A Purposeful Building That Enhances the Urban Environment

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Almost everything you see from the outside of the new Cummins Distribution Business Unit (DBU) Headquarters in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana (U.S.A.) has something to do with saving energy or water.

From the uneven landscaping in the plaza next to the headquarters to the types of glass used in the 9-story structure, the building aligns with Cummins’ mission demanding “everything we do leads to a cleaner, healthier (and) safer environment.”

“Cummins is committed to reducing its environmental footprint and to creating productive work spaces for its employees,” said Sally Leyes, the company’s Project Leader for all aspects of the building including its design, construction and the change management related to moving in, scheduled for early 2017. “The building design reflects and embodies these values.”

Take the landscaping, for example. Urban development frequently increases pressure on a city’s storm water system, overwhelming it at times so unfiltered overflow reaches local water ways during large storms. The DBU site, however, features more than an acre of public greenspace.

The uneven landscape in the plaza directs and collects water runoff when it rains. Designed by the Philadelphia-based firm LAND COLLECTIVE, known for its socially-purposeful design strategies, these natural retention areas will provide more than 3,200 cubic feet of space for storm water collection. A green roof on the parking garage and terrace will also collect rainfall.

As water accumulates in these collection areas, it will be redirected to a 20,500 cubic-foot underground storage tank. More than 177,000 gallons of storm water runoff can be reused to water trees and plants. The system is expected to keep more than 80 percent of rainfall on the site and away from the city’s storm water system.

The south side of the new Cummins DBU headquarters.


The building’s distinctive exterior results from careful study by architect Deborah Berke Partners of the structure’s position relative to the sun and surrounding buildings. It incorporates several different types of glass, sun shades and vertical fins to help reduce solar heat gain and glare in the building, reducing energy loads for cooling and making the interior more comfortable for the workers inside.

The shape and size of the shade elements are not uniform in the building. On the south-facing side, the shades are more prominent while on the north-facing side they are less pronounced.

The building’s narrow shape allows interiors to be almost entirely day-lit. Other office buildings use tinted glass for solar control, but that type of glazing conceals the activities going on inside. The Distribution Business Unit Headquarters is designed so the work inside is visible outside, contributing to the vitality of the downtown.

Leyes said the building and the public nature of the plaza are also very much in keeping with Cummins’ Corporate Responsibility value, to “serve and improve the communities in which we live.” Company leaders envision the plaza as a popular gathering spot with tables and chairs for anyone who wants to enjoy its beauty.

“I think Cummins employees are going to enjoy working here,” she said. “They will feel good about all the natural light and the way that the building and plaza are managing our natural resources in a responsible way. I also think they are going to be excited that the plaza is a place where everyone can share in its natural beauty and the beauty of downtown, too.”


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