3M Italia Headquarters

A culture of quality and innovation in the workplace

A project that begins from analysis of the environmental context

The head offices of 3M ITALIA S.p.A are located just outside the centre of Milan. The building is the first of a series that make up the overall masterplan for the site, designed by MCA in 2005. The 3M building lies within an area that has historically always been a typical mix of residential buildings interspersed with office buildings for large companies.

Drawing by MCA

By integrating the internal working spaces with the external features –shading systems, terraces, pedestrian paths, and green spaces – the new building attains a significant level of environmental quality (which was recognised when it won the Architecture Category of the US Awards 2009 – a competition that promotes and disseminates the culture of quality and innovation in the working environment). The design is characterised by its linear, terraced structure 105 metres long, varying in height between two and five storeys plus a basement. Its transversal section with internal courtyards, and its stepped roof, ensure that it is strongly integrated formally and visually with the surrounding green areas.

The focus on limiting energy consumption, in all seasons of the year, is associated above all with the building’s volumetric configuration, its orientation, its environmentally sustainable materials, and its use of advanced technologies for the integrated geothermal and photovoltaic system.  It is conceived as a single narrow rectilinear block orientated NE-SW and stepping down towards the south. These design decisions were determined by analysing the environmental conditions, particularly the exposure to the sun.

©Daniele Domenicali

MCA Archive

The building’s external envelope gives it an aesthetic that is dynamic and changeable when seen from different orientations. It is designed to ensure effective control of sunlight by a brise-soleil system that makes it possible to optimise the indirect natural daylighting whilst at the same time attenuating the effect of heat during the summer season, thereby reducing the need for mechanical cooling systems. On its northern side, the building has a mainly opaque façade to minimise heat loss, while on the east and west elevations the façade system is enriched with shading elements. The south-facing parts are designed as a series of terraces that provide shaded outdoor spaces for those who work in the building. The terraces also act as environmental mitigation elements that protect the internal climate from extreme external variations between summer and winter.

©Daniele Domenicali

©Daniele Domenicali

©Daniele Domenicali

The building has two internal courtyards that play a key role by bringing in natural daylight and by using the stack effect to give the workspaces natural ventilation during the mid-season periods and on summer nights. The configuration of the building, and the internal planning of the workspaces, ensure that nobody is more than 4 metres away from the nearest source of natural daylight.

©Daniele Domenicali

©Daniele Domenicali

The innovative elements and solutions that were adopted in the design and development of the new 3M Italia headquarters are typical of the most up-to-date performance models of reference for buildings of reduced environmental impact. This was achieved by carefully integrating the design of the building envelope with the environmental control system, in particular by calibrating the opaque and transparent parts and by the use of sun screening. These factors make the building an efficient “bioclimatic machine”.

The bioclimatic project

Graphic Design by ZUP Design

Graphic Design by ZUP Design

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