A vacant, two-story department store in Norristown, Pa. became a blank canvas for USM Inc., a national service provider for facilities maintenance and management services, as it looked to relocate its headquarters. With help from architectural firm Francis Cauffman, USM sought to reflect its company’s culture of collaborative and socially conscious work in an environment that extends the sustainable promise of the rehabilitated facility.
The site for USM’s new headquarters was part of a larger retail complex, originally built in the 1960s, which had been abandoned and left to decay for years. A simultaneous redevelopment project by Wulff Architects transformed the base building structure into a LEED-NC Silver-certified retail center, re-invigorating the surrounding neighborhood.
Through numerous workshops, Francis Cauffman created an accommodation strategy to fit USM’s many different departments into 108,000 square feet of space. The design team worked with employees to move from a hierarchical layout of enclosed private offices to a more open configuration, with meeting rooms at the core of the floor. Team areas were created within raw wooden timber frames, and enclosed conference rooms have glass fronts to allow natural light penetration. This layout promoted the openness and transparency USM desired, while the large floorplate allowed for a centralized call center.
One of the challenges of the building was its lack of daylight—the large, deep footprint of the building made it nearly impossible for light to filter into the space. Francis Cauffman resolved the issue by installing skylights and windows, which flooded 75 percent of the space with natural sunlight. The design team also incorporated a daylight harvesting system, including shades for glare control, in order to optimize the energy performance of artificial lighting in the facility.
Attention to efficiency was at the core of Francis Cauffman’s design, and included lowered utility densities, increased equipment efficiencies, and renovations that could integrate with the existing base building materials
and systems. A water-use reduction of 30 percent was achieved by specifying low-flow appliances. All construction materials included at least 20 percent recycled content, and 80 percent of the construction waste was diverted from landfills through off-site sorting and the re-purposing of materials.
In addition, all adhesives, paints, flooring systems, composite woods and systems furniture were made with exceptionally low-emitting materials. The Cradle to Cradle certification achieved by Allsteel’s Stride panel system ensured that the materials chosen came from a verifiably safe and sustainable manufacturer.
For many of their clients, USM is the green provider of choice. It was important for them to communicate this in their work environment, and their new LEED-CI Silver facility, nestled in a beautifully reinvigorated complex, reflects those values clearly.