With the ongoing impetus to innovate in every endeavor, Silver Spring, MD-based biotech company United Therapeutics (Unither) has unveiled a new building on its campus that aims to be one of largest commercial site net-zero structures in the US. The building was developed to fulfill two Unither goals: First, it facilitates Unither’s mission to develop innovative products that address the unmet medical needs of patients with chronic or life-threatening conditions. Second, the structure is intended to balance the amount of energy used in the building with the amount of renewable energy generated onsite.
To help showcase the complex net-zero ecosystem at play within the building and remind employees and visitors alike of their place within this unique system, Unither enlisted experience design agency HUSH to develop a multi-layered narrative experience within the building itself. “Our goal was to communicate that this is a building unlike any other – a living, breathing entity with its own consciousness and behaviors. We wanted to inspire people by designing things that reveal their crucial part within this system,” HUSH Founding Partner David Schwarz explains.
The experience design agency was inspired by the environmentally-conscious vision of Unither Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Martine Rothblatt, a communications and life sciences pioneer who created multiple satellite companies including Sirius XM and WorldSpace, conceived the world’s first electric-powered full-size helicopter, is behind numerous biotech innovations and consistently ranks as one of America’s highest-paid female CEO’s. To reflect Rothblatt’s mission for Unither, a company she had led for over two decades, HUSH has crafted a series of digital, physical, artistic and informational installations that integrate into the building’s interior architecture and serve as multilevel inspiration for staffers and guests.
The project is anchored by a singular centerpiece – a large, sundial-like sculpture called the “Energy Dial” made purely out of light and reflective metal fins and recessed into the building’s interior shell. The sculpture is driven by real-time data from the building’s control systems. It translates this data into giant, 40-foot rays of light that animate in sequence, moving inward and outward to demonstrate the building’s energy usage/consumption as part of the ebb and flow of net-zero forces. There is also a suite of custom light animations that relate to critical thematic moments throughout the day, like “solar noon,” which relates to the sun’s peak position in the sky. These kinds of large-scale visual changes create a north star for employees and visitors to rally around their net-zero ecosystem.
Accompanying the sculpture is a high-resolution, multi-touch interface that goes deeper into the data, systems and trends of the energy information. The primary interface is paired with low-resolution light effects housed behind architectural glass that cascade down the length of the new building’s main hallway. As users interact and explore the interface, they quickly understand the energy state of each of the systems within the building, see their historical performance, and explore potential future performance based on environmental and human behaviors.
HUSH has also strategically designed and integrated custom illustrations, infographics and digital animations to create an exhibition-like experience that distills the complex subject matter. The agency worked intimately with Unither’s leadership to integrate this storytelling across multiple floors and through various connected spaces to optimize messaging.
According to Schwarz, the multi-tiered, inspiring and informative effort for Unither was born from a shared vision on sustainability and social good. “HUSH believes in working with companies that share our core values: Proactive, Respectful, Communicative, Candid, Curious,” he states. “Unither has a similarly clear and audacious set of values, one that drove them to design a building that is motivated by social good and making the world – and its people – better and healthier. As one of the first truly ‘conscious buildings’ that will operate at site net-zero, Unither sends a clear message that companies can innovate and grow while also reducing their environmental footprint.”
Along with its focus on experience design at the architectural and urban scale, HUSH’s collaboration with Unither reflects the design agency’s belief in the power of data-driven experiences as brand expression. This has also been exemplified in their recent work for the likes of Google and Capital One and reflects some of their earlier projects with Equinox and Nike’s digital running community. “Data is critical for analysis and understanding but its value often ends there,” Schwarz adds. “For Unither, and many of our clients, data becomes a critical storytelling device. By taking complex, unseen data and visualizing it in a beautiful, direct way, we’ve created an experience unique to the Unither brand and truly meaningful to those inhabiting the building. In this way, Unither’s data becomes a core component in realizing their mission of positive innovation for the health and well-being of the world. I believe this is another great example of HUSH exploring ‘data as brand.’”
Photography: Nicholas Cope
HUSH is a concept-driven design firm. We integrate digital technology and physical environments to create powerful brand experiences for our client’s customers, employees and partners.
About United Therapeutics:
United Therapeutics Corporation is a biotechnology company focused on the development and commercialization of innovative products to address the unmet medical needs of patients with chronic and life-threatening conditions. We have five approved products on the market today and are relentless in our pursuit of “medicines for life”.