Seeking to consolidate its Piscataway, New Jersey, and Lewisburg, Tennessee, operations, Schwan Cosmetics USA selected GS&P to design a new 174,000-square-foot North American headquarters and an FDA-compliant manufacturing facility that would integrate the two outdated plants into one centralized location in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
Headquartered in Heroldsberg, Germany, the world’s largest private-label producer of cosmetics desired an attractive and sophisticated U.S. head office that would appeal to high-profile buyers from New York to Paris, yet avoid appearing pretentious to its customers. The company’s goals also called for the facility to be highly efficient in the production of Schwan’s best-in-class product line, provide ease of maintenance while complying with all applicable FDA regulations, and be as environmentally responsible and sustainable as possible.
To be situated on a 25-acre greenfield site in the Elam Farms development on the north side of Joe B. Jackson Parkway, the new state-of-the-art facility would entail six primary segments: corporate administration; laboratory research and development; product manufacturing; a customer experience environment; warehousing; and employee amenities.
“Schwan has been manufacturing cosmetics for more than 100 years, and has a highly refined level of expertise in that industry,” says Ken Zyga, GS&P executive vice president and principal-in-charge on the project. “However, as their managing director expressed to us, they had never designed a building before and had no idea where to begin or end. So they turned to us—as part of a design-build team with Turner Construction—to design a facility that’s not only inviting for both their international visitors and employees, but is as aesthetically appealing as it is efficient without being overly opulent or extravagant.”
“From the outset, we knew that Schwan wanted the design to embody their corporate slogan ‘Inspiration Engineered,’ adds project manager Scott Schulz. “So we sought to develop an aesthetic value that would effectively convey their brand image and translate that into a comprehensive customer experience—from the point a client first sees the facility, to when they exit to return home.”
Capturing a Vision
The first step in developing a design concept that adhered to all of Schwan’s key goals was to establish a common language among their numerous representatives and the GS&P team, which comprised 11 professional disciplines. To start the process, the design team hosted an architectural visioning session to capture the client’s sense of brand as well as the statement they wanted to make about their products through the context of their new showcase facility.
“During the initial visioning session, we asked Schwan executives—including their managing director—to choose words that embodied their goals, and then select imagery of various building styles that either matched those goals or captured an aesthetic quality they embraced,” says Zyga. “They wrote down single words such as ‘sleek,’ ‘smart,’ or even ‘wow’ to convey their impression of those visuals, so it was almost like a word game. And for the client, this old-school technique of looking at visual examples of architectural design basically took all of the mystery out of the process, and gave them the opportunity to actively participate in the design.”
Next, rather than holding a series of meetings where the client suggests changes to the design—and the architects then present the new drawings at the following meeting—the design team used Revit software to streamline the process.
“A client could potentially take a couple of days to mark up each drawing, making suggestions such as moving a room or enlarging an office,” says Zyga. “The architects would then include that markup and present it at the next meeting. It’s a long-standing and traditional process, but it’s also very time consuming.
“With Revit, one of our architects sat at the computer, and manipulated the images while the client watched. It was a unique process of information sharing that saved weeks of going back and forth. And it worked so well that we are now following the same procedure with other clients.”
Representatives from Turner Construction were also invited to take a seat at the table throughout the design process, providing valuable suggestions from a builder’s point of view. For instance, their suggestion to move an interior wall by just a few feet ultimately saved both time and money for the client.
“Turner is a partner we know very well, and we truly value and trust their input,” says Zyga. “We create the model, and they’re the ones who go out and make it real. Having construction experts in the room simply creates a better build. And it’s a distinctly collaborative process that allows us to blend our ideas together and come up with the optimum result for the client.”
Sustainable Solutions and Cultural Guidance
Known for its environmental responsibility, Schwan sought to integrate sustainable features into the new facility wherever possible, placing a strong emphasis on both energy efficiency as well as conservation.
“Schwan had a clear idea of what they wanted in their headquarters, and our job was to translate that goal into an American environment,” says Schulz. “For example, they wanted their facility to be as energy efficient as possible to control costs and to make the building as sustainable as it could be. In Germany—which has a national target of producing more than a third of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020—growing numbers of businesses achieve those goals by installing solar power. But our designers explained that in Murfreesboro, where electricity is much cheaper than in Germany, solar power would have less impact.
