The structure of the new Cargolux maintenance building Luxembourg required particular care in terms of the acoustic properties of the interior fit-out. Steelcase recommended installing furniture and fittings that contributed to the overall quiet and lack of noise in the premises – and even developed a number of special products for the project.
Established in 1970, Cargolux has grown to become the largest cargo-only company in Europe. It operates services to 90 destinations from its main hub at Luxembourg-Findel airport. In addition to its freight business, Cargolux also operates charter flights, as well as providing aircraft maintenance services for its own fleet and for other customers.
An exceptional building in its setting
The company employs 1,530 staff around the world, including 1,150 in Luxembourg. To meet its ever-developing needs, Cargolux had decided to build a new aircraft maintenance facility alongside the runways at Luxembourg airport. Operational since May 2009, this colossal hangar replaces the previous workshop, which had become too small to enable Cargolux to maintain its fleet efficiently and environmentally friendly in the 21st century. The new hangar, which is 200 metres long by 100 metres wide and 40 metres high, can accommodate two whole 747s at the same time from nose to tail. In all, the building encompasses 17,000 m2 of hangar space, 1,600 m2 of workshops and 4,000 m2 of offices. Steelcase supplied the majority of the furniture for this office space.
A 15-year project
While the project was completed in 2009 was , it has been on the agenda for 15 years already 15 years in the planning, the powers-that-be at Cargolux recall saying as far back as 1980 that ‘they knew the hangar would be too small for the future of Cargolux’. The company has a number of locations in Luxembourg and the Maintenance department occupies the majority of the new building with its technical facilities. There is also a total of 4,000 m2 of office space that is occupied mainly by the Maintenance division, as well as by a number of other departments. The first impression given off by these two wings of open-plan offices is the vast amount of space available, as well as the peace and quiet. “We took on the same principle of the metal structure of the hangar itself,” explains Christian Riemann, Head of General Purchasing at Cargolux, “plus a mixture of metal and wood. These elements reflect the architectural design, while at the same time absorbing a maximum amount of noise.”
Wherever possible, light levels are supplied by the natural light provided by large glazed areas and atriums, shaded by external sun screens that are adjusted automatically as a function of the amount of sunlight, rain or wind. Adjustments can also be made manually, if required.
“Given the size of the two wings of the building,” explains Théo Felten from SA Felten-Stein, Steelcase’s business partner in Luxembourg, “as well as the numerous metal structures and large expanses of glass, the acoustics meant that we needed to create areas that could absorb sound. Plus there was ambient noise from the outside: the airport runways and the hangar just alongside.” These sound-absorbing elements include suspended acoustic panels, fitted carpet, the fabric upholstery on the seating, timber elements and so on.
Steelcase also developed a number of other innovations especially for the occasion. In particular, there are cupboards with particularly quiet roller fronts, featuring acoustic slats, and individual cabinets on castors and softclosing drawers. These individual cabinets also have a low-acoustic finish to muffle sound further. “It’s a whole collection of elements that acts to achieve the right result in terms of keeping noise levels low,” explains Christian Riemann. “Which is why we recommend people not to leave their cupboards open all day long.”
Space available for expected growth
Workstations are clustered in groups of four, with very broad traffic areas that can be compressed to accommodate increased staff numbers in the future. Fully fitted workstations are also available for this purpose. Traffic areas are separated from the workstations by half-height partitions that also define different multifunction areas: for informal meetings, workspaces for consultants and more enclosed workstations, etc. In addition, there are printing areas that are insulated acoustically by a suspended, sound-absorbent ceiling.
All of this represents a major change in culture, as everyone in the offices had previously worked in enclosed spaces. But everyone still has a permanent work area, rather than moving nomadically from desk to desk. There’s a certain level of personalisation, of course, blended with deliberate egalitarianism: everywhere the furniture is identical, regardless of the person’s job or the department involved. As a result, workshop, management, administration, maintenance foreman, office worker, secretary and manager all receive the same fixtures and fittings. Only the seating in the meeting rooms is equipped with Think chairs, which adjust automatically to each person, as well as their height and weight. They can also be adjusted manually. This ergonomically versatile furniture enables employees to endure an entire day of meetings without suffering too much physical fatigue. Management offices are separated from the open-plan space by glass partitions obscured slightly by stretched fabric to give greater privacy. But the principle is the same and the furniture totally identical everywhere. The only addition, to meet the request of the people concerned, is an L-shaped return for the work surface.
Same furnishings for guests and workshops alike
The facilities at Cargolux also feature multifunctional rooms dedicated in particular to CBT (computer-based training) for technical and office staff, as well as individual offices that are made available to customers who remain on site while their aircraft is being serviced or to suppliers, such as Boeing, Rolls Royce, etc. Once again, these offices have the same desks, chairs and cupboards as Cargolux staff. Also, in the hangar where 360 people work, including 250 mechanics, there is a central mezzanine office area for the maintenance engineers, team leaders and management. They, too, have the same standard Steelcase furniture as the other offices. Only individuals officially recognised as having a handicap are allowed to use an electrically height-adjusted work table.
The Cargolux/Steelcase/Felten-Stein relationship: a story of loyalty
“We began working with Steelcase in 2003 with a 5-year worldwide contract,” recalls Riemann. “When that expired, we signed a new contract for 5 years on a regional level. One of the benefits we enjoy as a client is that when there is a high level of demand, the terms get better. We also expect levels of product quality and service that go beyond just supply. For example, Felten-Stein keeps a stock of our range at all times so that they can deliver quickly. The sustainability angle is also vital: we have ISO 14001 certification and so it is only logical
that we should require it of our suppliers when they are submitting tenders.” “It’s one of the aspects of doing business that companies are paying increasing attention to,” comments Théo Felten. “And we are able to provide the answers they need. For example, the Think chair is 99% recyclable and is itself made to a large extent from recycled materials. Steelcase has been a pioneer in this area for over 15 years.”
When it came to fitting out its new building, Cargolux launched a Europe-wide competition. “We received around ten submissions, which we assessed based on a range of criteria such as price, products, quality, service and sustainability,” says Christian Riemann. “Three suppliers were in the running for the commission, including Steelcase. When it came to the final choice, our aim was to total up 45 comparative criteria as accurately as we could. We also organised a showcase of the three suppliers in contention, which led to specific needs. Steelcase developed a number of innovations, which were subsequently adopted across their range. We also talked to other Steelcase customers in Luxembourg and elsewhere to get their feedback in terms of experience. In the end, this selection process and the benefit of five years of working together previously tipped the balance in favour of Steelcase. Then, in just three weeks, everything was assembled and fitted for us.” “We always use our own people for assembly,” adds Théo Felten. “Having qualified staff who know the product makes all the difference.”
“Most people experience the concept of Open Space as very quiet and spacious. It is important that people feel good in the office because this is where they spend most of their time.”
Christian Riemann, Head of General Purchasing Cargolux