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GlaxoSmithKline's New U. S. Headquarters Turning Heads

GlaxoSmithKline's New U. S. Headquarters Turning Heads

Photo Credit: Associated Press

The Navy Yard in Philadelphia is known for its appeal to innovative and sustainability-focused companies. Over the past week, it has been making headlines with its new tenant, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). GSK is one of the world's premier research-based pharmaceutical and healthcare companies. It is now turning heads with the grand opening of its new U. S. headquarters. The facility stands proud on a rehabilitated brownfield site within The Navy Yard Corporate Center and it's getting recognition for two reasons: its double LEED Platinum Certification and its progressive internal environment.

Owned and developed by Liberty Property Trust / Synterra Partners, GSK's new facility has been awarded both Core & Shell and Commercial Interiors LEED Platinum Certification from the U. S. Green Building Council. It is the first double LEED Platinum building in Philadelphia. With an $80M investment by Liberty Property Trust / Synterra and a $70M investment by GSK, the building is an attention getter with a glass facade, an 80-foot high central atrium and a 4-story monumental staircase. 

GSK's Five Crescent Drive At A Glance


  • Developer/Owner: Liberty Property Trust / Synterra

  • Architect: Robert A. M. Stern Architects

  • Interior Architect: Francis Cauffman

  • Builder: LF Driscoll


  • Construction began in June 2011, initial occupancy was February 2013 with its grand opening being held on April 8, 2013.

  • 4 stories, 208,000 SF

  • Cost = $150M.

GSK's new headquarters boasts many sustainable building features including:

  • High-performance glass and state of the art building facade. Both will maximize daylight in winter and reduce heat gain by providing shade in the summer attributing to the building being expected to use 30% less energy compared to a traditional building.

  • ENERGY STAR rating lighting and equipment, and an astronomical time clock and cloud sensor program which activates automatic shades to control glare.

  • Smart meters that track and monitor the facility’s energy and water usage while also providing ongoing accountability for utility consumption and performance.

  • 40% of the building's green rooftop is covered with vegetation, which absorbs storm water and reduces energy costs by providing natural ventilation.

  • Higher efficiency, low-flow plumbing fixtures that are projected to reduce water usage up to 50%, which will save an estimated 1.8M gallons of water annually.

  • Ventilation system that provides 30% more fresh air than is required by code, and is monitored by carbon dioxide sensors in high-density spaces.

If that's not enough to impress you, let's talk about its futuristic workplace environment. Coming from their old building which was 800,000 SF, employees now have about 25% of that in their new facility. And they reportedly don't mind it a bit as 90% of the workspaces have views of Philadelphia and 75% have natural light. This is because, instead of having a typical office space layout, there are no walls. Employees are located in “neighborhoods” and they have the ability to work in variety of settings throughout their workday as they choose any empty workstation they want. They have access to custom designed sit and stand workstations, team tables, meeting areas, social areas and quiet rooms. In speaking of the new facility, Deirdre Connelly, President, North America Pharmaceuticals, was quoted in saying, “our new work space is designed to inspire and connect people. My teammates and I are energized by this new environment, where we can do our best work and collaborate without the constraints of office walls."

How's that for a new U. S. corporate headquarters?

GSK, Liberty Property Trust / Synterra and all team members are to be commended on their impressive design, construction and sustainability strategies. We look forward to hearing more about these types of green buildings as the world's major corporations move forward in demonstrating their commitments to sustainability and green building, and to reducing their energy usage.

About the players:

Liberty Property Trust is located in Malvern, PA. Its real estate investment trust (REIT) serves customers in the United States and United Kingdom through the development, acquisition, ownership and management of superior office and industrial properties. It is a leader in developing high performance green buildings.

Synterra Partners is a multi-disciplined firm that builds strategic partnerships with market leaders in residential, commercial, hotel and retail sectors leveraging expertise, relationships and track records. Founded in 1996 as an outgrowth of Synterra Ltd., Synterra Partners has earned an extraordinary national and international reputation by working successfully with public and private organizations to create innovative strategies for complex development projects.

Robert A. M. Stern, FAIA, is founder and senior partner of Robert A. M. Stern Architects, a 230-person firm with an international reputation and wide experience in residential, commercial, and institutional buildings. Working with Liberty Property Trust and the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation, the firm led the design team for the 2004 master plan for the redevelopment of the Philadelphia Navy Yard and then served as design architect for the office building at One Crescent Drive. The firm's work for Liberty Property Trust also includes the design of Comcast Center in Center City Philadelphia and a headquarters building for PPL in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Mr. Stern is dean of the Yale School of Architecture.

Francis Cauffman, an award-winning architecture firm with offices in Philadelphia, New York, and Washington, D.C., has supported its clients since 1954 with innovative architecture, planning, and interior design services. The practice is recognized for being on the leading edge of new investigations in workplace strategies and corporate research, corporate and advanced technology, healthcare, and academic research and teaching. Francis Cauffman has a staff of 130 architects, planners, and interior designers and is active in 20 states and three countries. Francis Cauffman's clients include multinational corporations, top healthcare systems and prestigious academic institutions.

LF Driscoll, a Structure Tone organization, is the largest, locally-based construction manager in the Philadelphia region.

Sources: Commercial Property Executive, GlaxoSmithKline, Philadelphia Business Journal