From floor to roof, the new headquarters building for HMTX Industries in Norwalk is among the “greenest” in CT.
Nearly six years after unveiling plans for a new headquarters, a Norwalk company moved in to Connecticut’s newest “green” building at 29 Oakwood Avenue in September 2022. HMTX sells decorative flooring for use by builders, dubbed “luxury vinyl tile” in the industry. Sales have boomed since HMTX won a supply contract with Home Depot several years ago, with the company listing annual revenue currently at $900 million. The new building functions as a design center, with rapid-prototype machines able to crank out flooring planks with specific patterns and textures in roughly an hour. Sustainable elements in the design of the HMTX building include solar panels that provide more than enough power for the building; rainwater storage systems for plumbing; and stilts that lift the building above the ground, allowing for wildlife to wander across the property unimpeded. Two waterfalls have also been created on the property.
HMTX CEO Harlan Stone explains that the new building is a natural expression of how the company brings beauty and sustainability together.
“We’ve been in Connecticut since 1985. We outgrew the small office we were leasing in Greenwich, For about the same cost, we were able to buy a 1,200 square-foot building in Norwalk in 2000. That was our original building on our Oakwood Avenue campus that we still occupy. Then, we bought land next to us and built a very modern, beautiful building designed by Gensler, one of the leading architectural firms in the world. In 2016, we began the idea for our new world headquarters building, which was completed in 2022. It’s about 24,000 square feet in interior space and another 1,000 in outdoor rooftop space.
This has been a tremendous project with Jason McLennan, one of the leading architects in the sustainability world; incredible; visionary. I’ve known him as a business associate, working with us on product design, and as a friend, over the last 10 years. Before we decided to put the first shovel in the ground, we went to Jason to help design this building. We intended always to design it with the highest level of sustainability. It is currently the building that is being dubbed, and we think rightfully so, as the greenest building in Connecticut.
We are at a much higher sustainability standard than other buildings and not only for energy usage. We don’t have any burning fuels. All of our electricity comes from photovoltaic cells. We have rain gardens that capture all of our rainwater. The building incorporates all the natural features of the land around us. We sit on top of the outcropping that was formed by the ancient glacier moving through Norwalk that created the Norwalk River, which is about 200 feet below us. The building is actually hovering over the rock and built on stilts above the rock. We have 60 or 70 operable windows that make the building full of natural light.
We think what we do inside the building is actually the most important thing. It really inspires creativity that the building looks out on nature. We’re next to Route 7 but we don’t see it from anywhere in the building. We see a forest; we see rocks; we see gardens; we see pathways, bridges and boardwalks. The new building outside is interconnected with our existing buildings. We have multiple water features that create both a sense of calm and also drown out the noise that might have been heard from the highway. So, it’s really a wonderful place for people to think, to be creative, to collaborate. And we hope that this building will be a beacon for the kind of the 21st century approach to business we have inside the building.
We have a lot of creative space, including rapid prototyping to produce flooring samples that used to take six months to do. Now, we can go from an idea on a computer screen that we can amend and even project onto the floor. It’s an iterative process back and forth. Then we send it to a 3D printing device to produce a sample to show our client, our partner, our stores, and we can go into production almost immediately. It just takes out a ridiculous amount of wasted time that the analog Gutenberg printing world used to know.
We now have 40 to 50 people working on our campus. The new building has meeting rooms, a few executive offices and a common space we call the Great Hall, which is a place where we can have events and host members of the community. We hope to have customers, employees, designers, architects, scientists, associations and community charities all being able to utilize the space in the building. We want to make a big effort to become part of the community more deeply.
Community outreach is an important aspect of this building, and how we can use it to build our relationships with the community, whether philanthropic or hosting schools and other institutions that want to collaborate and have a place where they can come and have an evening event. We want it to become a place for celebrations of some of the accomplishments that our city has. We’ve loved Norwalk and we’ve been here for 25 years now. We are very indebted to the community that has provided us such a wonderful place to work. A lot of our employees live here in town as well. We really are happy here.
This is now a fourth generation family business. We had a leadership position in design, then everyone caught up to us. We had to leap-frog forward and really take our design to the next level. So how do you turn flooring into fashion? You can really inspire people to express themselves with your design and through the beauty of your product form. So, we felt that this was our only way to regain our leadership. It wasn’t just having an awesome design element. Sustainability also became a critical feature and not just with our product building materials. We have actually built three highly sustainable buildings. This is the new standard we’re taking. Bringing beauty and sustainability together as one. This is critical to the statement that building materials need to be beautiful and sustainable without sacrifice. It’s good for business, it’s good for the planet, and it’s a good investment.”