in contrast to many local communities that try and create “new” city centers in fast-growing areas.
The site design encourages community connectivity and pedestrian use through shading, multiple pathways and appropriately scaled urban spaces. The pre-development condition of the site was underutilized, consisting of abandoned structures, deteriorating parking lots and inappropriate zoning of activities. The goal of the project was first and foremost to bring needed density back to the city center and therefore act as a catalyst for future mixed-use development. The office tower is a multi-story building that is oriented on an east-west access that maximizes north and south exposures. One of the most important design strategies of the project was to enhance the connections to the outdoors. Allowing employees individual controllability of their thermal environment was a critical strategy as well, and the office tower employs a low-velocity underfloor air distribution system to minimize energy consumption while optimizing indoor comfort and improving air quality. Situated in an environment that is cooling-dominated, the first line of defense is the envelope.
The overall system is chilled-water-based, with water side economizers enabling the system to provide cooling without chillers when outside conditions are right.
Providing on-site renewable energy has been a goal from the beginning, and the city is currently in discussions with solar energy providers to install a 330kW photovoltaic array on the upper deck of the parking structure.
The overall design and material selection embody both a reflection of the progressive nature of this knowledge community and a timelessness that respects the past. The project team took a minimalist approach to interior material selection, reducing the need for added maintenance. The design of the project considered the adaptability and flexibility demanded by municipal clients. An outdoor mezzanine between the first and second floors at the west end of the office tower is designed to convert to enclosed space if space demands increase.
The urban site strategy of pushing the ground-floor buildings to the street and wrapping the west end of the parking structure allows for future retail uses beyond city services.
A very accessible dialog of sustainability has been interwoven into the project though two key elements. The client is very interested in making sure the facility performs at a high level and is engaging with Energy Star Portfolio Manager to track energy use. The project started at a time when the economy started to show the first signs of the downturn. Subsequent integrated meetings were conducted to strengthen planning concepts to establish departmental relationships and adjacencies to improve building flexibility and at the same time define a new culture of openness and collaboration to which the owner embraced. As the project was developed over two city blocks, Chicago Street at the center became a barrier of sorts but it was important to the City to maintain that street to connect to other City services. All of these concepts and strategies were arrived at together and not in separation from any one group and early decisions were focused on maintaining sustainable goals. As overriding concepts had been established, a more formalized sustainable design charrette was conducted with the entire project team at the beginning of the schematic design phase to hone in on specific strategies and goals to meet for minimum Gold Certification and from where cost could be applied. Earlier concepts were refined through extensive modeling that helped inform the decision making process. Very ambitious building in terms of performance and in terms of quality environment for city employees. In addition to the exterior solar heat gain issue, having no potable water for the landscape in this climate is a major stretch – as well as an 83% reduction of the interior water use – is exemplary. This project was not only an attempt to revitalize, but give the community a significant identity that reflects their values.
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New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) Commissioner Rick Chandler, PE kicked off the event giving an inspirational opening speech.


Pushing the project footprint out to the site edges allowed for the design of a central courtyard that took advantage of shaded walkways and landscaping, channeling prevailing winds and evaporative cooling from a central water feature to temper the environment.
This seat in local government is strategically located to help create density and promote development in their historic downtown while promoting a pedestrian-friendly and walkable community. This complex of community functions is pushed to the edges, creating an urban street-level pedestrian experience while allowing for the concept of providing a central courtyard at its heart.
This also became an opportunity to create an appropriate urban language where landscaping became an integral component. The office building itself is situated at the northern boundary of the site and is lifted above the ground plane, creating a breezeway at the north end of the courtyard.
Passive shading strategies were used on east, south, and west facades to block direct heat gain during the summer months and allow for some penetration during the winter. This is accomplished in both the office tower and the single-story community service buildings that surround the site. This was coupled with active photosensor controls along the perimeter in the office tower to harvest daylight to further reduce lighting energy.
The Chandler City Hall complex has taken a comprehensive approach to reducing potable water use. Passive shading strategies along with high-performance glazing were utilized to knock out as much of the solar heat gain as possible. Underfloor air distribution, variable-air-volume supply and demand-controlled ventilation further reduce energy and are occupancy-controlled. The single-story buildings are a modern interpretation of the regional historic vernacular that emphasized mass, punched window openings and shaded walkways. Durability was a key criterion to improve building life cycle, and materials were chosen for their environmental attributes to create a vibrant, modern environment free from many hazardous pollutants. 25% of materials for the project were of recycled content, and 18% were regionally extracted. A major concept established from the beginning was to offset the core (elevators, restrooms and stairs) from the main office floor plate to maximize openness and flexibility. The council chamber was designed as a multi-function space with the ability to not only serve council meetings but also lectures, movie screenings and small performances, again emphasizing that this is a true community complex. A poet and graphic artist created the “Sustainable Pathway,” which provides visitors a self-guided tour of the building's sustainable elements marked by descriptive signs and noting whether the strategy is socially, economically or environmentally focused. Commissioning activities are ongoing, and operational energy use is being collected and analyzed. The City did not borrow money for the construction but rather saved a portion of their development fees from projects that were built within the city limits during the time of economic prosperity to finance the project, so they were in good financial standing. As the project continued and the economy continued its downfall, the cost of construction progressively fell to where they ultimately saved $4 million over the initial estimate, which offset first costs. Beside reconciling and validating an existing program developed by the owner, this session also focused on the site and defining overarching sustainable principles.
Based on this cultural shift, the process began to hone in on multiple strategies to improve the internal environment. Several options were considered to deal with the street and the team decided to focus on strategies that would slow traffic down such as narrowing the width, providing a planting island in the center, inserting parallel and adding speed bumps and crosswalk. These goals acted as an additional layer to our previously established sustainable benchmarks established back in the visioning session. Conceptual energy modeling along with daylight and shading analysis helped to optimize the building envelop and passive shading systems. It is great public building and not trying to be heroic but truly a building for the public. Through our innovative systems, installation methods and design assist capabilities, we have helped house municipalities and federal government agencies across the country in beautiful buildings.
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Chandler reminded attendees that the health and safety of the citizens of New York City rest in the hands of our design professionals.
The north block is devoted to a 5-story office tower at the north end and one-story buildings along Arizona Ave and Washington Street. City departments were leasing space in various buildings, and the goal was to bring all of these entities together into one facility, therefore providing a community center that could generate pride for its citizens.
The system literally connects to the environment in a tangible, kinetic way by moving with the wind.
Historical records indicate greater development density, but many of those structures had been removed.
Plantings were used to create a lush desert landscape that excites the senses and connects the project site to the region and to nature. These gaps between blocks at the east and west sides of the property as well as the breezeway help to channel the predominately southeast and westerly breezes through the site. The east–west orientation of the office tower allowed for opportunities to maximize exposure on the north and south. The single-story facilities utilized a combination of perimeter glazing and solar tubes to bring in daylight.
This allowed mechanical systems to be appropriately sized and varied depending on building function.


