“This project had a positive impact on the team….It’s definitely a good example project for the future.”
The new year began with a welcome change of scenery for the 30+ members of Apex’s Production Team based at the BeLit headquarters in Jacksonville. After an intense, two-year renovation of the building’s ground floor, the group’s work space is now a beautiful reflection of the company’s commitment to collaborative design and the well-being of its employees.
“One of our primary goals with this renovation was to improve air quality and make employees more comfortable throughout the work day,” explains Apex Head of Engineering Jeff Arneson. “We acquired this 40-year-old building in 2018. As we dug into the project we learned just how poorly it had been maintained prior to us – lots of shortcuts and bandaids. As a result, there were several issues that drove the need for an extensive renovation.”
“It’s an interesting building, and there was a lot of discovery to be done,” says Apex Sr. Project Manager Garrett Rosenthal, whose professional engineering expertise lies in commercial and residential mechanical design, plumbing design, and indoor air quality. “Ultimately, inadequate and/or malfunctioning mechanical systems were the root of the problem. We needed to do a lot of work to stop unconditioned infiltration and to bring more fresh air into the building.”
The renovation team decided to stick with hydronic HVAC, installing a larger system designed to accomodate more people and computers than the original system was designed to handle. Garrett came to Apex with some experience in commercial hydronics (systems that circulate water through pipes to heat or cool a building), so it was a great first project for him when he started in December 2020.
“It was a fun, sink-your-teeth-in project where we got to learn new stuff,” says Garrett who enjoyed facilitating his colleagues’ first foray into hydronic systems design. “This project had a positive impact on the team and made everyone more comfortable with different designs. It’s definitely a good example project for the future.”
With air flow, temperature control, and other mechanical issues sorted, the ground floor became a blank canvas on which a 21st century office space could be brought to life. TDS Managing Principal Damon Roby took the design reins, balancing the constraints of building codes and occupancy rules with the human and technological needs of the company’s energetic, highly collaborative production team.
“The building had previously been used as a call center, so it was set up to be a fairly open space,” explains Damon. “We knew there were a few things we needed to leave where they were, but otherwise the gloves were off.”
Damon grounded his design in collaboration, creating a well-lit communal space in which everyone has their own desk but can easily move into a “huddle” to work cooperatively as needed. “We wanted to tend to the need for well-defined spaces – spaces to work independently, to collaborate in a small group, to gather as a larger team, or to take a personal phone call,” he says. “We changed the traffic flow to create more space for artwork and used a variety of building materials – like acoustical tiles made of wood – to both define transitions between spaces and make a statement about who we are as a company.”
Everyone involved in the renovation process applauded the immense patience and resilience of the production team over the span of this two-year project.
Dalton Dixon says that the team was fairly isolated from each other while they worked in other areas of the building, awaiting completion of the renovations. As director of the department, Dalton says he can already see how much the new space has improved comradery: “The ability to coach, teach, train, ask questions, and work together in one space has more benefit than I can say.”
“A big selling point of our company is the value of our unique Collaborative Design Process,” he continues. “The production department is the engine of the company, working across multiple disciplines. Being able to see each other every day, face to face, in a comfortable environment makes a huge difference.”
“When everyone moved downstairs, the energy was palpable – everyone was really pumped about it,” says Damon. “I make it a point to go down several times a week to say hi, and the energy is real.”
“From an MEP perspective, no feedback is great,” Garrett concludes. “That means it’s working.”