The heart of GSK's offices is four-story central atrium featuring a monumental maple veneer stair. Employees share spaces organized in neighborhoods, along with additional informal seating spaces.

The heart of GSK's offices is four-story central atrium featuring a monumental maple veneer stair. Employees share spaces organized in neighborhoods, along with additional informal seating spaces.

Credit: Francis Dzikowski


For a company in the midst of growth, pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) took an unusual approach to building its new headquarters. Rather than opening a swaggering flagship as a way of trumpeting its growth curve, it reduced its office footprint by 75 percent in a distinctive, but under­stated, new building designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects (RAMSA).

The project’s origins trace their way back to 2004, when Pennsylvania-based developer Liberty Property Trust hired RAMSA to develop a master plan for Philadelphia’s post-industrial Navy Yard. The architects were determined to avoid the car-centered typology that sprawls across the suburbs. “This straddles urban and suburban as an alternative to traditional office parks,” says RAMSA partner Meghan McDermott, AIA.

So when GSK started scouting sites for its new headquarters, the Navy Yard was an appealing choice. The 205,000-square-foot building—officially named Five Crescent Drive—was conceived as two distinct parts: a four-story core-and-shell, designed by RAMSA and developed by Liberty Property Trust, and interior spaces that were commissioned by GSK and designed by Francis Cauffman. Notably, both projects were certified LEED Platinum, which, at the time, was the sixth such double-certification.

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Credit: Francis Dzikowski

The client and designers treated the entire project in a highly empirical way, testing ideas against specific performance standards. “The decision to move to the Navy Yard came from analyzing how we were using space,” GSK project executive Ray Milora explains. With a 15½-year lease, GSK was essentially embarking on a build-to-suit process. “Here, we really had an opportunity to carry out some clear goals about GSK’s global commitment to environmental responsibility.”

RAMSA sculpted the building’s unusual shape—a butterfly in plan, with four volumes linked by a central spine—with close consideration of the site’s sun patterns. “We were very conscious of solar orientation,” McDermott says. The south-facing façades are canted downward to mitigate solar heat gain, while the north-facing façade tilts upward to provide expansive views of the city. The aluminum-framed, double-glazed curtainwall reduces heat gain and loss while allowing in abundant daylight (a full 75 percent of the interior spaces are adequately illuminated without artificial light). Automatic shades control daylight levels throughout the day. “We considered a big range of glazing ratios and different solar coefficients as a way to optimize the façade and find the optimum balance,” explains Ana Serra, a sustainability associate at Buro Happold, which provided M/E/P and façade engineering services.

For the central atrium, the architects used a low-iron glass with a low-E coating as a way to make it as transparent as possible. A strip of clerestory windows that runs along the atrium’s long edges illuminates spaces deep inside the building. For the volumes that flank this central spine, RAMSA chose a glass that is slightly more opaque in order to gain privacy and to cut down the risk of heat gain. These choices do have important practical implications (the privacy concerns, but also heat gain minimization), but they are married with aesthetic benefit. “The glass reflects the color of the sky accurately,” McDermott explains. “As you walk around the building, the reflections and tones in the façade change.”

Bridges span the atrium to ease movement around the building.

Bridges span the atrium to ease movement around the building.

Credit: Francis Dzikowski

Much of the building’s strategy for efficiency lies in its exacting approach to the allocation of space. GSK instituted what it calls a “SMART Working” program, doing away with personal desks and instead relying on shared spaces organized into areas called “neighborhoods.” For the roughly 1,300 employees based in Philadelphia, Francis Cauffman included 1,035 desks. “Nobody has an office,” says John Campbell, AIA, principal at Francis Cauffman. “Even the president of the company shares a space, just like everybody else.”

Every employee is given an Energy Star–certified laptop and a locker, and the elimination of desks allows GSK to avoid the energy-intensive practice of powering excess space. The interiors have a focus on interaction and movement. “Every­thing in the interior spaces—from the elegant spiral staircase in the atrium to the fact that no one has an individual trash or printer—is meant to keep the workspaces active and dynamic,” says Campbell.

