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GlaxoSmithKline's Double LEED Platinum Headquarters Is Transforming How Its Occupants Work

By Casey Laughman, Managing Editor - December 2013 - Green


If GlaxoSmithKline CEO Andrew Witty hadn't decided to go for a walk at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, GSK's U.S. headquarters might very well still be located among downtown Philadelphia's high-rises — instead of having a spectacular view of them.

As the company was deciding what to do with its space, Witty's stroll inspired a vision for a far more dramatic transformation than simply renovating and resizing the existing space. The Navy Yard, the country's first naval shipyard, is currently undergoing a renaissance as the city and private developers push to turn it into a mixed-use development that is on the leading edge of sustainable development.

When Witty explored the area, including checking out the corporate headquarters of Urban Outfitters, he realized that the location offered the opportunity for GSK to reinvent not only its workspace, but how its employees worked, says John Gattuso, senior vice president and regional director of Liberty Property Trust, which is developing the Navy Yard.

"He saw an environment that fundamentally represented what he envisioned for Glaxo," says Gattuso. "They had thought about their industry, they had thought about what they needed to excel and really be successful going forward in their industry in the years to come in terms of a work environment and, frankly, in terms of a culture."

That culture is represented now by GSK's new headquarters, a double LEED Platinum — Core & Shell and Commercial Interiors — certified four-story building in the Navy Yard. The building represents an enormous space savings compared to GSK's previous headquarters — 208,000 square feet versus about 800,000 square feet. Due to employees relocating to the suburbs or working remotely, GSK wasn't using a very large percentage of the downtown space, and what was being used wasn't being used efficiently.

"It was a complete cube farm," says Ray Milora, director of design and change management, global facilities department, GSK.

That certainly can't be said now, because the new building is as far from a cube farm as possible. But more on that in a minute.

Sustainability Features

One of the major concerns of GSK was ensuring that the building was sustainable; one of the stated plans of Liberty's development in the Navy Yard is that every building will be submitted for LEED certification. So the only question was what level of LEED to pursue. With the base building qualifying for Platinum, GSK decided that since the interior was going to be close to Platinum anyway, it might as well pursue it, says John Campbell, principal and director of workplace strategies, Francis Cauffman architects, which designed the interior space.

A sustainability culture is taking hold among the workforce in the new building; for example, in the first six months of occupancy, 99 percent of waste has been diverted. But it's more than just culture that is driving efficiency in the building. A number of design decisions, systems, and operations are also involved.

The building's facades are angled in different directions to manage daylight harvesting and heat gain. The south facade is angled away from the sun to mitigate heat gain, while the north faced is angled in such a way as to maximize daylight harvesting as well as provide a view of the skyline of downtown Philadelphia. And, with basically everyone having access to the view, that comes in handy. But, again, more on that in a minute.





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