Adaptive Reuse Of A Century Old Office/Warehouse

adaptive reuse-executive suuite

With our ever evolving market, we’re seeing an influx of clients focusing on sustainability.  Adaptive reuse falls into this category, reimaging an existing building while preserving the historical, cultural, and architectural features of the building. These projects can be challenging at times with ingenuity and problem solving being the two leading factors when it comes to the design process.

Adaptive reuse projects give our team the opportunity to envision and design an entirely new space with mind blowing results. The recent 100 year old office/warehouse is a great example of how a building can transition into an entirely new space. By highlighting the building’s original architectural features, such as an “unexpected” architecture gem exposed when opening  a wall from a previous renovation, or incorporating modern and contemporary materials gave this building a new purpose. 

adaptive reuse-indianapolis

We rarely see Class A office space within a warehouse/distribution center. Our client, Republic National Distributing Company (RNDC), has embraced this design philosophy throughout many of their individual state locations. Their buildings have an array of staff, which include an executive operations team, sales executives and managers, 100’s of sales reps, warehouse employees, and route drivers. We outfit their office facilities with quality contemporary furnishings while maintaining the combined warehousing and distribution facilities on site. Combining the two is less difficult when building ground up, but with existing structures, there are more design challenges (expected and our favorite- unexpected) to achieve a cohesive space. 

The adaptive reuse project at RNDC’s Indianapolis location was a 100 year old 3-story office building with a 2-story adjoining warehouse. The building needed to be modernized and more importantly, brought to current code standards.

Adaptive Reuse Project

An unused 20,000 SF of the original warehouse, was adjacent to an existing three story office building. Below 20,000 SF was a fully operational warehouse basement space. The 20,000 SF space wasn’t structurally capable of supporting forklift equipment and storage of heavy products. Therefore, this 20,000 SF of second floor space was not being utilized. The adjoining three story office building housed a small meeting/auditorium space in the bottom floor basement, and reception and offices on the second level.

The third floor was approximately 12,000 SF consisting of executive offices, conference rooms, executive admin, sales support, and customer service. Low ceilings made the space feel confined, paired with no updates for many years.

Another challenge was a two story addition completed in 1995, the floor heights of the 1995 addition did not match the original building. There was a 5-6’ difference in height between the levels, they were connected with a series of stairs that did not meet current code. The five floor levels needed to be attached and accessible for disables persons, as well as, taking into account visual flow between the spaces. During this addition, an existing 80’ long exterior window system was discovered embedded in a wall. 

In this adaptive reuse project, our client’s needs were: executive offices, space for their sales reps to work, a mixology room (they are a wine and spirits distributor!), a large area for training, and reception area for visitors. 

The Goal

Our goal was to design a beautiful, cohesive space while keeping the integrity of the building by utilizing original architectural features. The team would repurpose the second and third floors to achieve the client’s needs, while addressing structural support requirements for the renovated facility. To allow for expansion of the third floor, and to gain “connectivity” of the spaces, an existing roof area was enclosed to become new third floor space.

The Design
The basement was left as a warehouse/distribution. Room was carved out to add an exercise facility and the original staircase was replaced to meet code.

The real magic happened on the next two floors. On the second floor, it was important that the design incorporated original architecture components, additional beams, and columns for structural support, while maintaining an open floor plan. The wood floors, an 80’ exterior wall with a window system, the exposed wood and steel floor, and roof decks would remain.

The new design divided the second floor into different areas, including an open reception, open office space for workstations and touchdown space, a mixology room, 200 person auditorium, and an employee break area. The social area was achieved by removing a freight elevator that was part of the original 100 year on facility and pouring a new slab at the second floor of the shaft.

adaptive reuse before/after
adaptive reuse

While the existing 100 year old wood floors were left  exposed and beautifully refinished, the concrete floors were carpeted.

adaptive reuse social area

The exterior wall with windows received an upgrade, glass planes were replaced with white frosted glazing. Allowing  light from the adjoining corridor to radiate into the auditorium.

Rounded walls and light fixtures were the dominant design element on the floor, creating a natural flow. This feature is most notable when viewing the reception desk. To enclose the mixology room the team incorporated a NanaWall glass folding door system. When closed the glass panel system creates a radiused enclosure. When opened the room becomes part of the open floor plan, with a view toward the open reception, the open office area, and the auditorium.
adaptive reuse-mixology

Wood slat ceilings and steel mesh “clouds” were installed. This lowered the visual “ceiling” height creating a more intimate space and partially concealed the exposed  piping and air ducts on the ceiling. Wood slats helped refine acoustics in the auditorium.

As for the unmatched floor levels from the 1995 renovation, accessible ramps were added to connect the spaces. It created a visual connection between the two buildings and brought the space to current ADA standards. Large round light fixtures (moon rings) were installed throughout the floor, playing off the rounded walls. RGB LED tape lights were installed in the high open office space in combination with patterned glass “windows” to create an interesting visual of infinite changing colors.
adaptive reuse

Moving up to the third floor, a monumental glass and steel staircase was installed between the second and third floors. When comparing before and after photos of the staircase, it appears a larger space was carved out for the new one, however, it’s a visual illusion. The glass makes the space appear more expansive.
adaptive reuse-monumental staircase
Adding a floor to replace part of the existing second floor roof gave the team the opportunity to increase the square footage of the third floor. This transformed the appearance of the floor, visually creating a “peek-a-boo” view to the mixology room below. The executive team, as well as customer service and new conference room space continues to occupy this floor.
adaptive reuse-executive suit

When it came to the exterior of the building, industrial steel windows that lit the 20,000 SF of the existing warehouse were replaced with an energy efficient, fiberglass insulated  window system. The new windows filled the newly created open office and clerestory with wide expanses of natural light.  It was important to mimic the appearance of the original windows to not compromise the building’s facade.

The interior furniture had a mid modern influence. The artwork is regional to Indianapolis depicting landscapes and well known monuments/places throughout Hoosier state, and of course many pieces depicting the history of the Indianapolis 500 race track. One unique piece of art is a large mural on the second floor. The artwork was originally commissioned by the city and was 25″ by 30″. With artist approval the artwork was digitalized, increased in size, and printed onto flexible panels. The panels were installed as a 12′ by 15′ mural at the open air office area.
adaptive reuse-artwork

Do you have a facility that needs an update?

This adaptive reuse project shows the potential for historic, mid-modern, “great location”  and “forgotten” buildings. Pairing existing materials with new materials gives the building a unique “one of a kind” character.

Let’s connect if you have a facility that needs an overhaul.

SEA Studios is an Architecture Firm specializing in Office, Interiors, Shopping Centers/Retail, Distribution/Warehousing, Light Manufacturing, as well as a comprehensive portfolio in Restaurants, HealthCare, and Entertainment.

Our collaborative team specializes in Architectural & Interior Design, Planning, Programming, and Sustainability. We seek solutions with our designs by merging proven material with new products, sustainable systems, and energy saving technologies to offset long term cost for our clients.

Interested in learning more about our projects? Sign up to be alerted for new articles.