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Site Blends Sustainability, Function With Aesthetics

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©2018 This excerpt taken from the article of the same name which appeared in ASHRAE Journal, vol. 60, no. 7, July 2018.

By Chris Deal, P.Eng., Associate Member ASHRAE; Mark Hersch, P.Eng., Member ASHRAE

About the Authors
Chris Deal, P.Eng., is a director and Mark Hersch, P.Eng., is a senior engineer with MODUS Engineering in Des Moines, Iowa.

Aesthetic appeal. Functionality. Sustainability. As design engineers, we are asked to provide these three components in every design—within budget and schedule, of course. Many times, we may be tempted to tell our client that they only get to pick two out of the three components. And, to stereotype ourselves, we typically prefer to focus on functionality and sustainability rather than aesthetics. However, to be successful as designers, we must learn how to incorporate functionality and sustainability into aesthetics.

Joseph W. Lstiburek, Ph.D., P.Eng., Fellow ASHRAE, a frequent contributor to the ASHRAE Journal, has said “ order for buildings to last a long time, people have to take care of them. Now, in order for people to take care of them, people have to want to take care of them. And guess what? People don’t take care of ugly things. Ugliness is not sustainable. People need to want to live in a building and work in a building. Only then will they take care of it. That is why beautiful buildings are important. That is why architecture is important.”1 The Market One Building in Des Moines, Iowa, is a case study of how functionality and sustainability can be blended with aesthetics.

Project Overview

The Market One project involved the comprehensive renovation of a building located in the Historic East Village area of downtown Des Moines, Iowa (Climate Zone 5A) just blocks from the Iowa Capitol. The building, constructed as the Advance Thresher Company Warehouse in 1901, served as a warehouse for the Advance-Rumely Company’s threshing machines and kerosene-powered traction engines. The three-story building was 53,000 ft2 (4924 m2), including a partial subgrade lower level (that was excavated and finished as a part of the renovation). A partial fourth story and rooftop patio were added (approximately 2,000 ft2 [186 m2] as part of the renovation. The finished building is nearly 55,000 ft2 (5110 m2). Prior to the renovations a single tenant occupied a small portion of the first floor, the remainder of the building was vacant. The entire structure is now used as office space.


From the onset of the project, the building was intended to serve as a showcase of how aesthetic appeal and historical integrity can be maintained in a high-performing building. The building’s rich history provided an ideal opportunity to pursue Historic Tax Credits. This added to the challenge because the tax credits required adherence to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. The goals of the project—aesthetic appeal, functionality, and sustainability—were simple; it was the implementation that required creativity.

The building provided several aesthetic features: exposed brick walls and wood joists/rafters on the interior, tall ceilings on each floor (ranging from 14 to 18.5 ft [4.3 to 5.6 m]), few interior walls, and numerous windows. From a performance and functionality perspective, however, these characteristics left much to be desired. The walls provide an equivalent insulation level of R-3.2 and no air barrier. A portion of the windows were required to be restored. The north-facing windows were in the best condition and remained as operable, wood, double-hung assemblies with clear, single pane glass. Finally, the volume of each floor was a characteristic to be maintained. It was determined that large ductwork would not be routed through the facility for the HVAC system.