Adaptive Reuse Of A Century Old Office/Warehouse

adaptive reuse-executive suuite

As prices of material continue to rise, we’re seeing an uptick in rehabilitation. Reimaging an existing structure while preserving the historical, cultural, and architectural features is referred to as Adaptive Reuse. There is no doubt, these projects tend to be more challenging than designing a new building. Ingenuity and problem solving are 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. A recent 100 year old office/warehouse project is a great example of how a building can transition into an efficient, productive space for a growing company. Incorporating original architectural and unforeseen features along the way made this design process unique. At the end of the journey, the modern and contemporary building had 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 state locations. Their facilities have an array of staff, an executive team, 100’s of sales reps, to route drivers.  The layout needs to meet the needs of all the staff. While achieving a cohesive flowing office and warehouse. 

This adaptive reuse project consisted of a 100 year old  2-story warehouse with an adjacent 3-story office building. The building needed to be modernized and brought to current code standards.

Adaptive Reuse Project

In the basement of the original 2-story warehouse is a fully operational distribution center that would stay intact. The second level, 20,000 SF, wasn’t structurally capable of supporting heavy equipment or store products. There was an adjacent three story office building. On the basement level there were small meeting rooms and an auditorium. The second floor was a small reception area and offices. The third floor housed the executive offices, conference rooms, executive admin, sales support, and customer service. Low ceilings on the third floor made the space feel confined. 

Another challenge was a two story addition completed in 1995, the heights of the floors did not match the original building.The 5-6′ height difference was connected by a series of stairs. The five levels needed to be attached and accessible for disables persons. While ensuring visual flow between the spaces. The 80’ long exterior window system would be integrated into the design

In this adaptive reuse project, our client’s needs were: executive offices, additional work space for their growing staff, a mixology room, training areas, and reception for visitors.

The Goal

The goal was to design a beautiful, cohesive space while keeping the integrity of the building. To meet the client needs, the second and third floors would be completely redesigned.  The addition of structural support had to be added while keeping within the design aesthetic. The third floor would be expanded to gain “connectivity” to the lower floors. To achieve the expansion, an existing roof area would need to be enclosed.

The Design

The basement remained as the warehouse/distribution area. Room was carved out to add an exercise facility. To meet code, the staircase would be replaced. 

The second floor was designed as an open floor plan. A reception area, open office space, and touchdown space were part of the new design.  A 200 person auditorium previously in the basement was moved to the second floor. With the addition of a mixology room and an employee break area.

adaptive reuse before/after
adaptive reuse

The original wood floors were beautifully refinished (as seen in the photo above of the auditorium). The 80′ 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.

adaptive reuse social area

The social area was previously the freight elevator of the original warehouse. This space was achieved by pouring a new slab at the second floor of the shaft.

adaptive reuse-mixology

Rounded walls and light fixtures were the dominant design element within the space, creating a natural flow. This feature is most notable when viewing the reception desk. To enclose the mixology room (photo below), 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.

Wood slat ceilings and steel mesh “clouds” were installed. Lowering the visual “ceiling” height creating an intimate space.  As well as, partially concealing the exposed piping and air ducts. Wood slats helped refine acoustics in the auditorium.

adaptive reuse

As for the unmatched floor levels from a previous renovation, the solution was connect the floors with ramps.  Creating a visual connection between the two buildings and bringing the space to current ADA standards. Large round light fixtures (moon rings) were installed throughout the floor, playing off the rounded walls. Over the open office space, RGB LED tape lights were installed to mimic glass “windows”. With infinite color changing options, it creates visual interest. 

adaptive reuse-monumental staircase

Moving up to the third floor, a monumental glass and steel staircase connect the second and third floors. When comparing before and after photos, the space appears larger. It’s a visual illusion, no extra space was carved out for the new staircase. The glass railings make the space appear expansive.

adaptive reuse-executive suit

The third floor remained the executive offices. The mid modern furniture was used throughout the office space.

To increase energy efficiency, the original industrial steel windows were replaced with a fiberglass insulated window system. Allowing natural light to fill the open office and clerestory.  It was important to mimic the appearance of the original windows to not compromise the building’s facade.
adaptive reuse-artwork

All artwork is regional to Indianapolis.  Landscapes, well known monuments/places throughout the Hoosier state and the Indianapolis 500 race track flank the walls. A large mural on the second floor is unique to the city. The original artwork (25″ by 30″) was commissioned by the city. With artist approval the artwork was digitalized, increased in size, and printed onto flexible panels. The 12′ by 15′ mural now hangs in the open air offices.

Do you have a facility that needs an update?

This adaptive reuse project shows the potential for historic, mid-modern, “great location”, or “forgotten” buildings. Pairing original and modern materials give these building a unique character while giving them a new purpose. Lowering energy cost and increasing team productivity is an added bonus. 

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.


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