Natural selection from Commercial Design Trends volume 3009

Expansion is a common by-product of success for any business. But with expansion comes the need to future-proof a company's premises to allow room for continued growth.
This was a key factor in the design of the new office and warehouse for Ceres Organics, an Auckland-based food distributor with a strong sustainability focus.
Architect Simon Williams of Williams Architects says it wasn't the only driver, however. The new building also needed to make a statement about the company's values and its holistic approach to business management.
"Ceres operates as one big family – it's a very open and collegial workplace," Williams says. "Consequently, the new premises needed to provide an interactive, comfortable and healthy work environment."
To maximise the high-profile site and to provide a buffer for the offices from the harsh sun in the west, the architect created a long suspended zinc wall at the front of the building.
"The wall also provides acoustic insulation, and directly addresses the road," says Williams. "The zinc has a custom profile and is a coppery shade that will weather over time."
On the inside, the wall forms one side of the double-height void at the entry. And because the wall is suspended, light passes through at ground level – people using the stairs can enjoy glimpses of the green landscaping on one side, and a large living wall of greenery on the other. The void also features extensive sustainable timber on the walls and ceiling.
The sense of outdoor materials coming indoors is reinforced by a zinc-wrapped cube that appears to push through the glazing into the offices on the upper level.
The north-facing front facade is further defined by an extra-large shade canopy and fixed horizontal aluminium louvres that provide a sunscreen for a meeting room on the top floor.
"With windows open to the north and south, the offices are ventilated naturally, and the air conditioning system is hardly ever used," says Williams. "The glazing also provides plenty of natural light, which helps to keep energy costs down."
A large open floorplate creates a transparent office that's in keeping with the company philosophy. This allows for easy communication and increased opportunities for staff interaction. The design also provides a number of informal meeting spaces in addition to more formal meeting rooms. And because the layout is flexible, it can cater to changing requirements and an increase in the number of workers.
Other areas for workers to gather include a café with a fully equipped demonstration and test kitchen. The design also provides decks and courtyards that can be used for social gatherings or simply as breakout zones.
"The warehouse is also a naturally ventilated space," says Williams. "There are 17 large adjustable louvre panels that can be opened to provide cross ventilation. In addition we added rotating ventilators on the roof, to remove the hot air out through the top of the building."
The architect says future expansion can be accommodated within the overall volume, and by closing up the racking aisles.
"We provided plenty of height, so more goods can be stored vertically."
Williams says that while the building was designed to embody the Ceres ethos and functionality, it could be adapted to the different needs of future tenants if required.
"The warehouse, yard and canopies are industry standard, and the office can be divided horizontally. The mezzanine could also be adapted for a number of purposes. However, Ceres is set for the long term. Although this site was developed to its maximum potential, there is an additional site to the east that has been set aside for the company's expansion, and is likely to be utilised within two years."
Environmentally friendly features have been incorporated throughout the project, which is designed to target a Green Star NZ rating.
"All the materials are low maintenance and sustainable," says Williams. "There is virtually nothing that needs painting on the exterior, and there are numerous exposed materials on the inside that reduced the number of finishes required. The design is also all about efficiency – from the cross ventilation and natural lighting to the reduced water use through eco-friendly fixtures and fittings."
Ceres director David King says the building has reinforced the company's brand and core values.
"It has also harnessed a strong sense of pride in the company among the staff. They associate with the building and they feel part of the company and understand where we are heading. This signals a completely new phase for Ceres growth."
A long suspended zinc wall defines the entry to the new Ceres Organics office and warehouse in Mt Wellington, Auckland. Other textural elements include fixed louvre sunscreens and a stone wall set within a galvanised steel cage.
Credit List
Project : Ceres Organics office and warehouse, Auckland
Architect : Williams Architects
Developer : Norak Properties
Construction company : Watts & Hughes Construction Company
Structural engineer : HKL Jacob
Services engineer : PCS
Mechanical engineer : 22 Degrees
Cladding : Aluminium from Symonite NZ; metal cladding from Metal Design Solutions
Roofing : Kiwi Roofing
Structural steel : Grayson Engineering
Metal doors : Exal Doors
Metal windows : Framerite Installations
Steel windows : Adams Steelguard
Roller doors : Duffett Doors
Precast panels : Wilco Precast
Precast floor : HEB Construction
Glazing : Metro GlassTech
Hardware : Sopers Macindoe
Insulation : Potter Interior Systems
Doors : NZ Fire Doors
Lift : NZ Engineering Services
Louvre controls : Window Control Systems
Partitions : Cobalt Interiors
Suspended ceilings : Accurate Ceilings
Story by Colleen Hawkes
Photography by Jamie Cobel