An Eden Prairie manufacturer transforms its concrete-walled headquarters into a daylit facility that energizes its workforce

By Joel Hoekstra

The headquarters of Emerson Process Management in Eden Prairie was badly in need of updating. The maker of high-tech measurement instruments had occupied a parcel in the southwest suburb of Minneapolis since the 1960s, adding on to its building four times in subsequent decades to accommodate an increasing number of office workers as well as a growing manufacturing operation. By 2010, the company was feeling the squeeze of trying to operate within the confines of an increasingly outdated facility.

Briefly, Emerson executives contemplated a move. But a feasibility study into the cost of moving and reinstalling the technical operations suggested that a renovation of the existing facility was a better option. In 2011, the company hired HGA Architects and Engineers to transform its 290,000-square-foot building into a headquarters that functioned more efficiently—both operationally and mechanically—and had more visual appeal.

“Emerson needs to capture some of the best and brightest engineering talent out there,” says HGA architect Victor Pechaty, AIA. “They have to compete with high-profile technology and engineering organizations to attract young, smart talent.” In addition to implementing changes that would improve mechanical and building-envelope performance, Emerson needed a facility that was “contemporary and inviting,” Pechaty adds.

The original building was a fortress. Much of the exterior was constructed of loadbearing concrete block, fenestration was largely limited to slit windows, and perimeter offices mostly blocked natural light from reaching employees working in cubicles in the building’s center. HGA saw an opportunity to make structural changes and reclad the building’s second story almost entirely in glass. Private offices were shifted to the building’s interior, allowing more employees to benefit from daylighting while reducing overall lighting and energy costs. “We introduced the idea, but it was Emerson’s enthusiasm that really drove it,” says Pechaty. “They saw tremendous value in terms of future productivity, workplace comfort, and employee satisfaction that would come with investing in daylight.”

Adding insulation, brick, and gray-tinted ribbon windows to the lower level gave the exterior a unified and attractive look. At the same time, HGA brightened the interiors with white paint and fixtures and reduced barriers that blocked light. Workspace partitions were lowered, and the square footage devoted to workstations and private offices was reduced to create room for several communal spaces. Mark Anderson, Emerson’s director of facilities, says the changes have energized the 600 employees who work in the facility. “As engineers, we have to collaborate,” says Anderson, “and the layouts support that collaboration.”

Emerson employees stayed in the building during the four phases of renovation, moving from one work area to another when necessary to avoid the construction. Anderson says he never heard any complaints—a sign, he believes, that employees were impressed by the redesign right from the start. Indeed, the visual palette created by HGA was so well received that many of the same aesthetic touches were integrated into later changes at Emerson’s manufacturing facilities in Shakopee and Chanhassen.

Pechaty says the project demonstrates how aesthetic considerations and functional updates can be woven together efficiently and economically. “We want to find the poetry in simple solutions rather than add decorative touches,” says Pechaty. “Emerson is the kind of company where finding the value in each dollar is important. And, frankly, that’s a good fit for us at HGA.”


Location: Eden Prairie, Minnesota
Client: Emerson Process Management
Architect: HGA Architects and Engineers
Principal-in-charge: Chuck Cappellin
Project lead designer: Victor Pechaty, AIA
Energy modeling: The Weidt Group
Landscape architect: HGA
General contractor: McGough Construction
Size: 240,000 gross square feet
Completion: July 2013
Photographer: Don F. Wong

“What they’re doing with the building is really interesting. They’re taking an old condition, they’re recognizing environmental issues, and they’re recognizing the quality of life for their people. They’re doing really smart things. It’s quite an elegant project.”

“They’ve done a nice job of making a composition of the recladding.”