Outdated Concrete Building Transformed Into Gold

Rather than demolishing an abandoned Rhode Island property and starting from scratch, architects transformed it into a LEED Gold-certified, Class A office building masterpiece.

From rehabilitation to adaptive reuse to portfolio realignment, some of the most noteworthy turnaround efforts in the real estate industry are the ones that take an “ugly duckling” facility and turn it into something better, brighter, and more profitable. Hobbs Brook Management (HBM) successfully transformed an abandoned Rhode Island property into a LEED Gold-certified, Class A office building masterpiece.

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A photo of 1301 Atwood Avenue in Johnston, RI before the transformation. Photo credit: © Warren Patterson Photography

Built in 1973, the 305,600-square-foot building at 1301 Atwood Avenue in Johnston, RI had been vacant since 2009. The building was not a marketable property. However, it was in a great location, so HBM made the decision to create an investment property rather than selling it.

The existing concrete office building had elements of the Brutalist architectural style, with dark interiors that resulted from deep overhangs that extended one foot from the exterior walls. With outdated, inefficient electrical systems, single-pane glass, and very few amenities, HBM had little choice but to renovate the building or tear it down. It was determined that gutting the structure and then rebuilding the interior and exterior would be less expensive – and more environmentally friendly – than tearing everything down and starting from scratch.

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An architectural rendering of plans for the office building. (Credit: Margulies Perruzzi Architects)

Collaborating with Margulies Perruzzi Architects (MPA), a Boston-based architecture firm with whom HBM had previously collaborated on several award-winning projects, the building was transformed into the Northwoods Office Park. MPA’s repositioning of 1301 Atwood consisted of a complete replacement of the building’s original exterior and the addition of 33,000 square feet of rentable space to the building’s footprint by infilling the existing overhangs with concrete and moving the external walls. The new building envelope features a unitized metal and glass curtain wall, providing high thermal efficiency and allowing daylight to filter deep into the building’s interior. The design concept supported and extended the exterior, while also integrating metal panels to modernize the exterior aesthetics.

Challenge Accepted

The most significant challenge that the project team faced during this project were the unknown conditions within the existing structure. The building had undergone several renovations since its original construction, which weren’t documented in the building drawings. Yet, HBM wanted to fast track this project. While the project team could have taken the approach of demolishing the building down to the structure to uncover the hidden aspects and then start re-designing, that would have taken too much time. The project team accepted that they would encounter unforeseen conditions. As a result, unexpected challenges arose during demolition that required extensive field coordination among the team to resolve.

office building
Photo credit: © Warren Patterson Photography

The project team successfully kept the project moving and made changes as new information arose, occasionally returning to the drawing board. The team’s ability to work well together, communicate, and remain flexible throughout the project were key to the project’s success – especially during the early demolition and design phases.

A Building’s Rebirth

HBM has been incorporating energy efficiency and sound green building practices in the construction and renovation of its properties for more than three decades. With sustainability as HBM’s main focus for this project, all aspects of the building materials, systems, landscape, and operations were designed sustainably to achieve LEED Gold for Building Design and Construction (BD+C). Virtually all aspects of the building are now new, with the exception of the pre-stressed concrete beam structure. The building also includes a new roof, elevators, bathrooms, and site work. Sustainable features include:

  • 40% reduction in water from plumbing fixtures
  • 31% reduction in total energy usage via LED lighting and control panels
  • 30% reduction in ventilation exceeding code standards (beyond ASHRAE 62.1-2007)
  • 85% diversion of construction waste from landfills
  • 83% FSC Certified Wood of all new wood materials
  • Preservation of the 153-acre site’s natural beauty
  • Landscaped campus setting with a walking path, field of wildflowers, and picturesque pond
  • Bike racks and showers for biking commuters
  • Car charging stations and carpool parking spaces

As part of the repositioning of the three-story structure, MPA designed three independent entrances, allowing for single or multi-tenant occupancy. The two-story entrances feature abundant natural light and provide inviting, convenient access via elegant monumental stairs. Large, unobstructed floor plates look out onto a landscaped campus setting with a walking path and picturesque pond. Ample parking is provided near each access point.

The building features many desirable amenities, including a full-service corporate dining facility with a landscaped deck, a fitness center with showers and locker rooms, and state-of-the-art data connectivity. As an additional bonus for tenants, MPA designed a multi-use conference center with audiovisual capability that can accommodate up to 150 people.

office building
Photo credit: © Warren Patterson Photography

This repositioning project transformed the existing 1301 Atwood Ave. facility into a 338,600-square-foot high-performance and amenity-rich Class A office building featuring new energy efficient mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems and recycled materials. Today, the Northwoods property represents a significant return on investment for HBM and the substantial gains in energy efficiency have also provided significant savings for HBM.

HBM did not know for sure if it would be able to transform the existing aged structure at 1301 Atwood Ave. into one that could achieve LEED certification. However, “MPA has taken an older building and completely re-positioned it, designing a vibrant building that fits beautifully into the landscape while maintaining our high standards for sustainability and efficiency,” said Kevin Casey, vice president and chief operating officer of Hobbs Brook Management LLC. The end result has exceeded expectations for HBM, earning LEED Gold certification and succeeding in bringing in new tenants.

Project Team

  • Developer: Hobbs Brook Management
  • Architect: Margulies Perruzzi Architects
  • General Contractor: Dimeo Construction
  • MEP Engineer: AHA Consulting Engineers
  • Structural Engineers: Odeh Engineers, Inc.
  • Civil and Landscape Engineers: Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. (VHB)
  • LEED Consultant: Richard Moore Environmental Consulting
  • Lighting Designer: HLB Lighting Design
  • Kitchen Consultants: Colburn & Guyette
  • Elevator Consultant: Lerch Bates
  • Commercial Broker: Cushman & Wakefield | Hayes & Sherry