Buying “American Made” products has always been an ideal for both businesses and individuals, but in a post-pandemic marketplace, where it’s clear just how tenuous the supply chain is, buying American-Made isn’t just a lofty goal, but a necessity and safeguard.
But something really important has to happen when the federal government, industries, businesses and individuals ramp up their demand for products made domestically: companies must create, expand or improve their manufacturing facilities. At the same time, employees are demanding, and employers are seeing the benefits of creating more hospitable and human-centered workspaces.
Warehouses, manufacturing plants, industrial facilities and the like were typically never presented to architects to truly “design” beyond their basic function. But now, companies are fully embracing industrial design, and architects like us are fully embracing the opportunities that the scale of these structures provides. Beyond the ergonomic design aspects of a space where people physically work each day, opportunities exist to make these spaces dramatic, inspiring and downright fun for the people who work there.
To illustrate this point, here are a few industrial design projects we’ve tackled recently and how they’ve incorporated architectural design that goes beyond pure functionality.
Fabricators of high-end, experiential signage and installation work, Gropen needed an updated facility that housed both their manufacturing side and their design and administrative side in a way that felt cohesive. An 11,000 square foot addition needed to reflect the high-level, beautiful work they produce. The result was a sleek, modern prefab building that is highly customized to meet each employee’s needs.
Mezzanine style second floor office spaces are open to the first floor lobby and meeting space, creating an unexpected soaring and architecturally interesting impression upon entering.
Large glass windows let in lots of natural light and views of the lush greenery of their site. Easy access and visibility between the warehouse and office side is key, helping the whole team stay connected.
A literal household name for lighting products needed to update their facility to align better with their current workforce. While manufacturing is still done on-site, technology has streamlined the process, and not as much space is needed for that side of their operation. Instead what is needed is more office, gathering, research and demonstration space.
This adaptive reuse design takes a building that is frankly too large for its current purpose and breaks it up into cohesive yet independent spaces to serve a variety of purposes. A horizontal and interconnected layout encourages collaboration and communication between all levels of employees and executives in lieu of the vertical hierarchy that is often literally designed into a corporation’s structure.
At the same time, they needed this space to showcase the company’s lighting technology and products, and therefore the design highlights a variety of styles of decorative, ambient and task lighting throughout. Client meetings and demonstrations are done in this facility, so it needed to make a big impression on anyone considering working with them and their products.
In addition to the interior space, the exterior and entrance were reconfigured for better functionality but also to be more welcoming, modern and appealing to employees. This included outdoor recreation and gathering areas and an updated facade. But it also includes large glass windows for literal operational transparency that keeps the manufacturing facilities visible and always in the minds of those on the design, marketing and business side.
A crane and hoist manufacturer needed to add administrative space adjacent to their current production warehouse. Both physical and visual connection needed to remain between the two sides of the operation, so our design took the opportunity to tether them with a courtyard greenspace. Green and outdoor space is proven to enhance employee productivity and mental health, so the connection point serves a functional and very important physical purpose.
Inside, we incorporated a real, functional crane as a central structural and design feature. This unique installation keeps the focus on the company’s product and purpose, while also offering engineers the opportunity to test and tinker with design concepts.
An open concept, two-level workspace provides sweeping views to the outside, abundant natural light and a feeling of connection between employees.
Jaunt, a Shenandoah to Central Virginia transportation system, needed more space and functionality in their garages to maintain their buses and fleet. More than functionality, however, they wanted to provide their employees with a pleasant, safer and healthier space in which to work.
The updated garage design included better ventilation, lighting, and dedicated work benches at each bay. It also included 15 to 25 feet of additional floor space, taller garage doors to accommodate larger buses and vehicles, and more efficient waste oil chiller and heater systems.
While updates like that may sound technical, for the mechanics working in the garage every day, they make a huge difference in how happy and effective they can be at their job.
When a local bioengineering research company reached out to us with the goal of expansion, they were eager to prove that their method for producing affordable, delicious, healthy tagatose (a natural sugar alternative) was commercially-viable. To do so, they needed to transform their business from a R&D laboratory to a full-scale commercial food grade production facility. This required more space, and much more equipment.
In addition to providing the design, we also took on the role of coordination and implementation of the new facility, acting as maestro of many subconsultants and stakeholders, from equipment manufacturers to processing engineers, electrical engineers to facility maintenance departments, municipal utility coordination and owner’s advocate.
Tolerances in the former paper warehouse were tight, and all the little pieces of the puzzle show how properly coordinated and thought-out designs are critical to industrial retrofits. This project utilized the 3D point cloud scan to precisely model and locate existing steel structure, roof drains, and fire suppression systems to layout processing equipment and provide clash detection.