In addition to seating areas that can be used as workspaces, the roof feautres vegetation to help with stormwater management and an herb garden that grows crops for use in the building's cafeteria.

In addition to seating areas that can be used as workspaces, the roof feautres vegetation to help with stormwater management and an herb garden that grows crops for use in the building's cafeteria.

Credit: Francis Dzikowski

A green roof captures stormwater for on-site use. It is also part of a landscaped terrace that can be used by up to 500 people at a time. Radiant heating and cooling in the atrium cuts down on energy use, while enthalpy-wheel-driven energy recovery ventilation reclaims exhausted air with 70 percent efficiency. “There are a lot of impressive metrics with this building, but the story is really about the success of this workspace,” says Buro Happold’s Serra, citing positive employee feedback. And from the beginning, that was the goal articulated by GSK and the entire design team. “We had technical specifications that were state-of-the-art, but innovation doesn’t need to be just using the latest technology—it is more about taking the right approach to a particular challenge,” McDermott adds.

Even though GSK stepped back in terms of square footage, it took major steps forward in identifying new models for sustainable design. The designers developed an exacting focus on employee ergonomics, a metric not included in LEED guidelines. Until now. “That wasn’t a LEED credit,” explains GSK’s Milora, “but the USGBC contacted us about our plans so they could implement it as a pilot program. We wanted to do a sustainable design instead of just accumulating carbon credits,” Milora says. “Rather than picking out off-the-shelf points, we approached it as a complete design process.”

With energy savings of well over 30 percent, the designs are paying off. “We just focused on basic design principles,” says Milora. “It was Design 101—asking the person who is going to be using it [what they want].”

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Credit: Francis Dzikowski

GSK's roof features a landscaped terrace that can hold up to 500 people.  It's shaded seating area can be seen on the roofline to the right.

GSK's roof features a landscaped terrace that can hold up to 500 people. It's shaded seating area can be seen on the roofline to the right.

Credit: Francis Dzikowski

 


By the Numbers
Building gross floor area: 208,000
Number of permanent occupants and visitors: 1,300 assigned employees to building; 1,033 desks provided
Percent of the building that can be ventilated or cooled with operable windows: Zero
Total water used (gallons per year): 955,520 (estimated)
Calculated annual potable water use (gallons per square foot per year): 4.66 (estimated)
Total energy used (kBtu per year): 72.2 (estimated)
Percent total energy savings: 40
LEED rating: Platinum
Data provided by Francis Cauffman and GlaxoSmithKline

Green Team
Base building architect: Robert A.M. Stern Architects, ramsa.com; Kendall/Heaton Associates, kendall-heaton.com
Interior fit-out, interior designer: Francis Cauffman, franciscauffman.com
Developer, owner: Liberty Property/Synterra, L.P., a joint-venture of Liberty Property Trust & Synterra Partners, libertyproperty.com and synterraltd.com
Tenant, client: GlaxoSmithKline, us.gsk.com
Mechanical engineer, electrical engineer: Buro Happold, burohappold.com; Wick Fisher White, wfweng.com
Structural engineer: Thornton Tomasetti, thorntontomasetti.com
Civil engineer: Pennoni Associates, pennoni.com
Construction manager, general contractor: L.F. Driscoll Co., lfdriscoll.com
Lighting designer: The Lighting Practice, thelightingpractice.com
LEED consultant: Buro Happold, burohappold.com; Atkins, northamerica.atkinsglobal.com
LEED commissioning engineer: Bala Engineers, bala.com

