A PUBLICATION OF MCGRAW-HILL AND ARCHITECTURAL RECORD
GOOD DESIGN IS GOOD BUSINESS
Case Study Aileron Location:
Dayton, Ohio •
Campus Helps Entrepreneurs Take Flight
Since designing a $30 million training facility, Aileron has seen attendance at its courses double.
• Productivity • Branding • Sustainability
By James Murdock Dayton, Ohio—The phrase “corporate-training center” probably conjures images of bland meeting rooms in generic buildings with lousy views. But when your organizational mission is to educate and inspire the entrepreneurs of today and tomorrow, you need a physical home that does no less than embody the American Dream. Or such is the thinking of Clay Mathile, whose own story shows the rewards that can come with calculated risk. In 1975, he bought a 50 percent ownership stake in Iams, the pet food company, which at that point was on the verge of failing. By 1982, Mathile owned all of Iams, and he grew it from a six-figure business to one that in 1999 had nearly a billion dollars in sales.
The roof appears to hover above walls below, separated by a band of clerestory windows.
Wanting to provide others with the tools and training necessary to achieve similar success, Mathile in 1996 founded the Center for Entrepreneurial Education to help business owners improve their professional-management skills.
Monthly attendance at training sessions has doubled from 500 to 1,000
As the Center steadily grew and expanded its offerings, it rented space on asneeded basis throughout southwestern Ohio. By 2003, Mathile and president Joni Fedders determined that to take the organization to the next level they’d need a permanent home—and for this they hired the Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership of New York City. And they also decided to rebrand their enterprise with the evocative name “Aileron”—after the wing flap that helps lift and guide an airplane.
Campus Takes Off
• Energy consumption cut 50% •7 5% of construction waste recycled to avoid sending it to a landfill • LEED-Gold certification
The new, $30 million campus, set on 114 bucolic acres, is clearly an architectural success: Its aerodynamic roof is a physical manifestation of the Aileron name, while the building’s low-lying profile integrates seamlessly with its natural surroundings. But perhaps more important than the building’s beauty is its performance. Since occupying its new campus in early 2008, Aileron has seen a dramatic rise in the number of people coming through its trainings—more than double in the first year, from about 500 clients a month to 1,000.
A long driveway leads visitors from the main road to the campus, showcasing the site's natural beauty and providing a decompression zone for harried executives.
But for Fedders and Mathile the best measure of success is client satisfaction, which they believe is evidenced by the number of repeat visitors and the fact that attendance growth has come with very little marketing. They credit this to the campus design.
Journeys within the building are as important as destination points. The "Focus Terrace," which leads to private offices, overlooks a reflecting pond in which tiles spell out the word FOCUS.
A Green Future The roof of the Aileron building, which resembles a series of airplane wings, is composed of overlapping zinc panels supported by steel space frames; the stacked panels open clerestory windows that allow daylight and natural air to suffuse areas below. They also create deep overhangs above window walls: part of an energy strategy to reduce the need for artificial lighting by cutting solar glare. Gutters between the roofs channel rainwater into collection tanks that are then tapped to flush the building’s toilets. The extensive daylighting and other sustainable features, such as a geo-thermal well system to heat the building and solar panels to heat the water, contribute to an estimated savings of nearly 50 percent on energy consumption. Materials for the project, including limestone and Douglas fir, came from local sources, and 75 percent of construction waste was recycled to avoid sending it to a landfill. As a result, the U.S. Green Building Council certified Aileron LEED Gold. While such sustainable features can add as much as 15 percent to construction costs, keeping down expenses was not necessarily a top priority for Mathile, who has focused on philanthropy since selling Iams to Procter & Gamble for $2.3 billion in 1999. Indeed, it was important to Mathile that the design of Aileron’s campus showcase green technology for corporate executives. “We’re teaching people about strategic planning, so we also have to plan ahead ourselves,” Mathile explains. “What would people say in 20 or 30 years if they came here and the place didn’t use solar energy or wasn’t collecting rainwater? They’d say, ‘What the hell were we thinking?’ It’s important that we be on the leading edge of things.”
In this corridor, inspirational quotes from successful entrepreneurs are inset into oak panels that line the floor and walls.
