For the past year, Cornerstone Architectural Group has been an integral part in designing and implementing the fit out of the SHI International Corporation’s world headquarters in Somerset, New Jersey. In 2007, Cornerstone had been part of the design and construction management team that had created SHI’s previous headquarters in Piscataway, New Jersey. Since then, SHI outgrew its space and again turned to Cornerstone to help master plan for their current and future growth. Deemed to be one of the largest fit-out projects in the Tri-state area, SHI wanted a space that was open, employee-friendly, and environmentally sound. In addition, Cornerstone was presented with the task of anticipating future job force growth within SHI’s workforce and worked closely with each department’s managers to ensure space planning and anticipated growth needs were appropriately met.
Much of the interior space in the new headquarters was set aside to be utilized as open office space. Part of this design concept centered around keeping the focus on the existing structure’s ribbon window design to allow for natural light to stream into a majority of the office areas. Cornerstone utilized a revolutionary lighting design that involved spreading the direct/indirect lighting sources to an unheard of 18-foot on center spacing. This allows the light fixture to be over every spine of the furniture system and allowing light to be placed on the functional work surface. This design, along with personalized lighting systems, allowed Cornerstone to provide employees with the appropriate lighting but also enabled an eco-friendly decrease in the amount of electricity being consumed.
A majority of the open work spaces were kept in the central portion of the building to allow for the open floor plan, while private office spaces were cut out from the existing saw-toothed areas of the building’s structure. The Cornerstone design team attempted to utilize and integrate as many of the building’s existing strengths to create a plan that addressed the client’s needs but allowed for the minimal amount of demolition to the building’s original partitions. One of SHI’s main needs was to have an ample amount of meeting spaces, a need that was magnified as the company has grown. The demand for formal, informal, and quick gathering places was met by integrating a large number of conference and meeting spaces into the design on every floor. In addition to adjusting the layout to serve the client needs, Cornerstone completely revamped and replaced the building’s entire infrastructure, including new chiller plants, cooling towers, building control systems, fire alarm system, and roofing system.
The SHI project was not only focused on designing office space, but several other unique amenities and services to serve the unique needs of SHI’s work force. A 3000-square foot gym facility was included in the fit out and includes a free weight area, machine space, and group exercise room. A comprehensive 3000-square foot Café was designed to serves nearly 1000 employees for 2 meals a day and includes bistro-inspired finishes and state-of-the art kitchen amenities. A specialized healthcare clinic as well as several mothering rooms were integrated into the design plan to meet the diverse needs of the staff and their families in order to make a wellness-focused place of employment. In keeping with the wellness-centered philosophy, small details such as a marked walking path and exterior basketball areas were an integral and important portion of the building design. Bright and fun colors liven and enrich the exit stairwells, encouraging employees to utilize the staircases instead of taking the elevator in the 5-story building.
As the project architect, Marco Migliaro Assoc. AIA, was involved from start to finish of this nearly year-long process. With this project having many phases, Marco managed the four main project phases which included the infrastructure upgrades, roof replacement, fit out, and SHI cloud data center. He was also intimately involved in coordination of services between the project manager (Jones Lang LaSalle), building systems engineering firm (Becht Engineering BT), civil engineering firm (The Reynolds Group), as well as the coordination of three different contractors, including Tuner Construction, Unity Construction, and Strober-Wright Roofing. Marco was on-site for a majority of the project in order to provide site-based problem solving and design coordination, as well as being a continuous resource for the client.
Another unique aspect of this project was utilizing a paperless system of coordination and communication. This was accomplished by using online resources and web-based services such as Dropbox and Submittal Exchange. Submittal Exchange is an online service that provides a portal for submitting everything from RFIs, submittals, and close out documentation. This service automatically tracks and logs all items and sends out emails to all involved parties, including clients, the architect, consultants, contractors and even subcontractors. In addition, all drawings were completed in a DWF format, which is an AutoDesk file similar to a PDF but more practical for architectural application.
Cornerstone and SHI have had a great working relationship and Cornerstone looks forward to future projects in 2012 and beyond, which include a customer briefing center and future fit outs of the remaining office space. This project has been a unique opportunity that has allowed Cornerstone Architectural Group to utilize state-of-the art communication, unique design concepts and environmentally-forward building materials to meet the needs of a technology-forward company.
Project Photos by JDN Photography