Designed by Snøhetta, the new timber office building for trekking and travel company ASI Reisen, situated in Natters, Austria, is inspired by a symbiosis between nature and humanity.
Surrounded by a lush exterior, the four-storey structure combines timber frame construction with solid wooden elements to optimize material use and allow for the greatest amount of open floor plans.
“With its resource-saving timber construction and sophisticated sustainable energy concept, the new ASI headquarters marks an inspiration for responsibly constructing our homes and office spaces for the future,” said Patrick Lüth, managing director of Snøhetta’s studio in Innsbruck. “At the same time, the new office space offers a pleasant and modern working atmosphere for its employees.”
A ‘green curtain’ of climbing plants growing on a suspended metal frame covers the blackened wooden façade, ensuring the building blends into its verdant forest surroundings. Composed of 17 different warm weather and evergreen species growing in big planters, this green curtain also serves as a glare shield and shades the glass surfaces. On the western side, employees can use this metal frame as a balcony. The 118 climbing plants change the façade’s appearance throughout the year and thus also adapt to seasonal thermal insulation needs. The microclimate created by this green buffer zone reduces the energy required for cooling the building.
For the façade, a traditional Japanese method of wood preservation, known as yakisugi, was used. Slightly charred and thus carbonized, the façade is both waterproof and durable without the need for further painting, while also protecting against insects. The basement and the building core are made of reinforced concrete. Wood was also used for the mullion-transom-façade, windows, floors, and acoustic panels.
Rainwater from the roof is collected in an underground cistern to feed the automatic irrigation system for the plants on the façade and the garden. Together with the 1215 new plants in the open space consisting of 73 local species, the green façade also contributes to local biodiversity.
Gallery spaces create a large, open, and flexible office space, including a variety of individual workplaces as well as communal areas. Glass surfaces offer panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and forests, and a large staircase and a double-height foyer create a welcoming space for visitors.
To achieve optimal results, the energy concept for the building was tested and adapted using a thermal-dynamic building simulation. A reversible air-water heat pump system (40 kW) heats and cools the building via underfloor heating or cooling. Sensors measuring room temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide (CO2), and wind control the natural ventilation using thermal lift and wind pressure conditions to circulate fresh air through the building. The constantly monitored room climate then regulates how wide and long the ventilation flaps are open. The roof is covered with photovoltaic (PV) panels, and the electricity generated partly covers the power consumption of the building.