Published on July 1st, 2014 | by UC&D Magazine0
Petzl America HQ, July 2014
Sometimes an architect comes across a project that matches their personality and interests. For Jill Jones, Petzl America’s new Utah headquarters fits the bill.
Jones, President of Salt Lake-based ajc architects, was a recreation major and outdoor enthusiast in her previous career and has utilized Petzl climbing- gear for more than three decades. So having the opportunity to design this project for company founder Paul Petzl proved extra rewarding.
“I did a lot of climbing and search and rescue with Rocky Mountain Rescue Dogs for eight years and have used a lot of gear and equipment that Petzl manufactures,” said Jones, adding that she fell in love with design after taking a land planning class and subsequently pursued a graduate degree in Architecture.
“It was a perfect combination for me,” she said. “My outdoor experiences taught me a love and respect for the environment; architecture has created the opportunity to respect the natural environment through design that responds to the site and respect for quality design in the built environment.”
The Petzl project was a perfect marriage of her interests.
“I was initially talking to the folks from (general contractor) Sahara about this project and when I found out it was for Petzl…I just wanted to meet Paul Petzl,” said Jones. “He is such an icon in the climbing world. The opportunity to work with him for two years has been awesome. He is very thoughtful and creative with design. He would come here every three months and identify two or three weak spots that needed more discussion and design…his eye is that good. It was a great opportunity to work with a design-driven client.”
Design elements within the new Petzl building, which was completed in July by Sahara Inc. of Bountiful, were heavily influenced by Petzl himself, who along with his father Fernand and other family members, founded Petzl in France in the early 70’s (current headquarters is in Crolles).
According to Mark (Roody) Rasmussen, Sr. Vice President for Petzl America, he and Paul Petzl visited ancient Peruvian ruins as part of a Petzl Foundation trip prior to the start of the design process. The ruins were inspiring to both men, and helped get the creative juices flowing. “We were astounded at how the Inca’s, nearly 500 years ago, had mastered the difficult vertical access to many of their structures,” said Rasmussen. “Paul has always been inspired by the Ancient Puebloans of the Southwestern United States, who also had a great ability for accessing extremely difficult locations to build their dwellings. In that Petzl’s North American headquarters is located in the heart of Utah, we wanted to incorporate the designs of these aboriginal people to celebrate their expertise in accessing the vertical world – which is the mission of Petzl. Our business is based on verticality and light, and the building design is a metaphor for these concepts.”
Using Petzl Gear During Construction
Petzl America’s new North American Headquarters is a complex, highly functional building that incorporates many sustainable elements and is shooting for LEED Platinum certification, according to Rasmussen.
The $13.75 million, 83,000 SF project (including 40,000 SF of warehouse space) was built on a tight schedule and includes a 55 ft. climbing wall – the tallest one vertically in Utah. The training tower portion of the facility creates an interesting environment. Standing more than 75 ft. tall, its walls vary from vertical to 5,10, and 15 degree batters out of plumb. This created an extremely unusual space both inside and out, but posed significant challenges for contractors having to marry vertical and out-of-vertical elements together for a seamless exterior finish.
The exterior is clad with a multi- dimensional GFRC cladding, designed to inspire the sandstone cliffs of southern Utah. The cladding process was developed and executed in a unique way, with each block of stone being an individual piece, which eliminated panel joints.
Carl Schrank, Project Manager for Sahara, said completing the exterior siding and trim on the 75 ft. climbing wall area required some innovative thinking.
“There was not a lift within three states that would reach the top of the tower, so they used ropes and other Petzl gear and put materials and tools in their belts. Ironically, they were using the same gear they use everyday.
“The project itself was a lesson in geometry from one end of the building to the other,” Schrank added. “It was interesting and challenging at the same time, with different angles, wings, and odd shapes. We had to develop a new rigging system to hang (EIFS panels) on the correct angle. It was very interesting studying and developing those techniques.”
The warehouse boasts a high-tech, computer-driven ‘Perfect Pic’ inventory system, which is the hub of Petzl’s entire North American product distribution system. A product is retrieved and replenished from the system robotically, then goes through an automated packaging and labeling system to increase efficiency throughout the distribution system.
“Paul has a deep passion for creating buildings that support the vision of Petzl,” Rasmussen said. “His ability to look beyond the building as just a ‘place to do work’, and think about the story to be told about the company, made a profound impact on the design.”
Petzl America Headquarters
Location: West Valley City
Start/Completion: May 2013/July 2014
Owner: Petzl America, Inc.
Architect: ajc architects, SLC
GC: Sahara, Inc., Bountiful
Electrical: Hunt Electric, SLC
Mechanical: CCI Mechanical,
SLC Structural: BHB Consulting Engineers
Key Subs: Cornerstone Concrete; B&D Glass; Nicholson Construction