Headquarters Addition and Janney Technical Center
The expansion of the Wiss Janney Elstner Associates (WJE) corporate headquarters involved the phased demolition of two existing buildings, and the construction of a 70,000-sf office and material testing laboratory building. The state-of-the-art laboratory, the Janney Technical Center (JTC), is a key feature of the two-story addition that seamlessly links to the firm’s main building. The consolidated office space supports both administrative and technical divisions.
WJE is a is a global firm of engineers, architects, and materials scientists helping clients solve, repair, and avoid problems in the built world. Recognizing the need to expand their corporate headquarters and laboratory facilities, WJE leadership and in-house experts employed their unique knowledge of building components and systems to narrow down two options – renovate the existing space and multi-building campus, or build a new facility. The contractor’s early collaboration with WJE leadership and the architect-led design team on cost scenario analysis assisted in the final decision to construct a new wing, bringing all operations under one roof. The consolidation created a high-tech, modern testing laboratory that increases efficiencies and productivity, resulting in opportunities for enhanced client service. The positive internal impact of the new JTC is also evident in the energized culture of collaboration and interaction among each of the firm’s many departments.
To see a year of construction accomplished in under two minutes, check out the TIME LAPSE VIDEO: WJE Headquarters Addition and Janney Technical Center.
A Phased Approach
To make room for the new JTC, a coordinated, phased approach was implemented, beginning with the demolition of a neighboring building that mainly housed office and storage space. Constant communication between the contractor and WJE staff was required to avoid disruption to normal business operations that were maintained throughout the construction process. A full temporary wall / water barrier was constructed to protect ongoing lobby and entrance activity during final integration of the new wing. Once the new addition achieved occupancy permits, the original laboratory building located adjacent to the front entrance was demolished. This building housed large scale laboratory and testing operations, as well as technical and office staff. Detailed sequencing and logistics were employed when relocating personnel and equipment to their new, permanent homes. Each testing space in the new facility was designed with precise specifications that needed to be met before moving equipment into the each new space.
At the main entrance and focal point, the curved decorative masonry wall was expanded in height, and the area of glass was also expanded to draw additional emphasis to new entry, and tie the original building into the new space. Additional landscaping was added along the walkway and throughout the new parking lot. A Storm-Tech water retention system was added under a new parking lot built in the area of the original JTC building.
The entryway and lobby is now almost four times larger in size and incorporates an internal, curved staircase in a bright, open environment. A unique museum-like area in the lobby utilizes counters and displays to showcase a portion of WJE’s history through old testing equipment, antiques, and company photos. The interior design theme seamlessly integrates into the new addition, with glass block enclosures surrounding the new stair to match the existing glass block design of the entrance and reception area.
The first floor of the building is a mix of open-area workspaces and private offices, with the JTC Laboratory Wing located just off the lobby. It was important to integrate the lab with the workplace—offering the “WJE Experience”—to make “what they do” visible for visitors and clients. A purposeful layout of the JTC provides window-views into 10 of the 20+ labs across multiple specialties of materials analysis. Visitors get a snapshot of laboratory functions via signage displayed at the entry to each lab space. Testing labs include analytical labs (four), petrography (study of concrete and stone); NDE / vibration; metallurgy; precision controlled environment rooms; mortar lab; and organic / inorganic chemistry. The facility also includes a concrete testing lab and an overhead door sized to accommodate a concrete truck, as well as negative air pressure from large exhaust fans installed to capture dust particles. In addition, there is a multi-use lab space for testing large samples, emission chambers, and a wet wall for air / water testing.
In addition to the individual analytical and chemical labs, the JTC is home to an impressive 8,000-sf structural testing laboratory for testing of large-scale samples. As one of the largest privately-owned structural testing lab in the country, the JTC Structural Laboratory serves a variety of clients including manufacturing companies, outside architects / engineers, and the internal WJE design team. The space accommodates a flatbed truck “drive-thru” for delivery of samples. A custom-designed 20-ton Gantry crane maneuvers and secures samples for anchor testing, flexural testing, and load testing, among others. The lab also features a 24-inch-thick concrete slab floor with steel inserts spaced along the floor to anchor large samples. The south perimeter of the structural laboratory includes a wood shop / metal shop / machine shop area used for general testing, mock-up repairs, and in-house fabrication. Designed to maximize ceiling height and accommodate the gantry crane, the MEP system for this lab is housed completely indoors to keep the ductwork and equipment off the ceiling / roof.