“Our old spaces felt sterile,” Fedders observes. “Here the energy of our participants is dramatically up. One of our presenters was amazed at how quickly people felt like they could start talking to each other.” “When the business owner comes here, it feels like home,” Mathile agrees. “I’ve had people say ‘it’s like you built this space for me.’ That’s because Lee Skolnick spent an inordinate amount of time getting to know our clients, and he really nailed it. He understands entrepreneurs and their concerns, as well as our curriculum and our passion, and he integrated these themes very prominently into the design.” Skolnick, as it happens, was already intimately familiar with the concerns of entrepreneurs. His father emigrated from the Ukraine to the U.S. and built a grocery business here that eventually spawned the Juicy Juice brand of fruit drinks. “This project struck an incredibly resonant chord with me,” says Skolnick. “It touched on big themes like the American Dream, the free enterprise system, and the opportunity that this country offers people who are willing to work hard.”
Building as Journey
Such big themes can seem abstract or hard to communicate in a physical structure, but Skolnick’s career designing museums prepared him well. Modern-day museums aim to take visitors on a narrative journey—and the Aileron campus creates a similar experience for business executives. The journey begins as visitors exit the main road and enter a long driveway that wends through a meadow, past a pond and terminates at a two-story building nestled against a stand of trees. This drive both showcases the site’s natural beauty and serves as a decompression zone in which executives leave behind their day-today concerns and re-focus on the larger strategic concepts that will be addressed in Aileron’s courses. The floor of the "Risk Corridor," an enlarged entry to an executive boardroom, contains a video screen that plays images of lava and cracking ice flows.
Spatially, Aileron’s programmatic needs were simple: offices, a 300-seat auditorium and a variety of different-sized rooms for meetings, trainings and
break out sessions. But Skolnick’s design makes journeys through the 71,000-square-foot structure as important as these destination points. Circulation space, in fact, comprises roughly 40 percent of the total area (the oversized corridors often do double duty by providing seating and tables to enable small meetings). “The building’s circulation very frequently makes you take the longest distance between two points,” Skolnick says. “We wanted to give Aileron’s participants the opportunity to reflect and come upon things inadvertently, bump into each other and start informal conversations. That’s how inspiration happens.” A few circulation zones are unique places in their own right. Visitors enter the building on its upper level, which contains a lobby and auditorium as well as four private offices that visitors can reserve. To access these offices, visitors must walk through the “Focus Terrace”—an open area, with generous seating, that overlooks a reflecting pool in which tiles spell out the word FOCUS. On the building’s lower level, visitors entering a boardroom pass through the “Risk Corridor”—an enlarged threshold whose translucent floor contains a video screen playing images of lava flows and cracking ice. As for Aileron’s future as an organization, roughly 70 percent of its current clients are regional firms. But as more people travel from out of state—and this number is growing— Mathile might eventually contemplate constructing an onsite hotel, a task which will be made easier thanks to Skolnick’s master plan, which has set aside space both for expansion of the existing building and the construction of others.
Two window walls in the "Dream Room," at the building's southeast corner, overlook a pond, while an image panel of the sky and clouds curves from another wall up to the ceiling. There, a quote from Aileron founder Clay Mathile reads, "Dream no little dreams for they have no magic to move men’s souls."
The executive boardroom, which clients may reserve for company meetings, overlooks an 80-foot waterfall in the campus's southwest corner.
Aileron's programmatic requirements called for a variety of different-sized meeting, instructional and breakout spaces. Located between three workshop rooms, the "Workshop Commons" provides tables and chairs for small-group exercises.
Wherever possible, the building frames views of the landscape beyond.
Building-Team Information Formal name of building: Aileron Location: Dayton, Ohio Completion Date: April 2008 Gross square footage: 70,000 sq. ft.
