Supply headquarters and facility enhances, takes advantage of natural surroundings
Berkshire eSupply's headquarters was built to take advantage of its natural surroundings, which serves automotive customers and improves the supply chain.
- Learn how Berkshire eSupply built its facility in Novi, Michigan.
- Understand how the natural surroundings were used to enhance the building and what supply chain effects it had.
- Learn how the building itself was designed to improve worker, customer and visitor morale.
Supply chain insights
- When confronted with the opportunity to create a new facility to meet the needs of the workers and to help remedy supply chain issues, Berkshire eSupply had several goals.
- By designing a new building in Novi, Michigan, several purposes were met, including fitting sustainably into its location.
Designing the headquarters and product fulfillment campus of Berkshire eSupply required meeting the aspiring company’s multiple goals. Finding a suitable site in the heart of the automotive market that would be accessible to customers was imperative. Consider these four insights into how the company achieved its goals and addressed supply chain issues.
1. Serve myriad purposes
Berkshire eSupply has become a leader in the manufacturing and engineering of sophisticated cutting tools due to the acquisition of 16 smaller specialty tool manufacturers. The result is a single entity embodying an extensive network providing cutting tools, specifically for exotic materials, used in the fields of mining, aerospace and transportation, including automotive. The integrated company had a wide-ranging list of purposes for its new campus with a focus on serving the automotive market.
Among the functions occurring on the campus are sales, client maintenance and distribution. The campus includes a training and education facility, an auditorium and an exhibit area that features all of Berkshire eSupply’s products. The audience is composed of visiting clients and staff trainees.
The design team’s initial priority was situating the campus near a major highway, convenient to customers for material and product transport to enhance supply chain. Designers also considered that the campus needed a flexible design to accommodate advancing technology and support future expansion, as well as be a prototype for future development. Berkshire eSupply operates warehouses in Los Angeles and Houston. Existing company buildings in the 16-organization network were surveyed and thoroughly evaluated for successful features and improvements.
2. Adapting and appreciating the surroundings
The location search finally led the team to a 56-acre site in Novi, Michigan, 30 miles northwest of Detroit. The building site was surrounded by 12 acres of wetlands and woodlands.
Before they could start building, the team worked with state environmental agencies to measure and tag trees on the site because the city planned to maintain and fortify the natural ecosystem. Indigenous and low-maintenance landscape elements were identified to help the campus fit into the surrounding community. Dark sky compliant lighting fixtures were deemed essential to the neighborhood’s comfort. The headquarters’ built environment was integrated into the natural environment with minimal disturbance.
That sensitivity included limiting the developed area to a 29-acre contiguous section of the 56-acre site. Parking lots also were organized around the wetlands, with a large retention pond created to manage stormwater runoff.
The landscaping incorporates native, sustainable and low-maintenance plants and grasses that help reduce water usage, while a high-efficiency irrigation system was confined to areas around the buildings to reduce water usage.
The area provides employee benefits, as well. The facility was oriented to optimize views of the landscape to allow employees and visitors to appreciate the area’s natural surroundings. Employees also have direct access to the woodlands and wetlands during the workday, where employees can experience calming, oxygen-enriched views.
3. Building design process
The design team began the project with the mission of creating a prototype. To do this, the team surveyed and evaluated the company for guidance, leading to a comprehensive master plan for the campus, including space that could be allocated for future expansion. The general contractor was invited into discussions early in the design process, aiming for the project construction timeline to line up with international shipping schedules of product.
The campus headquarters and fulfillment center connect via a walkway. The curved headquarters building, which is more than 19,000-sq-ft and three stories high, juts into treetops. A sheathed exterior of floor-to-ceiling glass permits expansive daylight in the interior, giving employees a scenic view of the surrounding area.
Other exterior materials include imported Jerusalem limestone, also used for flooring. The limestone needed to be cut precisely to fit within the layout. The team worked with masons and the latest technology for this task. The exterior stone colors worked to help the buildings complement their natural surroundings.
Designers incorporated the company colors to enliven the office space, while signature color bins are used on conveyor belts to fulfill customer orders. These high-impact features were balanced in the project budget by specifying the appropriate placement of lower cost materials, such as metal panel instead of terracotta tile.
Everything within the building is precisely stacked along the curve. So the team had to find a way to accommodate straight lines and align the building elements on the curve. A vertical spine and core elements connect the lower-level mechanical, electrical and data center — with the first-level visitor areas, product display and training center — opening to the offices on the second level.
4. Building a healthy and green facility
A second level bridge joins the headquarters to the additional building — a 144,000-square-foot warehouse and distribution center. The design is based on the belief warehouses can be sustainable and healthy environments that encourage employee motivation and engagement.
The design strives to be a healthy environment for occupants by an incisive use of natural light. On one side of the fulfillment center is a 400 x 50-foot glass wall that provides continuous natural light. Daylight sensors adjust interior lighting throughout the fulfillment center as well as the headquarters based on conditions outside.
Low e-coatings, glass color, and mechanical systems work together to create a healthy indoor environment.
Both buildings use variable refrigerant flow systems with multiple units to manage separate zones, energy recovery ventilators and a core where heat can be transferred to and from the supply and exhaust airstreams, aiding efficiency. These systems can provide simultaneous cooling and heating, depending on sun exposure.
Other sustainability and environmental features include white-colored roofing, open green spaces, tree lots and preserved areas that meet the heat island reduction requirements.
A space for everything
Many different activities are happening on the expansive campus. The design team strove to create a village of smaller elements. Designers crafted building components properly scaled for the area. One way they did this was through material use. The forms and colors of the buildings were also used to scale the buildings down and create a connection to the site.
The design used the building to bridge different departments to help with flow and humanize the scale. This is evidenced in the windows between office staff and warehouse staff, along with other gathering spaces like the outdoor plaza.
The Berkshire eSupply campus headquarters achieved its original goals: to serve myriad purposes, including as a prototype for the development of future buildings and to appropriately fit its location.
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