As part of the consolidation, a larger shipping and receiving area was created in the new wing to handle incoming and outgoing deliveries for the entire firm and efficiently manage the thousands of project samples that move through the JTC in a given year. This includes both general mail, which was originally in a separate building, and staging areas for large sample deliveries.
The first floor office space of the new wing accommodates the JTC staff with an open-workspace floorplan in the center, and personal offices and small conference rooms along the perimeter. Additional features include a beverage station, collaboration spaces, and a staff library with technical and reference manuals. An updated server room and data center runs IT operations for each of the 27 WJE locations around the world. The office layout is modeled from the original building layout with exposed ceiling finishes, clerestory office fronts, millwork, and AV components throughout. Stairwells, located in building corners, feature floor-to-ceiling windows that allow natural light.
The second floor of the JTC further integrates a few of the firm’s administrative departments by creating a new space for the IT department and accounting functions. Mirroring the first floor layout, there are private offices and small conference rooms surrounding an open-office environment with collaboration, copy area, and beverage station. Skylights throughout offer natural light and complement unique exposed ceiling finishes.
Available meeting and training space is doubled with the expansion by creating various-sized conference rooms on each floor, outfitted with flexible furniture, that accommodate small, medium, and large gatherings. Large monitors and presentation screens are provided in each room, with teleconferencing capabilities and supporting AV components.
The generous size of this new addition to the company’s headquarters allowed WJE to create 8,000 sf of additional space on the second floor that will be available for future expansion. All mechanical and electrical components are in-place, along with insulation, waiting at the ready for use at a future date. The space looks out onto the first floor roof that was structurally designed to hold another second floor expansion, if needed.
Exterior Wall Construction
The construction of the new wing encompassed approximately eight distinct wall systems. These included metal panels with metal framing; exterior brick systems with both metal and CMU framing; and extensive curtain wall construction, among others. Significant time and interface with WJE experts was required, as they worked hand and hand with Executive Construction and subcontractors ensure proper installation. For each system, mock-ups were created, testing was performed, and updates made to achieve specification.
Each of the 20+ laboratories in the JTC are built-to-suit with complex designs specific to the type of materials involved – no cookie-cutter floor plans or MEP systems. In addition, several humidity rooms that feature sensitive, controlled environments with precise settings were constructed. Executive Construction collaboration closely with the mechanical contractor and MEP engineer, to ensure the intricate systems required in these spaces were installed properly. Similar coordination efforts were applied for power, air, and DI water systems, as each laboratory had specific requirements for each of these components. BIM coordination meetings led by Executive Construction were held twice a month for 6 to 7 months, resulting in some MEP systems to be prefabricated based on the BIM modeling, thus saving valuable time in installation.
Structural Laboratory: Reaction Floor
The installation of the reaction floor in the structural laboratory required extensive meetings with WJE and preconstruction efforts by Executive Construction and WJE. Knowing precisely what was needed for this 24-inch concrete slab, WJE closely monitored the concrete pours to make sure the specific tolerances required for large-sample testing slab were met. This large pour included 200 tons of reinforcing steel and 1,500 cubic yards of concrete, placed by over 25 tradesmen. This unique floor is one of only a handful to be installed in the United States, the others primarily serving University research institutions.
The multiple phases of this project required extensive coordination to move existing, large equipment from the original JTC building into the new space. Ongoing conversations about sequence and schedule were imperative for determining the order of relocation due to each lab space being completed at different times, taking approximately 4 to 6 weeks to move over all testing equipment. The structural lab was the first to move over, as it has the largest equipment that required extensive logistical planning to relocate. The last of the labs to be transferred over were the humidity rooms due to the very complex settings that had to be precise for each before installing equipment.
All technical staff housed in the original JTC building were moved into their new space during the same time period as the labs. Several administrative departments were redistributed across the combined facility, which has resulted in better communication and collaboration among employees.