the People Owner: Aileron Founder: Clay Mathile
the Products Structural system: Base Building: Steel Framing by Tower Steel w/ pre-cast concrete floor slabs by Hollowcore Midwest
Architect's firm Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership 7 West 22nd Street, 10th Floor New York, NY 10010 Tel: (212) 989-2624 Fax: (212) 727-1702
Curved Roofs: Steel Space Frames Delta Structures
Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Wood: Douglas Fir by Mock Woodworking
* Lee H. Skolnick, FAIA – Principal-in-Charge * Paul S. Alter, AIA – Principal * Jo Ann Secor - Principal * Joern Truemper, AIA, LEED AP – Project Architect * Alethea Cheng, AIA, LEED AP – Project Manager * Miguel Cardenas – Designer * Peter Hyde – Designer * Maja Gilberg – Interpretive Specialist * Christina Lyons – Graphic Designer * Dorothy Williams Neagle – Interior Designer * Shawn Walsh – Architectural Designer * Doug Hassebroek – AIA, Architect * Huerta Neals – AIA, Architect
Exterior cladding Masonry: Buff & Gray Limestone Wysong by Foti Construction Metal/glass curtainwall: Kawneer by Hemms Glass
Roofing Elastomeric: Carlisle by Kalkreuth Metal: Rheinzinc (Curved Roofs) by Kalkreuth Windows Aluminum: Kawneer by Hemms Glass Glazing Glass: by Hemms Glass Doors Entrances: Kawneer by Hemms Glass Wood doors: White Oak
Architect of record Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership Associate architects: John Poe Architects
Sliding doors: Nana Wall, installed by Graff and Sons Interior finishes Acoustical ceilings: Armstrong
Interior designer Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership
Suspension grid: Armstrong
Engineer: Buro Happold
Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: White Oak by Mock Woodwork
Consultants: Landscape: Vivian Llambi & Associates, Inc.
Paints and stains: Sherwin Williams Paneling: Mock Woodworking
Lighting: Renfro Design Group, Inc. Floor and wall tile: Indian Slate Floor Tile Acoustical: Jaffe Holden Acoustics, Inc. Resilient flooring: Armstrong Other: C ortina Productions – Media and Interactive Otte Enterprises – Natural Resource/ Environment Consultant Clarient Group – Audiovisual Consultant Exhibit Concepts – Exhibition Fabrication General contractor: Brackett Builders CAD system, project management, or other software used: Autocad 2007, 3-D Studio Viz, MS Project, Excel, Word
Carpet: Bentley, Constantine Wood flooring: White Oak Furnishings Office furniture: Steelcase, Knoll, Herman Miller Reception furniture: Custom Chairs: Kusch + Co. Upholstery: Maharam Continued on next page
Building-Team Information the Products Lighting Controls: Lutron Conveyance Elevators/Escalators: Otis Add any additional building components or special equipment that made a significant contribution to this project: The building has been awarded A LEED-Gold rating. Sustainable features: * Stormwater management strategy that has converted row crop of former farm use to prairie grass, incorporates grassy swales, and uses existing and constructed wetlands and an enlarged and rehabilitated pond to filter sediment and contaminants, reduces stormwater runoff, and increases on-site infiltration. * Toilets and urinals are being flushed using captured rainwater, and all wastewater is treated on site and filtered back into the land. * Potable water is supplied by an on-site bedrock well, and low-flow plumbing fixtures have been installed throughout to reduce water use. * Only 2 of the 114 acres of the site are being irrigated, using captured rainwater collected from the pond. * Alternatives to single-occupancy vehicle and gasoline use are encouraged through provision of bicycle racks and shower facilities, electric-car chargers, and pool-parking spots. Almost 50% of the parking spots are accommodated in an overflow parking area covered in reinforced grass. * The buildingâ€™s HVAC system runs off a series of geothermal wells. Other energysaving features include daylight dimming, occupancy sensors, overhangs and sunscreens to reduce heat gain, solar panels, low-energy light fixtures, and a buildingmanagement system to control and monitor energy use throughout. Overall, a 40% savings in annual energy cost is expected. In addition, green power is being utilized. * The architectural design maximizes daylight and views for occupant comfort, productivity and well being. * Wood from trees that had to be cut down on site has been used for furnishings and for wood chips used on paths. Rock excavated from the site has been crushed and used as base for paths and driveways. Where possible, recycled materials, certified wood, low-emitting materials and local or regional materials have been incorporated into the project. * Construction Waste Management and Indoor Air Quality Management programs were in place during the construction phase. * The client has implemented a â€œgreen housekeepingâ€? program that utilizes environmentally friendly cleaning products. * The client has implemented a sustainable-education program that includes site signage and a self-guided tour. * An extensive commissioning process has been followed prior to final occupancy by the client to ensure that systems are operating as designed and that potential energy savings are actually achieved.