Strong Connections: At CFA, design puts people and places together

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Daylight enters through ample windows at the new CFA Institute headquarters. Photo: Elli Williams Daylight enters through ample windows at the new CFA Institute headquarters. Photo: Elli Williams

When Martha Jefferson Hospital relocated to Pantops Mountain in 2011, it left behind a neighborhood landmark whose history went back for decades. And when CFA Institute, an international organization headquartered in Charlottesville, made the building its own, it formed a closer relationship with the city where it was founded back in 1947.

CFA, which awards credentials to investment professionals, had had many homes over the years, most recently a collection of four offices scattered around Charlottesville. Upon moving into the old hospital in December, the association gained for the first time a facility—144,000 square feet, seven stories in the tallest section—where all its employees can be under one roof. 

“We have this common space on every floor,” said Guy Williams, CFA’s Head of Finance and Risk Management, sitting in a generous lobby next to a swath of glass overlooking residential blocks and picturesque Maplewood Cemetery. “There are lots of passive meeting spaces.” In armchairs, at coffee stations and in wide hallways, employees can run into each other and chat. “We’ve had a lot more impromptu meetings.”

The intimate relationship to the heart of the city is nowhere more clearly symbolized than in the airy, glass-wrapped stairwell that faces Downtown. Williams said it’s proven more inviting than the elevators for many workers. With Monticello, the Pavilion, and other local hot spots within its panoramic view, it seems to deliberately highlight CFA’s urban, walkable location.

CFA officially wants its employees to contribute to the Downtown economy, take the stairs for health, and come to work in a low-footprint building. Project architects, Richmond-based Baskervill, and CFA officials expect the project to earn LEED Gold certification.

A slew of features contribute to sustainability. Daylight enters through ample windows and is allowed to infuse the space because cubicle walls are partly transparent—cutting down on electricity use. A “living machine” remediates graywater. Low- or no-VOC paints and finishes were used throughout. And 95 percent of construction wastes were recycled.

But the most significant green aspect of the renovation is that it breathed new life into a facility that was ripe for reuse. The 1929 Patterson wing, facing Locust Avenue, is the jewel in the project’s crown. “We wanted to bring that back to its original glory,” said Williams. Original architectural features, like archways and Terrazzo floors, emerged during renovation and now lend character to offices within Patterson. 

“Each window was removed, refurbished, and put back,” said Williams. “Each pane went back in the exact spot.”

As the weather warms, employees will be able to take full advantage of their new digs—for example, eating lunch outdoors near a burbling fountain. One senses that, in the long history of this building, another major chapter has just begun.

 

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