Dairy Farmers of America

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Building for The Present and The Future

To accommodate not only current requirements but also future undefined needs, flexibility is an increasingly important aspect of office design. Spaces large enough to host an occasional mass meeting or social event are expensive luxuries unless they can also be used for other, more frequent activities. By designing rooms with NanaWall PrivaSEE opening glass walls, large spaces can divide on demand into smaller spaces with a high degree of acoustic privacy, while maintaining a sense of openness.

The Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) is the fourth largest dairy product company in the world. Their new office, a purpose-built three-story building in Kansas City was designed to express the organization’s identity. “This is a farmer-owned cooperative and represents and honors the farmer,” explains Eric Linebarger of HOK, Des Moines, lead designer of the project.

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DFA was formerly headquartered in an antiquated office building with aging infrastructure. DFA decided to construct a new building that would provide a workplace of choice. They came up with a 3-story building, a soft B shape with an open center. The central atrium is dominated by a 25-foot sculpture of pouring milk. A prominent wall is covered in cowhide. A whimsical sense of branding includes a wall of grass, another of bubbles, and one that’s like a red barn, as well as “origins” materials such as barn wood wall cladding.

The new building also reflects the way the company wants to work, changing from 126 offices with no common gathering spaces to 11 offices and 99 meeting rooms. The 2nd and 3rd floors and lined with all-glass meeting rooms that pour light into the interior.

“The nicest meeting room we have in this building,” Massey says, “is the boardroom.” Prominently located at the head of the main staircase, facing a lounge area, the boardroom seems like a box sculpture, symbolizing both their history and their modernity. The grand wood table has a rippling white stripe down the middle to symbolize milk, surrounded by leather seating, weathered barn wood cabinetry and wall cladding, and a long white wall embossed with life-sized bottles of milk. “That’s where we gather when we have guests” comments Massey.

The prominent location, which inspired a boardroom they could really show off, also created a privacy issue. Meetings might require confidentiality, but the room adjoins a high-traffic public area.

“The Nicest Meeting Room We Have in this Building,” Massey says, “is the [PrivaSEE] Boardroom.”

To provide privacy while still being able to showcase the room’s richly symbolic features, HOK selected a NanaWall PrivaSEE, a frameless glass wall system specially designed for high acoustic isolation. The special acoustic glass panels (36 STC) are equipped with specialized acoustic seals, panel-to-panel edge-seals and drop-down floor seals that deploy automatically when the panels are locked together.

Despite acoustical issues in many other parts of the building, the boardroom is reported to function exceptionally well, and serve its purpose as intended. Massey notes that the building’s other NanaWall, expanding the first-floor café onto the patio, is opened frequently, bringing in the countryside views where cows are often seen grazing.

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