Case Study – VB Parks + Recreation Administration Building

Virginia Beach Parks and Recreation Administration Building

Virginia Beach Parks + Recreation Administration Building

Bringing a Team and Site Together

Virginia Beach Parks + Recreation Department is dedicated to promoting healthy lifestyles, protecting the local coastal environment, and providing access to quality programs for all residents, regardless of physical, social, and economic circumstances. Previously housed in multiple office buildings across the City of Virginia Beach, the goal of the project was to consolidate the Parks + Recreation Department into one space, that provides a healthier and more efficient work environment for employees, and provides the community with improved access to city programs, all while aligning with the City’s sustainable goals.

Grand Stair Looking Outside



Office Space

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Work Modes and Workshops

With the primary goal of consolidation, VIA dedicated a significant amount of time learning about the department’s staffing relationships, organization, functionality, programming needs, and desired efficiencies. As a client focused firm, prioritizing the research and discovery phase with each client and project is extremely important. For the Parks + Recreation Department the research started with an open, transparent, and anonymous survey. By taking this step the design team found out what the Parks + Recreation staff honestly thought about current working conditions, their desires in a new workspace, and discovered what excites staff about their work. This critical first step in communication allowed the entire department to have a voice and express themselves.

Upon a thorough examination of the survey responses the design team facilitated a hands-on workshop to determine how the different staff groups utilized their workstations. This workshop led to an evaluation of work modes such as, how often the department ‘huddles’ and collaborates in an informal manner, how often does their work require ‘huddling’, and does their space support ‘huddling’ and collaboration. After analyzing each work mode, the Department’s needs and goals were applied to the new building footprint. Since Parks + Recreation has many sub divisions, most of which had never worked in close proximity to one another, an interactive diagram was executed that guided and required leaders to evaluate their department’s functionality. This key step led the design team, client, and staff leadership to determine which departments needed to be adjacent to one another and which needed to have direct engagement with the public. Through this exercise a fully mapped out space diagram was assembled, which ensured that every department was properly positioned and every individual staff member present and accounted for within the building.

Sample of Survey Responses from Virginia Beach Parks and Recreation Department Employees

Andrew Leading a Work Modes Workshop

VB P+R Focus Group Organizing Work Groups and Employees

Scott Leading Workshop

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Since the Parks + Recreation Department supports numerous activities throughout the City of Virginia Beach the workshops revealed the need for flexible and adaptable workspaces. The primary conclusion of the collaboration and hands-on exercises revealed that the concept of having “hives”, smaller nodes of activity interspersed with breakout spaces, meeting spaces, and a host of nooks and quiet spaces would work best. This office programming and design offers both opportunity and efficiency, allowing staff to work at their assigned desk, in one of the quiet lounge areas, or even outside on the patio or in the adjacent garden. The overall research conducted enabled the design team to reduce the overall square footage of the structure, streamline user operations, develop more efficient intra-department communication, reduce travel for meetings, increase team engagement and morale, and create an interface for the local community to engage with the different programming and services offered.

Administration Building Viewed From Across Reservoir

Administration Building From Above

Main Entrance

Patio Outside Of The Conference Room

Back Garden

Back Garden From Above

Rear Of The Building From Above Reservoir

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Site and Sightlines

The Parks + Recreation Department’s new site is located amidst a multitude of sports fields, trails, cultural, educational, and health care facilities, a clear embodiment of the Department’s goals. The position and placement of the new building was deliberately selected to maximize existing sightlines from the surrounding approaches and to take advantage of the unique park setting. The overall goal being a structure which stitches itself into its surrounding context to become inseparable from its site. Once the site concepts were established, a massing and form study was conducted to evaluate the vertical organization of the building. Over 15 options were evaluated through the process and ultimately landed on a design that exudes a bold welcome at the entryway, and graceful sloping sightlines that guide the eye gradually along the structure and then seamlessly back out to the surrounding park.

The natural setting resulted in a building footprint that stretches and protrudes out into the site like fingers from a hand. These “fingers” create pockets and courtyards preserving mature trees, providing communal areas for gardens and outdoor activities, increasing viewing angles from the interior to the exterior site, and introducing daylight into the core of the building. Developed from start to finish with the environment in mind, there is hardly a room in the building without a view to the exterior. The ever-present connection with nature, natural patterns, and presence of wood connects the staff directly to their department goal of serving the public and the environment. The siting, form, architectural design, and systems design all work in tandem to deeply connect the building to the landscape and its place in the heart of the city.

Landscape Architecture

The landscape and site design is a direct reflection of the disappearing cultural landscape and the agriculture that supported generations in Tidewater Virginia, and the department’s commitment to open space and habitat preservation over much of the site. Significant tree strands on remnant farm ditchers were preserved and enhanced, and over 51% of the site supports habitat restoration, meadows management, and other low impact maintenance strategies. Over 65% of the site is dedicated to open space with connections to trails and bikeways, outdoor break and works spaces, and rich songbird and pollinator plantings that surround the building and bring nature right up to the workplace windows.

Sustainability Moment

Geothermal Wells and Energy Saving

The building’s heating and cooling system was selected to complement its carefully designed building envelope. Beneath the parking area, 70 geothermal wells act as a heat exchanger to dissipate heat in the summer and absorb it during the winter. To keep solar heat gain to a minimum, glass with a low SHGC, high light transmittance, and low U-value was selected. Exterior solar shades were designed with horizontal blades that block light during warmer months but permit daylight during cooler months to promote passive heating. Each window was also provided with operable interior roller shades to provide the occupants a high degree of controllability to reduce glare as needed. Together, these building features are balanced to maintain consistent temperature and energy usage year-round.

LEED Certification

The new administration building achieved LEED Certification in April 2020, while achieving a 20.81% Energy Reduction over baseline and 32% Potable water use reduction over baseline. In its first year, these reductions amounted to a $10,000 reduction in actual energy savings versus the baseline case even through the initial performance evaluation and commissioning period.

The preponderance of water and flat topography creates development and stormwater management challenges throughout Southeastern Virginia. The project team collaborated with University researchers to look beyond the site to an entire sector of the municipal watershed to meet stormwater regulations and achieve LEED Stormwater Quantity reduction credit. This eliminated the originally presumed need for an expensive and redundant secondary stormwater pond next to the existing pond on site. The stormwater capacity was further enhanced by utilizing curbless parking lots, to allow more stormwater to infiltrate through sheetflow into surrounding planted areas.

On the unirrigated site, native and uniquely adapted plants were carefully selected to tolerate periods of drought as well as extended periods of saturated soil conditions that can smother roots. Native trees such as bald and pond cypress are strategically massed based on sun exposure to shade and protect the building in the southeast’s hot summer months, while still providing daylight and solar benefits through the winter.

Sightlines From Various Locations Around The Site

Selected Building Location Based Off Of Sightlines

Building Form Studies To Determine Best Form To Fit Site and Client Needs

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The ability to closely interact and collaborate with all stakeholders throughout building design, interior programming, and site development allows us to learn about the inner workings of our client, just as it allows our clients to learn about the inner workings of design and architecture. We have found these collaborative and idea sharing moments within a project to be special and memorable for the entire team. It creates a bond of understanding, effectively creating a better design than we could not have imagined from a singular vision. Our experience with Virginia Beach Parks + Recreation was specifically unique to their culture and work style but the principles of research are key with all our clients and projects. We are thrilled with the new administration building, it is impactful, yet seamlessly blended into its surroundings.

Additional Photos

Grand Stair

Main Entrance

2nd Floor Patio and Rear Garden

Conference Room

Back Garden From Above Reservoir

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