The design of Helios House embraces the paradox of creating a green gas station. Located in Los Angeles at the intersection of two major north/south and east/west corridors – Robertson and Olympic Boulevard – Helios House is situated on a site with a preexisting gas station built in the mid-1970’s. An important goal of the project was to upgrade the original station in an environmentally conscious manner by “upcycling” old materials and installing new materials that are sustainable and recyclable. Conceived as a “learning lab,” Helios House is also designed to stimulate dialogue and education on the topic of environmental stewardship.
Within the site, water, heat, energy, lighting, and material systems are all built to maximize sustainability and energy efficiency. Much of the existing site features including the ground, canopy, pay kiosk, back building and price signs were regrouped as part of an integrated landscape of materials and surfaces. 100% recycled glass was mixed into the concrete, offsetting the need for sand in the concrete mix and mitigating the heat and fumes darker grounds like pavement emit. A green roof with native plants is situated on the back building which reduces the need for mechanical heating or cooling. Elsewhere throughout the site, additional plantings reduce CO2 by absorbing hydro-carbons.
Additional sustainable measures include an expanded canopy roof deck with 90 solar panels, reducing the carbon footprint of Helios House by 5,000 pounds of carbon dioxide annually. Energy-efficient lights illuminate the station, which in concert with the canopy design reflect colored light on the faceted stainless steel cladding, allowing the station to draw 16% less electricity than conventional stations. Sensors further optimize the use of artificial light through a 24-hour cycle.
Another key goal was to minimize material waste. The stainless steel canopy was designed using CATIA software which allowed for factory-precise design. Incorporating 1,653 stainless steel panels that were preassembled offsite into 52 transportable components, site assembly lasted only four weeks, creating an easily adaptable design that taps into the potential for mass customization.
Using architecture and design to reinvent the gas station experience, Helios House restores the fantasy and aspirations that gas station design once embodied. “Filling up” becomes a visually enriched experience; and in doing so, an opening is created for community outreach and education on how to incorporate sustainable choices into other aspects of daily life. Recycling receptacles collect paper, cans, bottles, and even old cell phones, which are donated to local charity. The overarching message with the community is that small changes in the right direction can make a big impact.
Conceived as a “living laboratory” that melds bold design, inventive fabrication, and sustainable building practices with a multifaceted communication strategy, Helios House uses design to inspire a community that is eager to raise its environmental awareness. Performance benefits will be evaluated and shared with customers and partners for possible use in future projects.