Metal-Clad Courtyard Lights Up Work World at Virginia-Based Instrumentation Company

July 6, 2006

When Anton Paar USA, the American sales arm of the Austrian-based measuring and analysis instruments manufacturer, recently decided to expand its Ashland, VA, offices, it walked the extra mile to ensure that its 53 employees would not be kept in the dark - literally.

Not only were employees kept fully apprised of the company’s expansion plans, but management decided to carve out a 30- by 30-foot courtyard to provide a more illuminating work environment.

Construction of the courtyard helped the company resolve a serious lighting dilemma, namely how to expand its work area to an adjacent, underutilized warehouse that had only a few windows to the outside world.

Plans called for a section of the warehouse closest to the existing office area to be converted into a new applications lab, an enlarged service department, a shipping and receiving dock, a large break room, and additional office space.

The task of creating a more pleasant environment for the new work areas was assigned to the Richmond architectural firm of Charpentier & Chen, which worked closely with Anton Paar in conceiving the courtyard concept.

Before settling on a courtyard in an area that connected the old offices and warehouse, the company had considered a number of options, including the addition of skylights. None seemed to provide the ideal solution, recalled Reinhard Eberl, president at Anton Paar USA.

In keeping with the high-tech image of the facility, project architect David Winn insisted that the courtyard’s exterior be sided with some 4,200 square feet of 24-gauge, pre-formed vertical and horizontal steel panels with a silver coating.

“We initially looked at masonry, but felt it was too heavy for this type of application,” Winn says. “A metal system with a silver finish seemed like a more appropriate fit. Metal has a stronger connection to the sense of technological innovation upon which Anton Paar has based its corporate philosophy. And, it’s fire resistant and recyclable, both important considerations for our firm,” Winn adds.

From 12 new storefront windows along the perimeter of the laboratory and office spaces, employees can see natural plantings set against vertical lines of metal that rise to the very top of the 2-story courtyard. There, the vertical panels are capped by metal panels that flow horizontally.

No one is more pleased with the turn of events than Eberl. “For management and our employees, the courtyard offers the best of all worlds,” he said. “It provides everyone with adequate daylight and a pleasant area in which to have lunch and entertain customers.”

Established in1986, Anton Paar USA sells high-precision scientific instruments to a diverse North American customer base that includes the beverage, brewing, petroleum, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic industries. Its parent company, Anton Paar GmbH of Graz, Austria, was founded in 1922 and is best known for having produced the world’s first digital density meter using the vibrating U-tube method in the late 1960s.

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