Designed by Kubala Washatko Architects, the 178,343sf J.W. Speaker Corporate Headquarters in Germantown, Wisconsin houses an innovative program that includes the company’s corporate headquarters on the same premises as the company’s manufacturing facility for OEM lighting solutions. Rather than separate these distinct programmatic elements, the facility embraced the inherent obstacles by combining innovative design and construction strategies to reinforce the holistic business model of J.W. Speaker and its employees.
This business model was highly regarded in the initial architectural organization of the facility, which strove to digress from the prototypical manufacturing complex. Rather than entering into a separate reception environment, visitors and employees are immediately introduced to a cohesive facility that serves both corporate and manufacturing services. According to the architects’ Pattern Language description, “when approaching the building whether as a visitor, employee, or trucker, the facility must be perceived as one place, a working place where things are made as opposed to a factory with an attached office” (Kubala Washatko Architects). This is in diametric opposition to a base-case industrial facility typology and further evidences the architect and corporation’s devotion to creating a cohesive working environment.
In addition to the programmatic obstacles posed by the project description, the Germantown building site was also a topographical issue during the design process. The complex is situated on a hilly plot of land, which is in direct opposition to the complex’s demand for a large, flat space for functionality. TKWA responded to the demand by establishing a construction plinth, which amplified the contrast between the site and its surrounding slopes while maintaining functionality with regard to building and freight access. The firm accentuated this architectural decision by clearly delineating the plinth’s edges. Not only did this decision differentiate site from landscape, it also accommodated the rapid construction schedule required by J.W. Speaker.
To further increase the speed of construction, tilt-up concrete panels were selected as the primary building material. Tilt-up concrete has long been regarded as a highly desirable structural system for its thermal mass (reducing interior temperature fluctuations), cost efficiency, and creative design flexibility, all of which were vital to the project completion. The material choice also accommodated the various passive sustainable techniques utilized in the building’s environmental performance. The J.W. Speaker Headquarters was design to maximize natural daylight in both office spaces and the manufacturing facility, where quality of lighting is critical. Accordingly, the building is oriented on the east/west access to maximize southern solar exposure — to help mitigate any heat gain from these apertures, large steel sunshades were added to allow users to customize the interior environments. The complex also employs terraced bioswales to direct storm water through rain gardens help reduce damaging runoff to the adjacent wetlands.