by Theresa Walsh Giarrusso
Employees of carpet and flooring manufacturer Mohawk Group moved into the Petal-certified, completely renovated Light Lab one year ago this spring. McMorrow Reports visited in February to see what employees are enjoying the most about their new space, and we also picked out a few of our favorite features.
Located in Dalton, Ga., the 33,000-square- foot Light Lab is a mid-century modern building that was built in the early 1960s as the headquarters for World Carpets. The building has been used as a showroom space for Mohawk Flooring residential products.
Now Light Lab houses the entire Design and Product Development team for the Commercial division. This includes creative designers, technical development team for creative development, an internal custom design studio, and a customer service team for custom commercial, hospitality and international business.
External designers are often brought in to work hand-in-hand with Mohawk’s internal staff at the Lab. Beyond their A+D customers, Mohawk also brings in outside design influences, such as 13&9 Design out of Austria, to get better perspective of what cultures around the world are designing to ensure leadership in product design.
The original intention of Light Lab was to inspire their designers, and employees have responded so positively that Mohawk is already adding additional workspaces and is seeing more interns return to apply for full-time jobs.
Bryan West, product development manager of technology and analytics for Mohawk Group, became immersed in the renovation process even down to personally hand-scrubbing old light boxes so they could be reused. West took us on a tour of Light Lab.
1. Embracing Biophilic Design: Although Mohawk’s Light Lab is actually sitting on a city block in Dalton, you would never know it. (See slideshow.) Even in the middle of winter, sunlight pours into the office. Employees have views of the Dug Gap Mountain and Mount Sinai. Greenery surrounds the building. Plus, a hawk they named Mo lives in the trees outside. Biophilic design theorizes that an employee’s absenteeism is determined by their view. If this is the case, then Light Lab staffers must be at zero percent.
2. Its dedication to sustainability: You may have heard that the Light Lab is Petal-Certified from the International Living Future Institute (ILFI) Living Building Challenge™ 2.1. The textbook explanation is “The ILFI’s Living Building Challenge is a building certification program, advocacy tool and philosophy that defines the most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment possible today. The Challenge is comprised of seven performance categories called Petals: place, water, energy, health and happiness, materials, equity and beauty. Petal Recognition is given to projects that satisfy the requirements in three categories of the Living Building Challenge, when at least one is water, energy or materials.”
The reality of being Petal-Certified means that nothing from the renovated building could end up in the landfill. Every product used in the renovation had to be void of red-listed components. Of those products, nothing could be bought from more than 500 miles away. Mohawk used Go-Pro cameras to document what was removed and what was replaced in the facility. The team had to get creative with how to use some of the older components: old insulation was moved to the tips of the roof and into wall additions for offices, an old vault holds heavy printers. Toto plumbing and Teknion office furniture were designed specifically for Mohawk to meet the Petal standards because the flooring company couldn’t find what they needed elsewhere. That’s commitment.
3. Artwork inside and out: A sculpture garden welcomes visitors to Light Lab. Galloway Charles, a Mohawk Group designer, created “The Nest.” (See in slideshow.) It is made from upcycled carpet tile metal clickers. The Hook and Needle sculpture (at right) speaks to former manufacturing methods. It was commissioned by Shaheen Shaheen of World Carpets and was made by the Manly Steel Company. Inside, ceiling lights are made from upcycled PET bottles. Artist Sarah Turner was inspired by the fact that one in four PET bottles are recycled by Mohawk. (See above.)
4. Embracing their past –Inside, you’ll find a small loom that dates back to the early 1900s. It came from the Landrum, S.C., Karastan facility. There also is a log book that dates to the early 1900s. It is a hand-recorded production log created by one employee. It contains several years of production data starting in 1908.
5. Comfortable, flexible work spaces: Bar-height work tables and chairs, lounge areas, private cubbies, AV-friendly booths for collaboration, and conference rooms can all be found at Light Lab. However a person feels like working that day, they can find a setting to suit. Need some privacy? Pull a curtain. (See at right.) Want to share some ideas about a project? Connect to a screen in a booth. Need to check-in with clients in another city? Jump on the video conferencing in the small or large room. And if a designer needs some inspiration, they can sit outside in the sculpture garden.
6. Getting schools involved – Students in a master’s class at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) worked to create a conceptual design for the interior renovation of the building. Mohawk chose Brad Oldem’s design for the space. Oldem even coined the name Light Lab.
But Mohawk didn’t just reach out to a professional design school. It also created a STEM challenge for a local elmentary school . Fifth-graders were asked to design light fixtures and then used a 3-D printer to produce their creations. The winner’s fixture was proudly hung in the cafe above each booth. (See below.) See some of the other submissions from the students in the slide show above. West likes the smile emoji used on top.
7. High-tech AV: Mohawk employees regularly collaborate with 10 to 15 Mohawk locations and of course with outside partners. To save time, money and fuel, the Light Lab features five conference rooms all using the same advanced Cisco conferencing equipment. Cameras follow sound and movement from the speaker. (See slideshow.)
8. A bonus fave: One might assume from photos that the dots in the Light Lab sign were tiny red LEDs but they are actually carpet yarn poms! (See slideshow.)