Materials
Acoustical system: Pliteq, pliteq.com
Adhesives, coatings, and sealants: Miracle-Kingco; Specified Tech, stifirestop.com; Franklin Titebond, titebond.com; CR Laurence, crlaurence.com; USG, usg.com; Sherwin Williams, sherwin-williams.com; 3M, 3m.com
Air, moisture, and vapor barriers: Polyguard Products, polyguardproducts.com
Appliances: Whirlpool, whirlpool.com; GE, geappliances.com; KitchenAid, kitchenaid.com; Summit, summitappliance.com; Fisher Scientific, thermoscientific.com; Scotsman, scotsman-ice.com; Frigidaire, frigidaire.com;
Carpet: Interface, interfaceflor.com
Ceilings: Armstrong, armstrong.com/commceilingsna; Decoustics, decoustics.com
Flooring: Forbo, forbo-flooring.com; Nydree, nydreeflooring.com; American Built-Rite, american-biltrite.com/flooring-products; Johnsonite, johnsonite.com; E-Core International, ecoreintl.com; Uzin, uzin.us; Haworth, haworth.com; Signature Sports Flooring, signaturesportsflooring.com; Daltile, daltile.com; American Biltrite Flooring, american-biltrite.com/flooring-products
Furniture: Knoll, knoll.com; Haworth, haworth.com; SpaceSaver, spacesaver.com; Charnstrom, charnstrom.com; Global Industrial, globalindustrial.com; Carolina, carolinabusinessfurniture.com; Great Openings, greatopenings.com; Steelcase, steelcase.com; Keilhauer, keilhauer.com; Bernhardt, bernhardt.com; Encore On-Q, onqseating.com; Gunlocke, gunlocke.com; Stylex, stylexseating.com; Vitra, vitra.com/en-us/office; Davis, davisfurniture.com; Groupe Lacasse, groupelacasse.com
Glass: General Glass International, generalglass.com
HVAC: Liebert; Daikin McQuay, daikinmcquay.com; Price, price-hvac.com; Greenheck, greenheck.com; Automated Logic, automatedlogic.com; Trane, trane.com/Commercial
Insulation: Certainteed, certainteed.com; Thermafiber, thermafiber.com
Interior walls: USG, usg.com; Marino Ware, marinoware.com; Clestra Hauserman, clestra.com; Modernfold, modernfold.com; Skyfold, skyfold.com; NanaWall, nanawall.com
Lighting control systems: Lutron, lutron.com
Lighting: Humanscale, humanscale.com; Axis Lighting, axislighting.com; Lithonia Lighting, lithonia.com; Mark Architectural Lighting, marklighting.com/home.aspx; Schmitz Lighting, schmitz-leuchten.de/html-en/aktuelles-news.php; USAI, usaillumination.com; Cooper Lighting, cooperindustries.com; Philips, usa.philips.com; Peerless, peerlesslighting.com/home.aspx
Metal: Nucor, nucor.com; Cascade Coil, cascadecoil.com
Millwork: Coastal, coastalmillworkandsupply.com; Columbia, columbiamillworks.com; Sierra Pine, sierrapine.com; Uniboard, uniboard.com; Flakeboard, flakeboard.com; ITW Adhesives, itwadhesives.com; 3Form, 3-form.com; Corian, dupont.com; Formica, formica.com/en/us; Caesarstone, caesarstoneus.com
Paints and finishes: PPG, www.ppg.com; WolfGordon, wolfgordon.com; Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore.com; Sherwin Williams, sherwin-williams.com
Plumbing and water systems: Kohler, us.kohler.com/us; American Standard, americanstandard-us.com; Lochinvar, lochinvar.com; Zurn, zurn.com
Wallcoverings: Maharam Textiles, maharam.com; McGrory Glass, mcgrory.com; Designtex, designtex.com; Acrovyn, c-sgroup.com/acrovyn/wall-protection
Windows and doors: Graham Doors, grahamdoors.com/en/site/grahamdoors; McKeon, mckeondoor.com; Security Metal Products, secmet.com/en/site/secmet
Window treatment: MechoShade, mechoshade.com; 3M, 3m.com