Glass Adds a Modern Twist to an Alabama Office Building
Neutral Tinted Glass from AGC Glass North America connects the Sheffield Group’s new headquarters to nature.
The Sheffield Group, a workers compensation insurer in Birmingham, Alabama, had a problem— the company was growing and had staff working in two separate buildings, an inconvenience to the company and its functioning. A family owned company that places an emphasis on employee wellbeing, the Sheffield group turned to TURNERBATSON Architects, a mid-sized firm also based in Birmingham, to design a new headquarters that would bring their office up-to-date, create workplace efficiency, and add some amenities.
The site they selected, in a corporate office park outside of the city, was perfectly suited to a new headquarters building, according to TURNERBATSON associate and Senior Project Architect Michael Mann. Unlike much of the surrounding area, it was flat and idyllic, dotted with a few man-made ponds and woodland walking trails.
When designing the headquarters, Mann had to balance the interests of younger employees who, inspired by silicon valley tech headquarters wanted a modern building, and older employees who wanted a more traditional building. In order to accommodate both sensibilities, the design team blended traditional materials and glass in a contemporary, human-centered design. The building sits between a parking lot and one of the site’s man-made ponds, and the rear of the building is curved to embrace this unique water feature. “We tried to design the building to embrace the lake, almost as though the building and the lake were designed for each other, so there is a gentle curve to the building that mirrors the curve of the lake,” says Mann, who added a roofed balcony to the building’s second floor to create a space where employees can eat lunch, relax, and enjoy the views of the pond and walking trails.
To create a design that felt at home in Alabama, Mann scoured the region for local materials including rough cut limestone, which can be seen in many of the region’s bridges and historic buildings. In the Sheffield building, TURNERBATSON incorporated the limestone into a dry-stacked wall adding a contemporary twist to an ancient material. Wood paneling on the underside of the entryway provides a warm welcome and continues into the interior lobby. To add a modern touch, Mann used glass — lots of it. Glass panels from AGC Glass North America, cover a three-story central atrium, form a curtain wall along the rear balcony, and enclose an exercise room.
The project team specified the neutral-tinted Stopray® Vision 50T glass, from AGC North America, that lets in the right amount of light for an office building to avoid glare without sacrificing the transparency architects seek from the material. “We wanted a glass with a neutral color tint with some blue undertones. Something that has a little bit of color to it, but not a lot so that it doesn’t overwhelm the other materials,” says Mann. The transparent effect ended up being a big part of the design, with the central atrium in place so that a visitor or employee can see straight through to the pond in the back, highlighting the building’s integration into its environment and celebrating the Sheffield Group’s commitment to workplace wellness.
*All images © M. Lewis Kennedy Jr.