March 1, 2015
A new office tower going up in Midtown Anchorage is making the most of its location — right next to the Chester Creek greenbelt.
With panoramic views in every direction, the eight-story Fireweed Business Center being built by the Alaska Native corporation Cook Inlet Region Inc., will offer tenants and their employees unobstructed sightseeing of Mount McKinley, Mount Susitna, the Chugach Range and Cook Inlet. But its builders said the structure will also take advantage of its location to save money.
The building, taking shape at 725 E. Fireweed Lane, will employ high-tech windows that dim automatically to cut glare and reduce summer solar heating, computer-controlled LED interior lights, a Space Age gel for insulation and light diffuser panels made with microscopic chips of silicon. A new type of heat exchange system will combine with building’s exterior to save as much as 30 percent of its lifetime operating costs, according to CIRI Director of Real Estate Chad Nugent.
CIRI plans to leave its current building — built by the Native corporation in 1973 a few blocks away — and move into two and a half floors of the Fireweed Business Center in May or June. CIRI said it would lease the remaining floors in the new building, as well as the soon-to-be vacated space at its current headquarters.
“If you look at the vacancy rates for commercial Class A space, they are very low and so we saw an opportunity,” said CIRI spokesperson Jason Moore. “We had this great land here where the Fireweed Theater used to be. We saw the opportunity and the need for more Class A office space, and so we took advantage of it and made the investment.”
CIRI said it would not disclose the total cost of the project for the 110,000-square-foot building. CIRI said it got the land when Regal Cinemas, the previous owner of Fireweed Theater, built a new movie theater at another CIRI property — Tikahtnu Commons.
The building is being constructed with differing external geometry, changing the outside appearance depending on the viewer’s vantage point. The design makes it more interesting, but also more energy efficient.
“If you approach from downtown, the building looks entirely different than if you approach from South Anchorage,” said RIM Architectsmanaging principal James Daugherty. “And that has a lot to do with aesthetics, but it also has a lot to do with functional aspects of the skin of the building as it either accepts or rejects energy from the sun.”
Daugherty said that the south, west and east sides of the building are encased indynamic glass panels to manage sun glare and solar heating. That way, Daugherty said, there would be no need for blinds. The glass panels dim automatically as the sun glare hits the windows. Combined with a construction that puts most of the supporting and load-bearing parts in the building’s core, the entire facility will have an open feel, even allowing people to look right through the middle, thanks to a new, pressurized bank of interior elevators.
CIRI said the entire project was being built with an eye for collaboration among the buildings tenants. Most of the soon-to-be-leased office space will be offered in large open areas, a move away from traditional design that has enclosed offices lining building’s exterior walls. A shared kitchen and deck space, complete with fire pit, will also encourage people working there to intermingle. A Kaladi Brothers Coffee outlet is planned for the first floor.
New heating and air conditioning technology will also add to the building’s open feel and energy savings. A variable refrigerant flow system allows the builders to install smaller vents and pipes, creating some floors with 15 feet of overhead space. But the units also save energy by simply transferring heat from warmer parts of the building to colder parts, instead of heating the cold areas and cooling the hot ones.
The building has control technology that “wasn’t available 10 to 15 years ago,” Nugent said.