A Tour of Birkenstock’s Eco-Friendly Australian HQ in Melbourne
Birkenstock, a footwear company specialized in production of sustainable women’s and men’s sandals, hired architectural firm Melbourne Design Studios to design their new part storefront, part workshop, and part office in Melbourne, Australia.
Boasting a sustainably designed “healthy” refurbished two-story heritage shop-front, office and workshop in Clifton Hill, Birkenstock’s headquarters clearly identifies with its core values; honesty and integrity, sustainability, quality and craftsmanship. The headquarters, in inner urban Melbourne, seamlessly integrates a variety of purposes while remaining loyal to the company values. The building incorporates a retail shopfront, e-tail, wholesale, offices and showrooms, workshop, courtyard and warehouse with Mezzanine. Birkenstock’s headquarters incorporates: A shopfront with living grass floor and deciduous tree, carefully selected and researched plants are positioned throughout the building as ‘air purifiers’, materials are low VOC. Remaining emissions are filtered and cleansed by the plants, improving overall air quality and providing a healthy work environment and customer experience, s central courtyard modelled as an Australian landscape with recycled timber sleepers and water tank, s sustainably forested timber palette features sugar gum with linseed oil, EO plywood, bench tops from recycled paper with bamboo fibre. Most floors are recycled timbers, or natural rubber, various Passive and active ESD systems and initiatives, carbon neutral target, collecting and comparing data on energy usage and energy creation, north facing shopfront display is a double-façade with two layers of operable glazing, adapting to climate conditions the outer layer can be opened while the inner layer remains shaded, or both layers can be closed to work like a greenhouse, cleverly crafted timber slat screens maximise ventilation and shade and protect, periscope-like highlights operate upstairs maximising southern light reducing the need for artificial lighting. These highlight windows act as thermal chimneys in summer and rain and wind sensors close the windows when required. On their north-facing back they carry PV cells to generate electricity. Melbourne Design Studios founding director Marc Bernstein-Hussmann says Melbourne Design Studios opted to integrate the different departments of Birkenstock in to a single company culture through the sustainable design. “Some staff amenities are shared between the building levels so retail and wholesale staff can meet in the middle throughout the working day, avoiding isolation, he said. “Creating a green environment within an existing, heritage building is much more challenging than a new build. Coincidentally over a hundred years ago the building was conceived for a boot manufacturer. We’ve reinvented an almost derelict building to live and breathe its owners’ values. “Birkenstock is about healthy shoes and now its architecture and interior reflects this commitment. The building promotes healthy living and a healthy workplace. Nature is paramount and forms an integral part of the design.” Birkenstock staff enjoy the concept of team clusters, where traditional dividers have been removed between desks to encourage collaboration, innovation and communication. Birkenstock Australia Managing Director Marcel Goerke says the new building and its layout encourage effortless interaction between staff with the open office layout a huge success for collaboration. “Melbourne Design Studios capture the essence of what we stand for as a brand – quality, comfort and sustainability. They’ve taken our requirements and suggestions and shaken them up and poured out amazing new ideas, he said. “We wanted a space to inspire our customers and encourage them to explore our store. Our new building does this. It draws you in and allows you to discover interesting aspects that reflect the Birkenstock brand. The customer feedback we’ve received is 100 per cent positive.”