By Henry Burke
Buying a plane is a big deal. So it makes sense that buyers sometimes expect a little pomp and circumstance to commemorate their purchase.
Boeing understands. As one of the world’s largest aerospace manufacturers, the company goes the extra mile to ensure its customers feel appreciated. When Boeing commissioned a building to better facilitate the handover of aircraft to its customers, the company knew the project had to be special. Architectural firm CJMW Architecture, as part of a joint venture with Turner Construction and KBR Building Group, was tapped to realize this vision in the Boeing South Carolina Delivery Center in North Charleston, South Carolina.
“Client interaction was very important to Boeing, and this particular facility was more hospitality than anything else,” architect Pete Fala explains. At the time of this project, Fala was project architect with CJMW, which is headquartered in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Today, he is a partner at STITCH Design Shop. “When a company comes to finalize negotiations on an airplane or fleet purchase, the delivery center is where it happens. It’s all about the client experience. It’s where they come to get final receipt of their plane. It’s definitely a customer experience space.”
The Boeing South Carolina Delivery Center was designed to express luxury, strength, and modernity to the company’s customers. Along with the hospitality components, the delivery center also houses offices for pilots and flight line staff, as well as behind-the-scenes elements like a TSA checkpoint. While the building had an important role to accomplish, there wasn’t much time to waste when bringing it all together. “It was quick,” Fala recalls. “I think the design was about four months and construction was eight months. It was a very fast-paced schedule.”
The need for a sleek, high-tech look, combined with the aggressive timing, made metal an ideal choice for the exterior. “A really quick construction schedule and wanting to echo aeronautical elements meant that this wasn’t a facility well-suited to masonry or other materials,” Fala says. The design teamed turned to CENTRIA and its Formawall® Dimension Series® insulated metal panels for their aesthetic and inherent performance qualities. “It was nice that with an insulated panel, there is no additional sheathing or weather barrier,” he says. “It’s all built in and makes for pretty quick construction, which we liked.”
Even with the tight schedule, it was very important to achieve the kind of look that Boeing and its clientele could respond to. “From a metal standpoint, one of the biggest design drivers was the idea of movement and exploration,” Fala explains. “In the interior, a visitor is surprised by different elements as they proceed through the building. There are elements of discovery in how the building at the front is somewhat solid, but when you traverse to the back, there is a three-story atrium. This expanse of glass is revealed to visitors as they look out to the flight line. So this idea of discovery was important.”
The atrium serves as a big part of the show for customers who visit the delivery center. “Every now and then, when they sell a plane, there will be a big event for the customer,” Fala says. “There is a big ballroom on the third floor, and we had a system of sunshades and blackout shades, so they can park a plane on the flight line behind the building and have a reveal where they raise the curtains up to show off the plane.”
The idea of movement was applied to the design philosophy of the building’s façade, as well. “On the exterior, the idea of movement leads to the metal panel discussion,” Fala says. “We looked at the different metal panel profiles and colors and decided to be somewhat playful with the patterning in the building façade. You see some flat panels and some that are corrugated. That was an idea intended to create a sense of movement on the façade, and I think it turned out to be pretty successful.”
The completion of the delivery center has created a “wow” factor for Boeing’s customers, making the experience of picking up a new aircraft a special event. Create that unique experience in such a short period of time is a point of pride for the design and construction team.
“Being able to pull it off in the timeframe we were able to do it was a great feat, and that goes to the whole design team and the joint venture,” Fala says. “It took all those folks pulling together to meet this tight deadline. It was also great working with the folks at Boeing and understanding their business, their culture, their marketing, and their branding. They were pleased, and their customers were pleased as well.”
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