Panasonic Corporation will celebrate its 100th birthday in 2018. But the company is planning more than just a party to rejoice its success as one of the most storied electronics companies on the planet. It’s set the impressive goal of becoming the greenest electronics company on Earth by then—in less than three years. With the way things have been going for the company recently, that shouldn’t be too hard.
Panasonic makes photovoltaic panels, batteries for hybrid electric vehicles, a full line of energy efficient appliances, and is also a major player in advancing much of the “smart” technology used in net zero homes. Interbrand’s 2014 survey of the “Best Global Green Brands” ranked Panasonic number five overall, but the company was the highest ranking electronics brand in the report. Those 100th birthday goals don’t seem so tough, after all.
But beyond the good work that Panasonic does with its product line, the company has a vision about mobilizing communities around the ideals of sustainability—a mission that plays out at multiple levels, from its own staff to its neighbors in the regions where Panasonic facilities are located to its business partners to the consumers who purchase products with Panasonic components. Panasonic Corporation of North America’s new headquarters in Newark, New Jersey is a recent, and major, embodiment of this goal.
Todd Rytting, Panasonic’s chief technology officer for North America, says the new headquarters “is designed to reduce the company’s carbon footprint and to create conditions to support customer and industry partnerships in green innovation.” The 12-story, 340,000-square-foot building by Gensler (core and shell) and HLW (interiors) is the first newly built office tower in Newark to earn both LEED Gold (for the core and shell) and LEED Platinum (for the interior) certifications. Here, we check out just how they did it.
LOCATION Newark, NJ
Size 340,000ft 2 Completion 2013
Program Class A Office Space & Conference Center Certification LEED Gold (Core and Shell) LEED Platinum (Commerical Interiors)
Awards CoreNet Global Innovators Award, USGBC NJ Chapter, Corporate Culture of Sustainability & Best Practices Award
Workstation & Office Systems Herman Miller via BFI
Wall Systems DIRTT Exhibit HB Stubbs
Engineers AMA Consulting Engineers (MEP Engineering)
Acoustical Engineering Cerami
Lighting Design Lighting Workshop
Interior Designer HLW International
Project Manager Avison Young
Landlord SJP Properties/Matrix Development Group
Strategist Newmark Grubb Knight Frank
Graphic Design GHD|Graham Hanson Design
Food Service Consultant Vision Builders
While the workspaces demonstrate Panasonic’s corporate philosophy in a very functional way, the first floor of the building showcases those ideals in a dramatic and inspiring fashion. Known as the Innovation Center, this area displays the newest products and ideas under development at Panasonic. This thematic and ever-changing exhibit contains a series of interactive components including Panasonic’s latest 4K televisions and tablets and a spectrum of inventions for the solar, avionics, and automotive industries. “You get a sense of how one element moves to the next,” says John Gering, HLW’s managing partner and lead architect on the Panasonic project. “It’s like an interactive exhibit of their products, but it’s designed to be an educational process…it would be a great thing to bring kids to.” One of those educational features, easy to imagine kids flocking to, is a scale model of the Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town—a sustainable city outside of Tokyo that Panasonic developed on the grounds of an old TV factory.
With its location in a densely built urban area, the roughly 1,000 employees, contractors, and business partners at the new Panasonic HQ have easy access to amenities including restaurants, parks, and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, conveniently located next door. But from an employee perspective, the building itself is a workplace haven—and of course, it’s outfitted with Panasonic’s top-of-the-line energy efficient technology throughout (most of which is Energy Star rated). There’s ample bike parking and changing rooms, an electric vehicle charging station in the parking deck (which often has Panasonic’s Tesla Model S’s docked at it), and bountiful natural daylight in 90% of employee views. The 245 Panasonic photovoltaic panels on the roof are the cherry on top.
The new HQ includes conference facilities where Panasonic’s business partners from around the world converge to strategize, brainstorm, and, ultimately, to form fruitful partnerships. “Sales to other businesses, which is what we refer to as ‘B2B’ sales, make up a majority of Panasonic’s North American market,” Rytting says. “The Innovation Center provides highlights of our B2B priorities, and glimpses of what we’re working on for the future.” As an example, there is a display for Panasonic’s TAMDAR sensor, an aircraft device used to capture weather data during flights. Clients and business partners can check out the lithium ion batteries that Panasonic makes for hybrid and electric vehicles; they can also opt for an impromptu workout on an electric bicycle that is on display.
BACK FROM THE ‘BURBS
Prior to building their new headquarters in Newark, Panasonic occupied a suburban campus in nearby Secaucus, New Jersey. ”Literally half of the real estate was dedicated to parking,” Gering says. “It didn’t send the appropriate message for their brand, so they decided to rethink their real estate model to be more in parallel with their business model. Prior to design, a HLW led Sustainability Charrette responded to concerns around the proposed shift from a suburban to a more urban, public transportation oriented context.” The new HQ is on a tight urban footprint adjacent to Newark Penn Station, New Jersey’s largest transit hub for trains and buses. Thanks to the building’s location and a company transit subsidy, about 57% of employees now commute using mass transit, up from less than 5% before the move.
THE FRESH FOOD VISION
A grand staircase brings guests from the second floor conferencing center down to the first floor where the cafeteria is located. “Cafeteria” probably gives the wrong image, though, as this eatery is more like an enormous light-drenched café. “We designed it so that everyone knows that the food is fresh,” says Kathy Fowler, a senior food service consultant at Vision Builders, the firm who came up with Panasonic’s food system concept. Besides being both beautiful and inviting, the kitchen was designed for energy and water efficiency and made a significant contribution to the building’s LEED score. There is LED lighting throughout, and the walk-in coolers and freezers are not air-cooled, but are instead tied into the building’s chilled water system. The dishwasher recovers its own heat and water vapor at the end of every cycle and uses it to pre-heat the water for the next cycle. “We did little things like that here and there that just help the energy and water load,” says Jennifer Murphy, LEED AP food service consultant for Vision Builders.