An innovative solution for AvidXchange’s new corporate headquarters
By Dawn Henning
Photos and renderings courtesy of General Shale.
AvidXchange Corporate Headquarters, Charlotte, N.C.
LS3P Associates Ltd., Charlotte, N.C.
Metromont Corporation, Charlotte, N.C.
Architectural Form Liner System:
Architectural Polymers, Palmerton, Pa.
General Shale, Charlotte, N.C.
Long established as one of the nation’s top banking centers, Charlotte, N.C., is also one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S. One of the drivers for Charlotte’s robust growth is the city’s attractiveness to businesses looking to relocate or expand their headquarters there — from energy and technology corporations to financial companies and entrepreneurs.
In the fall of 2016, Charlotte-based automated payment software firm AvidXchange announced its acquisition of the naming rights for the North Carolina Music Factory, now known as the AvidXchange Music Factory, located in the city’s uptown area. The entertainment complex is quickly evolving into a vibrant mixed-use district, where technology and marketing professionals, attorneys and entrepreneurs rub elbows with musicians and performers at the site’s clubs, restaurants and bars. AvidXchange is building its new corporate headquarters there and is expected to move into the first of two planned office buildings in April 2017. Once complete, the project will result in more than 600,000 square feet of office space.
Recognized as one of Charlotte’s best places to work for the past eight years, the rapidly growing company has joined the ranks of corporations looking to provide a workplace experience that retains and attracts top employees. Like AvidXchange, a number of these companies are choosing to relocate near the urban amenities sought by the young professionals they are looking to recruit.
“AvidXchange didn’t want to move their corporate headquarters to the suburbs, and instead selected this dynamic, intimate site and rebranded the whole area,” says Nathan S. Daniel, AIA, principal, LS3P Associates Ltd., the architectural firm selected to design the company’s new campus. “This urban environment really enhances that employee experience, helps their brand, and helps attract talent.”
The completed phase of AvidXchange’s 5.6-acre corporate campus includes a six-story, 201,450-square-foot office building and a six-story, 787-space parking deck. The office building’s exterior features precast brick and concrete panels, composite metal panels, and an aluminum curtain wall, while the parking deck is entirely precast.
“The company was looking for an old, authentic brick warehouse-type of building similar to the makeup of the original factory,” Daniel says. “They wanted to respect and emulate the brick materials there, but we knew their tight schedule wouldn’t allow for traditional brick construction. We decided to go with precast construction with a distressed brick, which brings more uniqueness to the project.”
General Shale’s English Pub thin brick was selected to achieve the rustic warehouse look congruent with the historic buildings found in and around the music factory, while the company’s darker Old Coffee Bean thin brick was chosen as an accent. Both are part of General Shale’s Denver, Colo., line of products, which offer straight, through-the-body colors. The Denver manufacturing facility is also able to heavily texture any brick product and make it into a thin brick.
“The brick is a beautiful product,” Daniel says. “It’s real brick cut thin that provides a lot of depth, which gives the building an authentic look. We were wanting to know how much and where we could integrate the precast into the building to fit the vernacular of the music factory, with its cluster of different colors and bricks. This brick with multiple colors really ties everything together.”
While multi-storied office buildings are commonly built with precast panels or, conversely, with conventional brick construction, it’s less common to see precast panels combined with distressed brick. The challenge for this particular project lay in creating distressed thin brick products that would work well in the precast process.
“One of the main advantages of precast panels for a six-story building is speedy construction — up to 144 linear feet a day — and you’re going to save 10–15 percent, generally, on your schedule,” says Chris Rogers, sales and business development manager at Metromont. “With traditionally built, multi-storied brick buildings, there’s a lot of scaffolding, materials on site, time, mortar joints, pointing up of joints later on, plus future maintenance. Precast cuts down on all of that, and spans the distance of the wall without any sort of ledger to hold up the brick. You also have less waste and a more controlled construction environment.
“However, the industry has advanced to the point where, although you can lay out any sort of coursing or size of brick you want, it almost looks too perfect,” Rogers says. “Precasters have fought textured brick for a long time because we couldn’t meet dimensional tolerances due to the beaten edges. So we worked with General Shale and Architectural Polymers to figure out how to overcome that issue.”
Metromont and Architectural Polymers developed a custom-built form liner that marries the varying distressed reliefs of the General Shale product to expose a larger surface area of the thin brick face and edges.
While the brick and architectural mix were the same for both the parking deck and the office building, the latter was a bit more complex with regard to shapes, projections, and other details, requiring more unique molds than what was developed for the parking deck.
“We have a very sophisticated thin brick sampling process that allows us to manufacture a form liner that is customized around each project,” says Marshall Walters, president of Architectural Polymers. “A distressed thin brick cast into a precast concrete panel system is a difficult accomplishment. We worked very closely with Metromont’s operations in Charlotte to engineer the liner to their specific aesthetic requests, including the profile of the mortar joints. This was a critical component for success, enabling Metromont to utilize the form liner to create the panels for this project with less labor.”
“We got the brick to where it’s square again, and we were able to have the same tolerances to hold the brick in the liner,” Rogers says. “We could now cast this distressed brick, which made the project look old, but we were still on this form liner that made it look too perfect and linear. We created a deeper joint on the liner to generate a shadow line, which takes the focus off the joints, making the brick look less linear and more natural, like hand-laid brick. The end result was a great achievement — a precast project that saved time and money, is more durable, and provides a better overall building system for the parking deck and office cladding, with a distressed brick design that satisfied both the architect and the owner — all while using a brick that had never been used before. We look forward to recreating this process in the future.”
The outcome of this collaboration was a huge success for both the parking deck and office building, Daniel agrees.
“With this product developed by Metromont using General Shale’s brick products, you’re able to bring in traditional, core elements, such as stacked bond and soldier courses in the panels, to keep it looking authentic,” Daniel says. “Another unique detail is we have some large curtain wall openings that we recessed, and we were able to work with General Shale on a custom corner, and with Metromont to be able to wrap those conditions without having an exposed precast edge. That brought the authenticity back, making it look like a true brick building. In addition, we were able to bring that same thin brick inside the office building for all the first-floor elevator lobbies and on the interior piers of the building, which really adds value and enhances that industrial feel we were striving for.”
The new campus also fits precisely into the client’s vision of tying back to the music factory, as well as providing a corporate feel for the campus.
“I used to look out at the Charlotte skyline when we got started in 2000, and dream about the day that AvidXchange could be a part of it,” says Michael Praeger, CEO and co-founder of AvidXchange. “Now, when the sun goes down on the Queen City, we’re a part of what lights it back up. We’re adding to the sprawling uptown neighborhoods that bring so much life to Charlotte, and with our new corporate campus at the AvidXchange Music Factory, we’ve officially made our mark on the landscape of the city. We hope that our technology campus will serve as a catalyst for bringing other tech companies to the Charlotte area to help our city continue to thrive.”
Dawn Henning has served as General Shale’s director of marketing and sales since 2011. Headquartered in Johnson City, Tenn., General Shale is the North American subsidiary of Wienerberger AG and a leading manufacturer of brick. For more information, visit www.generalshale.com.