Friday, March 25, 2011

Design for the Sky, Earth and Sea: BAE Systems


By Beth Herman

With recruitment and retention high on the agenda for the Rockville, Md. office of UK-based global defense, security and aerospace company BAE Systems Technology Solutions and Services, Inc., 520 Gaither Rd., creating an efficient, sustainable workplace for seasoned talent and newly-minted staff was only the beginning.

At more than 105,000 employees worldwide, the 574 submarine and missile infrastructure development staff occupying a dark, antiquated building north of the site had outgrown its outmoded former space in many ways. Retaining DBI Architects, Inc. to transform a newer 140,000 s.f. building in Redland Corporate Center at King Farm into a space that would unite workers through technology, and foster collaboration and an esprit de corps through its design and amenities, BAE Systems was also committed to reducing its carbon footprint.

“It was challenging recruiting younger, just out of school employees with the old office space,” said Beth Rowles, DBI senior project manager, noting BAE Systems worldwide was in the process of implementing a company-wide LEED requirement, something members of a younger workforce expect. With a team that included lead designer Elizabeth Blunck and designer Ann Robinson, and employing BIM in its design protocol, the architects sought to manifest BAE Systems’ m├ętier through a sleek interior design of the six-floor structure, with a nod to the earth and natural light a high priority.

To that end, elements such as aluminum ceiling panels used to provide texture and depth to walls, not ceilings, articulated sleek, high-tech materials the company sees in its submarine and missile work. Wood wall planks and ceiling panels, and a color palette that included the cool grey of space along with blue accent colors at workstations, copy rooms, lounges and accent walls on each floor, were redolent of earth, air and sea products and services BAE Systems – reportedly the world’s largest military contractor by sales revenue – encompasses.
With 80 percent open workspace and universal office planning on its dance card, the client opted for just two workstation sizes and three office sizes. In this respect, the design precludes a constant reconfiguring of space as employee numbers increase or decrease. Work stations display lower panels so staff has access to natural light from perimeter windows while seated at their desks, with light channeled to the center of the space on all floors.

On three floors, a conference room abuts break rooms with a primary conference center, also used for training, on the first floor. Two Skyfold partitions in the main conference center divide it into three separate spaces when necessary, though for all-hands meetings, conference rooms on all floors are connected audio-visually via flat screen LCD TV’s.

Ceramic floor tiles with recycled content, LED lighting in some areas, abundant and concealed trash and recycling components, bike racks and lockers, and close proximity to an adjacent building’s shower facilities and locker room inched BAE Systems up the LEED ladder, along with other sustainable steps, resulting in recent LEED Silver certification.

“We exceeded the initial LEED expectation,” Rowles said of the firm’s achievement, noting their brush with Gold.

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