Bridgestone AmericasWhen Bridgestone Americas Inc. designed its new technical center in Akron, Ohio, the company had a lot to live up to. The site has been a center of innovation for more than a century, ever since Harvey S. Firestone founded the Firestone Tire and Rubber Co. there in 1900.

The company’s iconic headquarters and tech center was built in 1911 and became part of Bridgestone Corp. when it purchased the company in 1988. But having the tech center within the 100-year-old manufacturing facility was proving inefficient, and it was time to find the center a new home. The company wanted to consolidate its computer system, product development lab, and compound development operations in a stand-alone building that would house 450 workers.

The budget, schedule and design goals for the new building were ambitious. The company broke ground on the $100-million project in April 2010 and held the dedication ceremony for the completed project in April 2012. Besides being the ideal site for the research and development team, the building had to meet several other goals, including reducing energy usage and employing green building materials and practices. It also had another purpose: to serve as a showcase for Firestone Building Products’ systems. Firestone products were used on the roof and throughout the building envelope to meet green goals and embody the company’s commitment to achieve a watertight, durable, integrated building envelope. 

“The building had to say, ‘advanced tech center,’ ” said architect Robert Marshall of SoL Harris/Day Architecture in North Canton, Ohio.

The goal was to create a structure that was coordinated with the other buildings to give the complex a campus-type feel. The limited color palette, featuring stainless steel, red, and wood, also ties in with the corporate logo. In a nod to the company’s history, the lobby features an actual Firestone-sponsored racecar mounted to the wall.

Marshall noted that other key design concerns included interesting exterior views and the use of natural light to convey a sense of openness.

“Another goal was to have a lot of informal meeting spaces, even in the atrium,” he said. “We wanted it to be open, transparent, comfortable.”

Making sure the building was green and sustainable was a focus for Bridgestone as well, and the building was designed to achieve a gold certification under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program and qualify as a RoofPoint-registered project. Inside, low cubicles and interior glass, along with light shelves and a day-lighting system with photo sensors, make the best use of natural light. Manual and automatic shades were installed on sunny exposures.

The roof systems were designed to increase energy efficiency. A prominent focus is the garden roof on the second level, which is visible from within much of the building.

“The garden roof is usable space and very aesthetically pleasing,” said Marshall. “It also reduces rainwater runoff and is integrated with the cistern system.”

There were several roof areas involved in the project. Sections of Una-Clad metal roofing, SunWave daylighting systems and photovoltaic panels complement the two main roof systems — a fully adhered EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer) system and the garden-roof assembly.

The main roof, penthouse and bridge are topped with Firestone’s 090 RubberGard EcoWhite Platinum EPDM, which is fully adhered to one layer of Firestone Isogard HD Coverboard. Below that are two layers of 2-inch Firestone ISO 95-Plus GL insulation, which were mechanically attached to the steel deck with heavy-duty screws and insulation plates. Tapered ISO 95 Plus insulation was used for saddles and crickets.

The vegetated system was installed over a lightweight concrete deck. Firestone’s 090 RubberGard Platinum EPDM was fully adhered to the deck, with a 45-mil sacrificial layer on top. The LiveRoof vegetative tray system and paver walkways were then installed. Plants such as sedum and prairie grasses were chosen to thrive in the environment. Plants and the trays were also chosen to vary in height as well as color for improved aesthetics. The trays, which are 4 inches and 6 inches deep, have holes that allow excess water to slowly be released into the drainage system, which features a cistern for collecting rainwater.

Chris Tobias, Firestone’s building envelope manager, worked with accountants to set the budgets and determine the type of materials used on the project, then worked with the designers to ensure they were specified and installed correctly. Goals for the roof included reducing the urban heat island effect and improving storm water management, but there was another key concern: durability.

“In terms of sustainability, it’s vitally important to ensure that roofs aren’t unnecessarily replaced,” Tobias said.

He noted the roof systems have a 30-year Platinum warranty, which is in line with the green goals on the project. He noted the warranty even covers damage from hail and punctures, like those that might result from an HVAC technician dropping a door from an air-handling unit, for example.

“What we’re trying to do is encourage everyone to report these leaks so we can help them understand roof access and how you can prevent these problems from happening,” he said.

Tom Averitt, president of Advanced Building Products, was the local Firestone representative on the project, and he worked closely with the installing contractor, Gary Nusbaum of Wooster Roofing and Construction Co. in Akron.

Averitt noted the project also demonstrates the commitment Bridgestone has to all of its subcontractors.

“It’s a high-profile project,” he said. “It’s important for Bridgestone overall. We wanted to support what our business is all about — the entire building envelope.”

Averitt and Nusbaum cited the details and flashing as the most critical components of the system — especially under the garden roof. Beneath the vegetative system is a black 90-mil RubberGard EPDM membrane with a 45-mil sacrificial layer on top of it. It also has a 30-year Platinum warranty.

The sides of the building feature an array of different wall panels, including an aluminum panel rain-screen system and flat-lock stainless steel wall panels with a special finish. Aluminum soffit panels and column covers give it a unified look. Matching sun screens and light shelves on the southeast side of the building were designed to make the best use of natural light and tie in with the day-lighting system.

Marshall indicated they originally considered zinc and anodized aluminum for the wall panels, but decided they would look harsh in bright sunlight. They decided on painted aluminum and stainless steel with an embossed pattern.

“The embossed pattern softens the reflectivity and doesn’t make it look so harsh,” he said.

Tobias explained that substrate preparation was crucial, so 3-D modeling was used to make sure everything was square and plumb. The installing contractor was Thom Geist of the Geist Co. in Cleveland. The wall panels were lifted into place by four men with two snorkel lifts, working in concert.

“It was a smooth installation,” Tobias said. “Making sure the substrate is true is the key.”

Rick Ruppert, an architectural services manager with Firestone, noted that having a single source for the roof and wall panels made it easy to integrate the colors and tie the roof and wall systems together.

“When interfacing with two trades, you’ve got to make sure you’re satisfying both criteria,” he said. “We spend a lot of time on transitions. Having one source integrates the whole building envelope — that’s our slogan: From roots to rooftops.”

The technical center was completed on time and under budget. At the building’s dedication ceremony, Hank Hara, Bridgestone’s chief technology officer, noted that Akron is one of only three technical centers for Bridgestone worldwide  — the two others are in Tokyo and Rome.

“As the building was going up and taking shape, the excitement has been growing in the community and with our teammates,” he said. “We’re proud to have a world-class tech center in Akron, Ohio.”

Chris King is the editor of Roofing Contractor, a sister publication of Snips.