11 feb 10 | The Architect's Newspaper

Unveiled: Federation of Korean Industries Tower

by Alan G. Brake

Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture's Seoul tower features a pleated, BIPV-paneled facade.

Architect: Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture
Client: Federation of Korean Industries
Location: Seoul, South Korea
Completion: 2013

This nearly 800-foot-tall tower's pleated curtain wall is more than just an intriguing design gesture. It cleverly allows for angled building integrated photovoltaics (BIPVs) in the spandrel panels on the southwest and northwest sides, which receive the most sunlight. This maximizes energy collection along the surface of the tower, while also limiting heat gain through the vision glass below.

Chicago-based Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture (AS+GG) prevailed over fellow competitors Foster + Partners, and Pei, Cobb, Freed to design this new headquarters for the Federation of Korean Industries, a large trade organization. Sustainability was a goal for both client and architect, and the architects figured out how to exploit a Korean energy subsidy to justify the added costs of the BIPVs. Solar power can be sold back to the grid at seven times the price of conventional power, up to a certain amount. AS+GG figured out that integrating panels into the building's two sunniest sides could produce that quota. "This is the first time BIPVs have been used in a tower with this degree of efficiency," Adrian Smith told AN.

Breaking up the monotony of both the exterior and the interior, the architects carved three-story atria behind the buildings facades, some on the corners and some in the center of the facade. These atria have clear low-e glass in the spandrel panels, so they will read on the elevations during the day and at night. Landscaped on the interior, they will also help to bring daylight deeper into the floorplates.

A curvilinear podium, with an employee restaurant and conference center, will create a lively street presence. "It's a counterpoint to this very simple, rectilinear office building," Smith said. "It's a signature piece." The podium, which will be mostly in shadow, does not have photovoltaics.

Smith's accordion facade is a simple solution that could easily be used elsewhere. "It's fairly common in roofs, but not in towers," Smith said, adding that he doesn't feel proprietary about the idea. "We're all looking for advances in how buildings perform. We don't have a patent on it."