When area manager Ulrich Kreuzer-Kubandt first viewed the grounds of office material manufacturer ELBA’S former factory in 2015, he couldn’t actually imagine that what he was looking at would become the new offices of BARMER Pensionskasse. The complex of buildings situated directly next to the Wupper river offers 7,800 square metres of floor space on five floors. Plenty of room for Ulrich Kreuzer- Kubandt and his colleagues; however, the building had stood empty for many years, which had left its mark. The plaster was crumbling off the walls, the floors were certainly no longer even, and some of the windows had been smashed. This was supposed to become an office environment? Inconceivable®– to begin with. “We had already been searching for new premises for quite some time and had mainly viewed new buildings. The old ELBA factory was of course the complete opposite. I wasn’t sure that we would actually move into it until I saw a model that showed what the space could look like after the refurbishment,” says Kreuzer-Kubandt.

Turning old into new

The refurbishment work started shortly after the lease was signed in January 2016. In 2018, the BARMER Pensionskasse was to move into the top floor of the old ELBA building as its main tenant. When the time for the interior fit out had come, Ulrich Kreuzer-Kubandt approached ASSMANN specialist retail partner Streit in Hausach near Freiburg. The large office space, which is interrupted in the middle by a common room with a kitchen, was to be furnished for the 26 staff in a way that was both effective and design-oriented. Initially, classic two person offices were planned. However, the project team headed by Ulrich Kreuzer- Kubandt ultimately opted for an openplan space solution, accompanied by integrated communication areas. To ensure that the open-plan working environment would be as quiet as possible, the specialist retailer for office interiors decided to fit wall-to-wall carpet and sounddeadening suspended ceiling panels. The ASSMANN desks that were chosen were also equipped with Viteco partitioning systems.

Audibly good work

The padding in the fabric-covered Viteco partitioning elements has a sound deadening effect, which ensures that staff who sit opposite each other are not disturbed by their colleague’s phone calls, for example. What is known as “reverberation time” is a useful indicator of how good the acoustics are in an office. The reverberation time is defined as the time it takes for sound to decrease by 60 dB after a loud bang, for example. Long reverberation times result in sound layers that make it more difficult to understand speech. The padding in the Viteco partitions promotes shorter reverberation times – provided they are arranged correctly. When they are installed, the elements must be positioned as close to the workstations as possible and should sit flush with the adjacent surfaces. If this is not strictly adhered to during their installation, the soundproofing effect of the solutions may be reduced. The Viteco elements not only improve the acoustics but also provide privacy, which promotes concentrated working. The systems are supplemented by Viteco rails, which are equipped with LiftTec screen mounts. Below the desk top, a clever cable management system also keeps everything neat and tidy. This means that nothing distracts from the streamlined design of the workstations, which is quite unusual because for BARMER Pensionskasse, Streit opted for white desk surfaces with anthracite coloured trim, rather than plain desks. This design approach is also continued on the storage systems and high desks. “Even at the conceptualisation stage, I was already impressed by this eye for detail. The old factory building has a unique charm, and the furniture should also reflect this,” says Kreuzer-Kubandt. To give the staff the opportunity to retreat for meetings, Streit also integrated some round glass cubicles, which were furnished with ASSMANN cabinets. The office fit out specialist also asked a joiner to create a customised highlight: the Allvia filing cabinets were integrated into a solid wood frame with a curved shape that perfectly follows the shape of the glass cubicles. As well as being an eye-catcher, the other side of this customised cabinetry also offers space for printers and a coat rack.

There at least

In March 2018, the time had finally come: the BARMER Pensionskasse staff moved into the new premises and saw the finished interior for the first time. “We get a lot of praise for our modern working environments,” Kreuzer-Kubandt says, delighted with the response. The BARMER staff were also full of praise for the interior. “As a Barmer subsidiary, Barmer Pensionskasse was originally also housed at Barmer’s main office. At some point, it was decided that we would move out and look for a new office building because there simply wasn’t enough space any more. Many of our BARMER colleagues have already visited us and they love the premises and the view.” The old factory building even has more to offer, because as tenants, the BARMER Pensionskasse staff are also permitted to use the roof terrace. From there, they can enjoy amazing views across Wuppertal and can also watch the city’s famous suspension railway several times a day as it whizzes right past the factory building.

The interior was to create a contemporary contrast to the old factory building. In addition, systems were to be used that would make it easier to work in an openplan office.

The large offices in the former ELBA factory have high ceilings that call for a clever acoustics concept – to ensure that it is possible to work in a concentrated way without distractions.

Revitalisation of an old factory building

Specialist retail partner:
Streit Service & Solution GmbH & Co. KG, Hausach, Germany

Client details:
BARMER Pensionskasse administrates the pensions of current and former Barmer employees and their dependants. Founded in 1932 in Berlin, the company is now one of Germany’s oldest and largest pension scheme administrators.