“A kilowatt of electricity in Germany costs 14 cents. But in Murfreesboro, the Tennessee Valley Authority charges 4.5 cents, which is about one-third the price. So the use of solar energy would have a long return on investment and make far less sense. And that’s the kind of cultural guidance we were able to provide Schwan, which allowed them to focus on design elements that would achieve their goals in the United States,” says Schulz.
Along with providing fiscal direction from a U.S. perspective, the design team also recommended incorporating a number of sustainable design elements including the use of large clerestories (or light scoops) to introduce natural light into the facility’s administrative spaces and laboratories. In addition, the team advised the use of occupancy sensors and LED bulbs to further reduce costs and energy consumption. Other sustainable components include low-flow fixtures to help conserve water, and the use of locally sourced, recycled materials.
“Although Schwan chose not to pursue LEED certification, their new facility was designed and built with many forward-thinking green and sustainable elements,” notes Zyga. “The end result is an environmentally responsible and energy-efficient building that’s estimated to reduce operational costs.”
As market buyers and product auditors would be visiting Schwan’s facility daily, the design needed to project the company’s corporate slogan “Inspiration Engineered” in the totality of the customer experience. With this in mind, the GS&P team placed great emphasis on the travel path of facility visitors to introduce this concept, and echoed the company’s motto through every visual step—from entry to exit.
“The client experience begins in the reception lobby, which serves as a welcome into the facility,” explains Schulz. “From that first impression, glass doors lead to the factory floor and provide a direct view of the production process that highlights the company’s organization and cleanliness. Clients will then move into the factory along a central spine, or continue upstairs where the circulation passes by the large glass wall of the research and development lab that showcases Schwan Cosmetics’ innovations, and allows clients to view the technicians at work without disturbing them.”
“The large windows, open design and natural light create a true feeling of transparency, and send a clear message that the company is proud of its workers and products, and is eager to showcase them,” notes Zyga.
Spaces that Satisfy, Motivate and Reward
Besides creating a destination facility for its customers, Schwan was adamant the new building design enhance the overall employee experience. Where its manufacturing facility in Lewisburg is a conglomeration of building parts and pieces that originate from the original plant in the 1930s—and is essentially everything a highly efficient manufacturing operation should not be—GS&P’s design dispenses with the cumbersome nature of the past and replaces it with employee workspaces and amenities designed to satisfy, motivate and reward.
This enhanced employee experience starts at the side entrance to the building adjacent to employee support and amenity spaces. Support spaces include a fitness center and locker rooms with showers, and a café that provides computer stations—as well as dining and social space near administrative spaces and the factory floor—that encourages interaction between the departments, and among office and factory employees. The office design is open and light-filled, and balances privacy needs by providing plenty of small team rooms for heads-down work.
“Schwan truly values its employees,” stresses Zyga. “So, with both comfort and efficiency in mind, we put ourselves in the place of the workers. What if they saved 10 steps every time they completed a function they had to perform a hundred times a day? That adds up to huge savings of time and effort over the years. Achieving that kind of outcome required close collaboration with the client, and they will be able to measure the results and place a dollar amount on the savings.”
Also vital to Schwan was that the choice of materials enhance the ease of maintenance. To comply with FDA regulations, the firm conducts a quarterly deep cleaning of its facilities. To lend new efficiency to that process, the team incorporated smooth surfaces into the design that won’t gather dust as a result of the cosmetics production process.
“We incorporated surfaces that are not only easy to clean, but are also attractive and appealing,” says Zyga. “All flooring is polished concrete, and the ceilings in the production area are vinyl tile, which doesn’t collect dust. This will enable our client to meet the FDA’s requirements for cleanliness, yet still remain focused on creating world-class cosmetic products without being distracted by the actual operation of the facility.”
Masterfully blending broad visual appeal with unmistakable functional suitability, Schwan Cosmetics’ new U.S. corporate and production headquarters strategically highlights the company’s brand image through its open layout and neutral palette, and maximizes adjacencies to foster interaction between both manufacturing and office employees. Thanks to higher environmental building system efficiencies and improved process system effectiveness, the leading-edge facility is estimated to replicate Schwan’s current manufacturing processes at a net reduction of 27 percent in energy usage costs.
“We’ve created a crisp, modern and quality-focused environment for Schwan—one that will help support their strategic and operational goals,” says Schulz.
“The company is, in a sense, in the fashion industry, which places an enormous amount of emphasis on both beauty and style. And while this facility is certainly beautiful and sophisticated-looking, its beauty and sophistication aren’t just skin deep. And the design isn’t simply a matter of what the building looks like—it’s about how well it serves the people who use it each and every day.”