Back in 2005, Bridgestone officials began exploring the idea of converting one of the original Firestone campus buildings into a new state-of-the-art technology center. After studying the parameters of the project more closely, however, it was determined renovating the old building would not be cost effective so officials began looking instead for a new construction site elsewhere at the Akron, Ohio campus. They found the perfect spot at the corner of South Main Street and Firestone Boulevard and ultimately built the new four-story, 262,000 sq. ft. Bridgestone Technology Center. Modern through and through, the building is clad with InvariMatte® stainless steel by Contrarian Metal Resources.
The combined histories of Bridgestone and Firestone are as rich as the new Tech Center is modern. The two companies merged in 1988—representing the largest investment ever by a Japanese company in an American firm—but Firestone’s history dates clear back to 1900 with the founding of the company by Harvey S. Firestone. Bridgestone was founded three decades later—in 1931—by Shojiro Ishibashi. Ishibashi’s name in English means stone bridge, which inspired him to pick Bridgestone as his company’s name.
Among Firestone’s game-changing innovations was the dismountable rim. When introduced, it gave drivers the ability to change their own tires for the first time. Another introduction was the angular non-skid tread, which made automobiles safer and easier to control. The company was a leader in performance too, with every winner of the Indy 500 from 1920 to 1966 riding on Firestone Tires.
The new technology facility will help Firestone remain as competitive in the future as it has been in the past. It houses the research laboratory for testing new advanced tire compounds, and also the prototype and quality control engineering offices. Sol Harris/Day Architects of North Canton, OH, designed the building to LEED Gold standards. The firm’s plan was to make the building inspirational and inviting, which included flooding it with natural light. “Part of our goal was to develop spaces that are inspiring and attractive to young people, thereby improving job satisfaction as well as employee retention.” explained Bob Marshall, Project Architect.
Access to the building is via a drive that snakes through the campus and leads to the statue of Harvey Firestone near the main entrance. The labs and testing facility are located in the north wing on the third and fourth floors while the rest of the building houses offices. Supporting the new building is a new parking deck. Located just across South Main Street, it is connected to the Tech Center via an enclosed foot bridge.
The United States Green Building Council (USGBC), through its Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design program (LEED), promotes a whole building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in key areas. That criteria includes the following categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, locations and linkages, awareness and education, innovation in design and regional priority (which changes by location). To achieve Gold LEED status requires meeting criteria in those areas.
The building is clad in InvariMatte® stainless steel by Contrarian Metal Resources. It has a matte finish that looks like silk metal and garnered LEED points for recycled content and the proximity of production to the job site.
“Zinc was first considered for the building, but zinc develops a patina, and a consistent color was desired, so we looked at anodized. Upon review we thought the anodized finish was too reflective and hard looking. Contrarian’s Commercial Director, Jimmy Halliday, met with the architect and the owners and they loved InvariMatte with its soft reflection, changing with the weather and time of day,” explained Rick Kruger, Firestone Director of Technical Services.
“The stainless steel on the southwest side will fight the heat gain and reflect the heat,” explained Matt Sutter, AIA, LEED AP and Principal in Charge at Sol Harris/Day. On the atrium walls, the stainless steel panels make the transition from interior decorating to exterior sheeting. It visually opens the view and expands both the indoors and the outdoors making the inhabitants feel part of the larger environment.
The Bridgestone Technology Center has a vegetated roof which has a major impact on the building, it absorbs water, offers insulation, reduces the heat island effect and is a nice place to take a break or have lunch. There is a cistern for runoff that holds 35,000 gallons which will be used for irrigation. Bio-swales take parking lot runoff into an area that percolates down into the ground; the water flows over walls and more walls and is almost a waterfall feature. Native plants are used as well in the landscaping and all this has an immense impact on the storm system.
The Technology Center is the first to use a new filtered hood exhaust system in the testing labs; it was designed by Erlab, a French company. Heating and cooling are re-circulated to areas of the building that need it, eliminating areas that are overly warm or cool. This offers a big savings in heating and cooling costs.
The northeast side of the building is open with windows providing natural light, on the east, west and south there is a roller shade system that filters direct light. Day lighting sensors turn off lights when natural light is plentiful. Part of achieving LEED points includes maximizing natural light and outdoor views. The building’s open office space style allows a view from one wing to the other.
The stainless steel cladding was fabricated by Firestone Building Products in Minnesota and installed by The Geist Company, Cleveland. “The installation of the metal cladding went well although the corners were tricky, but we worked with the architect to solve the design issues,” explained Thom Geist, President of The Geist Company.
The company hosted a grand opening celebration with local, state and federal officials as well as other distinguished community guests on April 11, 2012.