Presented by: Richard Lawson

Author:Richard Lawson

Interior Designed to Highlight Company’s Capabilities in Innovation

Bending and welding sheet metal to create heating and cooling systems may not seem like an operation that would lend itself to a high degree of creativity.

After all, it’s basically manufacturing, and it usually takes place in spartan surroundings. Creativity with wall colors, furniture and other architectural touches usually comes with the office space attached to those operations. Call it the beauty and the beast.

That’s the blend Southland Industries – a large mechanical, electrical and plumbing company – pulled off in its newly designed space in the company’s more than 200,000-square-foot building at 12131 Western Ave. in Garden Grove, California. Money Mailer, a company that prints and circulates coupons for small businesses, had previously leased the space.

Manufacturing fills 160,000 square feet, or most of the total space now. There, employees roll out sheet metal, cut it and welders put the pieces together in stalls running down the middle of the factory floor.

Carolina Weilder, project director with Newport Beach, California architectural firm H. Hendy Associates, would argue the beast isn’t necessarily the floor where the workers labor. It was the challenge the firm’s Science and Technology Studio design team faced making sure all of the operations fit in the space “but also have room for growth for years to come.”

Designers had to consolidate two facilities into one. Redundancy had to be eliminated wherever possible to make the space more efficient. Cranes had to be able to move easily under the ceiling. Designers measured the steps employees needed to take to walk to specific areas, then created pathways to support the best navigation patterns. It all fit.

Then there is Southland’s office space. It is intended to reflect that the building is not just a place to work but also a space for doing research and development.

“Think of it as a learning space,” said Payman Farrokhyar, vice president and division leader at Southland.

In the lobby, a giant LED panel hangs on the wall to illustrate a key company selling point – integrating new technology within an existing system. “You don’t have to completely invest in a new system,” Farrokhyar said.

So, the panel was built in the shop using off-the-shelf equipment and incorporates technology developed inside the company.

Southland shares office space with Envise, a wholly-owned affiliate of Southland’s that advises companies on indoor air quality and energy management. Both work together designing and then building systems for institutional customers, such as universities and hospitals, and commercial office buildings.

Like many office spaces today, though, there’s a place for employees to blow off a little steam and recharge. “It’s called the ‘fun zone.’” Farrokhyar said. It has a pool table, corn hole set, a giant Jenga game and whatever else employees bring in. The area has also has arcade games Southland engineers developed themselves, yet another opportunity to show off the company’s capabilities.

Weilder said her team heard “loud and clear” that the company’s culture was vitally important in determining the office space design.

In another area of the office, a curved window allows employees and visitors to look out onto the factory floor. It draws a visual connection between the two. But it’s also another opportunity to showcase the company’s technological capabilities.

When no employees are running the metal fabrication operation, the window turns into an augmented-reality view experience. “It allows you to see how it works on the floor,” Farrokhyar said.