Electrical loads are reduced by utilizing a task-based approach along with harvesting daylight using photo-sensor controls on light fixtures.
It was about finding the best balance of all material attributes that best fit within the project's design goals. During construction, an emphasis was placed on managing waste streams that ultimately accounted for more than 76% of all project materials being recycled.
A raised-access floor was utilized throughout the entire floor plate for both air and power distribution.
A public artist created “Turbulent Shade,” an shading element that is very much connected to the physical environment by moving with the wind.
The client will also be conducting an occupant survey in an effort to fully understand how employees interact within their environment and to make sure they are creating an atmosphere of productivity and well-being. This made better sense in the long run than to continue to lease in a market that was volatile. At the same time discussions revolved around how to maximize the usefulness of the site by the community in conjunction with defining which functional elements that needed to be expressed either on their own or together.
As mechanical and electrical strategies were evaluated, modeling continued with a goal to optimize all systems in relation to one another.
Make it expressive and visible so that people coming to visit city hall begin to understand the way in which this project is sustainable. They saved a portion of the development fees out of the boon times to be able to build this in the recessionary times. Additionally, AZRE is an active voice within the commercial industry, partnering with such organizations as NAIOP, ABA, ICSC AZ, AIA AZ and Valley Partnership. The Commissioner outlined some of the new and existing codes that the DOB officials enforce on a regular basis. The tower houses City departments while the 1-story buildings contain an art gallery, council chambers and a television studio. The second was to revitalize the historic downtown by building in an area that was devoid of activity and in disrepair and to promote future community-based development in an around the city center. At night, colored LED lights from above and below pass thru the perforations to become a symbolic energy source.
The courtyard creates a sense of place and identity, giving the citizens of Chandler a destination that becomes the community center. Although the site was not considered a brownfield, there were abandoned underground fuel storage tanks from a past service station that were removed, and the soil contamination was remediated. Providing structured parking in lieu of surface parking enabled the project to maximize open space for the community while increasing density.
As part of the mechanical cooling system for the project, a water feature was designed at the southern end of the courtyard as part of an open loop system that allowed the water from the cooling towers to cascade down a wall into a pool.
This, coupled with narrow floor plates and open, flexible planning, allows deep penetration of the daylight while maximizing views.
The interior approach utilizes low-flow water-conserving fixtures, while the exterior approach utilizes high-efficiency drip irrigation and low-water-use native plants. The one-story buildings utilize different combinations of the above strategies, depending on function and orientation. The concept of surrounding the site and pushing these functional elements to the edges opened up the opportunity to provide a community living room in a central courtyard. Sustainable workshops were conducted at the beginning of successive project phases and LEED requirements were continually tracked against established goals and from a cost standpoint to make sure we were still on target. One of a handful of buildings that is visibly, discernibly coming from a climate perspective that you can see. The Commissioner then passed the microphone off to several other DOB officials who spoke on different topics ranging from building codes to excavation safety and more. This sustainable element not only enhances the overall design but becomes a civic art piece for the community.
The project also focused on the process side by capturing “blow-down” water from the operation of the cooling towers and the condensate water from the HVAC systems.
The use of open workstations around the perimeter as well as demountable wall systems for enclosed spaces at the interior not only allows for city departments to expand or contract over time but also allows re-use of building components. The contractor brought in mechanical, electrical and envelope subcontractors during the design process to work with the team from a design assist standpoint in order to maximize opportunities for cost reduction in the context of achievement of sustainable strategies. This effect in combination with landscaping and shade structures around the courtyard lowers the effective temperatures, creating a microclimate. The single-story buildings are open and transparent to the street frontages connecting to the public and community. A portion of the additional funds were used to buy property and to demolish abandoned and deteriorating buildings around the project site and for cleanup efforts.
The performance actually exceeds what would have been expected just looking at the project.
This water is non-chemically treated and reclaimed for the purpose of supplementing irrigation and waste conveyance. That means there is a lot of craft in a lot of the details to actually push the performance. During the summer months, there is an excess of water generated, so no potable water is being used for interior or exterior systems.



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