New Research Offices
Bridgestone is the world’s largest tire manufacturer, yet they were having trouble attracting young new engineering talent in their old, dreary office building. With nearly half of their engineering talent scheduled to retire in the next ten years, attraction of young engineers became a focus for the new Akron Technical Center. At the same time, the existing building did not allow engineers to effectively communicate with each other. Productivity, innovation, and employee morale were suffering because of the workplace environment.
A study was conducted of Bridgestone's existing 1.25 million square foot technical center in Akron, Ohio. Their office building was built in 1926 and was heavily used over the past 90 years, causing them problems in the way they operated. A new master plan was needed to serve Bridgestone for the next 50 years. SHD developed existing drawings of the facility, reviewed the existing workstreams that were remaining in the office building and did assessments of the roof, building envelope, structure, HVAC, plumbing and electrical systems. Multiple master plans were considered on one new and two existing sites. After providing cost estimates for each master plan, it was determined that a new office should be built for the 500 employees in their engineering and lab testing divisions.
From the visioning sessions that SHD conducted with stakeholders, it was determined that Bridgestone desired a high-performance workplace environment that incorporated the principals of lean workflow and encouraged maximum interaction and collaboration between their engineering and research staff. Onsite building research was conducted by design architects and interior designers to analyze the patterns and workplace habits of all staff. This research, combined with interviews with key executives and department heads, gave direction for the development of a new workplace design to maximize efficient workflow, and to enable the desired corporate culture change. The focus of the project became inspiring a workplace culture of innovation – which was essential to Bridgestone’s image and goal to remain the largest Tire Manufacturer in the world.
The new technical center evokes a high sense of modern design, while being sensitive to the heritage of the City of Akron, as well as Bridgestone as a company. Two large brick walls incorporated into the architectural design of the facade look back toward the city, and directly relate to the original factory where tires were first produced in Akron.
The site consolidates the Technical Center, Research Center, and Computer Center, creating a true campus culture. The park-like setting incorporates walking paths and a spacious green roof, intended to be used by employees as well as neighborhood residents. An iconic sculpture of Harvey Firestone is central to the campus; he resides adjacent to theTech Center's entrance, welcoming visitors and observing activity. A connected four-story parking deck was designed to avoid hard-surface parking lots, making it possible to keep most of the site's beautiful mature trees and further enhance the park-like feel. Maintaining existing trees was so important to the sustainable design, in fact, that two 40-foot-tall black gum trees were painstakingly relocated as part of the project.
The four-story office building is organized into two main function workspaces: research/testing labs and advanced engineering/corporate office space. A glass enclosed atrium is the core connection space with food service amenities to encourage collaboration and social interaction between departments and adjacent on-campus office buildings.
The new building is very conducive to the environment we want which includes innovation for products and collaboration in how we go about executing this strategy.
Steve Shelton, Vice President, Product Development
Because Bridgestone wanted to change their workplace culture, they required a complete change in office and workstation furniture. The process began by setting up field trips to several different corporations and furniture companies so SōL Harris/Day and Bridgestone could jointly reviewed the construction, durability, flexibility and sustainability of each company’s products. From there, companies were selected to mockup full size workstations in an area of the existing Bridgestone office building and employees participated in an online survey to rate the products, implementing this data into the final workplace furniture design.
In order to make sure all departments’ needs were addressed in terms of furniture planning, a furniture team was formed at the suggestion of SōL Harris/Day to meet monthly and review the systems furniture design process. The team also made selections of specific furniture pieces, such as task chairs, public seating and organization components of systems furniture. SōL interior designers worked closely with the team, consisting of at least one representative from each department, as well as facilities personnel and management, giving each department a voice in the design process. Interior materials were selected to compliment the overall office building design goals, as well as to blend integrally with the selected office workplace system. Materials were also selected that met Bridgestone’s corporate sustainable practice objectives, as well as to achieve LEED Gold certification status.
The energy level of our teammates has drastically improved with the move into our new building with the openness and natural sunlight acting as a catalyst for this change.
Steve Shelton, Vice President, Product Development
The new Technical Center obtained LEED Gold Certification by employing the following sustainable strategies:
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