Solon SE, a German manufacturer of solar panels (one of the largest), has what is both the most fantastic, and perhaps the most arrogant corporate tag-line of all time: “Don’t leave the planet to the stupid.”
I love it. Why not be a little cocky when your goal is to radically change how electricity is produced around the globe? Fortunately for Solon, high global demand and generous government subsidies make being confident a little easier. The company has enjoyed high profitability and growth for years, despite a recent slowdown related to the global economic situation. In the spirit of celebrating the best that green technology can offer, Solon’s new corporate headquarters building outside Berlin brims with stunningly gorgeous design features, inspiring workspaces, and radically efficient resource use. The building is a showcase of innovation and green design that could easily serve as a marketing piece for the entire industry – even if many of the features are not immediately affordable for mere mortal companies.
We had a chance to tour the building as part of last month’s German green building trip, organized by the Ecologic Institute.
For some weekend fun, here’s a quick photo essay and descriptions of some of the most exciting elements:
From the outside, it’s obvious that Solon likes to make a statement. A huge curved structure covered in graywater-fed grass and solar panels, the building dominates an industrial area of Berlin. The 210 kWp panels only provide about 15% of the building’s energy which might seem counter intuitive for a solar company trying to walk the walk, but recreation and green space were also priorities in the building’s design. Virtually the entire roof is walkable and features small gardens and patios suitable for a lunch break.
Rainwater is collected on the rood as well as on the ground for use in both plumbing and irrigation.
A series of zen garden-like courtyards permeate the buliding with light and outdoor space. The concept offers employees a touch of the outdoors for meetings or relaxation purposes, as well as saving on energy costs for lighting and heating.
A playful atmosphere dominates the building with curious meeting spaces, funky furniture (including some that swing from the ceiling) scattered around the premises. Here we see the building’s main presentation space – a spherical theater filled with bean bags for presenting to clients and eager journalists alike. It’s an atmosphere the most youthful dot com circa 1999 would have drooled over.
What’s the actual ROI on all this innovation? Hard to say – €49Million is on the high side for a corporate headquarters designed for 600 employees. But according to its own analysis, the energy savings, marquee status, and inspiration atmosphere have been more than worth it.
It’s hard to say whether such a building would pay off in the same way for a company who’s business wasn’t directly related to the products being showcased, but it certainly does look like fun.