PROJECT SITE AND ARCHITECTURE
The project is located in the city of Middletown, located in
the middle of the I-75 growth corridor between Dayton and
Cincinnati, Ohio. The site was chosen due to proximity to AK
Steel’s corporate headquarters and their largest steel plant,
access to customers via the I-75 interstate, and the company’s
roots as a prominent member of the Middletown business
community for more than 100 years.
Positioned on a site that fronts the interstate, the building
had to make two potentially competing grand gestures: one
to signify its presence on the interstate, and another to welcome and direct visitors towards the entry at the site scale.
Providing for safety of employees and enhancing the highway
presence at night, the building was adorned with theatrically
lit exterior facades.
The building plan was organized into a simple “T” shaped
tilt-up concrete shell with varying clear heights driven by the
demands of the R&D and Simulation Process programmatic
elements. The shorter entry pavilion and workplace portion
of the building fill out the south portion of the “T.” This
portion of the building was constructed with lighter stick-built construction and wrapped with textured metal panels,
embracing the metallurgical science and research within the
The form of the frontal portion of the building was driven
by the mantra of form following function. The façade is made
of the human-scaled entry canopy and flanked by a curved
glassy façade at one end, letting abundant daylight into the
building and guiding visitors to the front door. On the other
side of the entry, the building slopes up to create a soaring
peak, two-story auditorium, but also lends drama to the exterior and creates an iconic landmark for the community.
The project estimates reduced energy usage by a third of
total energy of the previous facility. This was done through
right-sizing the facility and right-sizing systems. The overall building square footage was able to be reduced through
efficient design planning and the use of open workplace
environments. Moreover, the open workplace arrangement
and selectively conditioning Pilot Production Process spaces
allowed a major reduction in energy usage. This is beyond the
overall advantage of vacating the previous facility, which was
overserved by a central utility plant sized for a formerly larger
The workspace area is flooded with natural daylight via
high ceilings and roof monitors, enhancing the employee
environment and reducing the amount of artificial lighting
required. These design improvements not only met AK Steel’s
goals for greater collaboration, open spaces, natural light,
customer interaction, customer hospitality/experience; but
they’ve also enhanced the ability to attract and retain top
talent while helping AK Steel shape a culture that fosters
increased employee and customer engagement.
Larry DiGennaro, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, is a client leader
and owner of BHDP Architecture, providing design expertise in
complex technical laboratory requirements, strategic planning
and client business needs. He is based in the firm’s Cincinnati
LaboratoryDesign|MAY|JUNE 2017 17
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