Rolled aluminum and aluminum can recycling giant Novelis has a new Global Research & Technology Center whose design is intended to give customers a close look at the company's world-class R&D, engineering and manufacturing expertise, drive collaboration with customers, and showcase innovative use of Novelis' materials.
The 160,000-square-foot facility, located in Kennesaw, less than 25 miles from Novelis' Atlanta corporate headquarters, was previously office and warehouse space for a chemical manufacturer. Architecture firm Lord, Aeck & Sargent (LAS) designed a new public entry, retrofitted the office space, and built out the empty warehouse space to create a wide variety of materials development and testing laboratories along with a 30-foot-tall high-bay space housing a 16,000-square-foot pilot beverage can production line, an industrial lab with two overhead cranes, and warehouse space. The building is one story with a mechanical mezzanine in the high-bay area to optimize the use of space. Approximately 35,000 square feet remains for future expansion.
"Novelis asked us to design a facility that emphasized cohesiveness with the company's corporate headquarters in Atlanta, so we created a modern, open, light-filled work environment with similar finishes, and we took the design a step beyond," said Barry Abrams, a senior associate with LAS. "We created numerous ways to incorporate the company's aluminum into the design."
The building's public entrance, for example, formerly pedimented precast concrete and glass, has been completely reimagined and features a 38-foot-long cantilevered aluminum-clad steel and glass canopy and updated landscaping that reaches out to welcome visitors. The design incorporates a dramatic structure and a playful use of scuppers and rain chains that direct water into the new planted areas that frame the arrival sequence.
"LAS completely refurbished the dark, outdated opening and created a light-filled, beautifully clad aluminum canopy," said Stefan Erdmann, Novelis vice president, global R&D. "It's a modern entry that sets the tone for the site and the innovation we expect to create inside."
The exterior entry area also features a large aluminum ingot cast into the sidewalk.
Inside, visitors enter a light-filled lobby that leads into a showcase area for Novelis materials including an all aluminum car body and a global map made of recycled aluminum cans. Both areas are flanked by offices as well as meeting spaces that will bring together Novelis' top worldwide metallurgists, materials scientists, engineers and technologists to collaborate with customers from around the globe.
Beyond that are the laboratories, designed to address a Novelis goal for flexibility. Lab furniture can be reconfigured economically to accommodate anticipated ongoing changes in lab use and equipment. The labs are configured along a 480-foot-long double-loaded corridor.
"In order to engage visitors by showcasing Novelis R&D and also provide relief from what otherwise would have been a long, monotonous corridor, we added several design features," said Jarrett Muncy, an LAS interior designer. "Among them are windows that look into the labs and aluminum panels at the lab entryways to provide wall texture and give another nod to Novelis material."
Other corridor design features are aimed at giving texture to the ceiling. They include a reveal around the ceiling and large round specialty lights - located at the laboratory entries - meant to evoke the aluminum can shape.
"Another challenge," Erdmann added, "was the design team's ability to envision and create very effective laboratory and pilot production spaces from what was an empty, cavernous warehouse, and to do so within our budgetary constraints. We now have an attractive, engaging facility to meet our current requirements with the extra space for longer-term growth."
The Global Research & Technology Center is the critical focal point for all Novelis' R&D and the central point for all of its technical activities worldwide including engineering, manufacturing excellence and metallurgy. Future expansion plans include a small scale aluminum rolling mill and heat treatment capabilities for finishing automotive aluminum sheet.
Photos: Gregg Willett