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Reynolds Building, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Reynolds Building


When Richard Joshua Reynolds founded R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in 1875, he purchased a tract of land in Winston, NC, and opened up shop in a 2-story, 10,000 square foot processing plant that came to be known as the Little Red Factory. Though Reynolds would not live to see it, the business he set into motion would eventually lead to much more than a tobacco empire. Today, RJR Nabisco, Inc., the publicly owned parent company (majority controlled by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.) of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (best known for its Camel and Winston brand cigarettes) and other subsidiaries, has substantial real estate holdings that represent an enviable measure of success unto itself.

Perhaps its most notable property is the Reynolds Building, the tobacco company's original limestone-clad headquarters facility in downtown Winston-Salem, NC. At the time of its completion in 1929, this 22-story, $2.4 million tower (in 1929 dollars) was the tallest building south of Baltimore, and, designed by Shreve & Lamb of New York, would serve as the architectural firm's prototype for the renowned Empire State Building -- sans the spire -- in New York City. In late 1989, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company began planning a major interior renovation of the Reynolds Building, allocating more than $4 million to both restore and modernize the award-winning Art Deco structure.

The corporate reorganization underway in 1989 actually proved to be the impetus for the 194,000 square foot renovation project, successfully conducted while the building was still occupied. "We wanted to try and bring this wonderful facility up to the standards we had achieved in some newer locations, but we wanted to address this at an opportune time because we were going to have to do a lot of moving around anyway," says Hoy Bohanon, facilities planning manager for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. "Logistically, we tried to hold [some] employees [already] in outlying locations there while construction went on and then move groups once. The floors in the [Reynolds] building, however, were occupied, but we had one vacant floor to start with. ... We worked out a strategy ... a planned sequence so each group moved once and ended up in the right location."

Ultimately, some 2,700 employees would be affected by either the corporate restructuring, the renovation of the Reynolds Building, or both.

Rich in history, the Reynolds Building -- unquestionably Winston-Salem's most prominent landmark -- is the flagship headquarters and a tremendous source of pride for the company's employees. The directive for the renovation project was to modernize the owner-occupied facility while recapturing its original Art Deco splendor. "As an Art Deco building, one of the things the [R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company] wanted was to bring back the character of the building. Previous modernization efforts had ignored [its] classic character. They wanted it to be modern and bright, but yet maintain some of the original character. ... We renovated the building to brighten it, to give it a cleaner, fresher look," says Sheri Raiford, president of Marietta, GA-based Corporate Interiors Inc., the interior design firm that won the Reynolds Building renovation job.

To accomplish this mission, the company's in-house facilities planners recognized that the project's success hinged on asset condition analysis, and, later, extensive coordination and teamwork. "There is not a whole lot of new construction [going on], but renovation is a very big deal, specifically renovation of a fully occupied building. One of our goals as a project team was to complete a renovation of the building while it was fully occupied and not seriously hamper operations of the building or comfort of occupants. In order to do that, we had to coordinate odor- and noise-causing activities, etc.," says Barry Lynch, a facilities planner and architect for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company.

Once the team determined that base building systems were adequate throughout the 62-year-old facility -- elevator, HVAC, electrical, and life safety systems were all in good operating order -- the renovation focus shifted to four major areas of concern: accommodating more people per floor; improving the existing "cluttered" circulation through the space; modernizing the appearance of public areas such as elevator lobbies, restrooms, break rooms, and reception areas; and creating a signage system for the building. In addition, some modifications were made to upgrade the building's data processing capabilities.

Different from typical fast-track delivery systems that usually require at least two months of design followed by four months of construction, this project team opted for just-in-time design, a variation better suited for renovating occupied buildings. Although the time frame for completion is similar to that of a fast-track project at an unfinished site (six months), the just-in-time design approach nets quicker finished results and minimizes abandoned design: After three months, 50 percent of the construction is complete and 50 percent of the people have moved in. The key, company sources say, was breaking the total renovation project into smaller work packages. "What your traditional fast-track project tries to do is minimize the involvement or commitment of corporate personnel to the project, so a lot of planning is done by the contractor or design firm. What we did here, because it was a fully occupied building, is more detailed planning than is typically done by the in-house facilities staff," says Lynch. "We tried to apply a concept of empowerment to executing the project. ... We [broke] the project into very small work packages so that one individual could be responsible for each. ... Everyone got a list of what they had to do and because each person knew what [he or she] had to do, we moved through the construction process with no delays."

To control costs, the project team implemented a cost plus fixed-fee method of contracting, which contributed to the project's completion in remarkable time and under budget. To ensure the building owner received maximum value and workmanship, a project database was set up to record costs on a daily basis, functioning as an accounting, management, and control tool all-in-one. Small work packages (each approximately 7,500 square feet), heavy analysis of costs, minimized overtime, and a commitment of the same crew members for the duration of the project helped the facilities planning team delivery quality results. "We made money, the owner saved money. It was a good job for everybody. The building owner made decisions quickly. ... It is typical for a large corporation to be slow -- Reynolds wasn't. They had a team with the authority to make decisions without going to the top," says contractor John Lyon, president of Lyon Construction Inc. in Winston-Salem, NC.

The use of cigarette art and product logos is perhaps the most striking design element in the newly renovated space. The incorporation of such artwork into the actual design scheme contributes to enhanced product reinforcement in business brand units, where identification with a specific brand is imperative to securing greater motivation within that division. The wedding cake-tiered building has "feature" conference rooms now referred to as the Camel Room, the Winston Room, etc., plus product paraphernalia used throughout workstations.

In keeping with the company's wish to control costs, the project team had little opportunity to purchase new furniture, according to Raiford, who says the greatest unifying elements in the renovated space came from the use of paint and carpet. With few exceptions, all office furniture -- including three different furniture systems in a variety of finishes -- has been refurbished and reused. A contemporary, modernized look was achieved for offices by combining a neutral gray background with light oak, black accents, and bright colors, while executive space has a more reserved, traditional look. Existing lighting in certain areas has been supplemented with new touches such as track lighting and sconces.

Without losing sight of its long, rich history, the modernized Reynolds Building now possesses an Art Deco look that is clean and contemporary, but simple to maintain. The project itself represents a commitment from the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company to the community, employees, and its bottom line. "It is a landmark in Winston-Salem, and our employees are quite proud of the Reynolds Building," says Bohanon.

PHOTO : Offices before renovation (above) were given a contemporary look achieved by combining neutral backgrounds with light oak, black accents, and bright colors (left).

PHOTO : One of the design objectives dictated by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company was to bring back the Art Deco character of the building.

PHOTO : Aesthetics and technological modifications were made to upgrade the building's operational capabilities, including modernization of public areas and improving existing "cluttered" circulation.
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Title Annotation:1991 Modernization Award Winners
Author:Sraeel, Holly
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Jun 1, 1991
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