Case Study: Novo Nordisk

This is the story of Novo Nordisk and an aging building, once owned by Merrill Lynch, in Plainsboro, New Jersey.

The challenge they faced was to convert an 80's style building -- lots of corridors, interior offices, limited natural light -- into a building for a health care company that expects 95% of their employees to have access to natural light.

In another era, the 730,000 square foot building might have been torn down. However, NovoNordisk wanted to reuse, an important step in the LEED Silver certification they were going for. In discussing the building, Novo Nordisk's Ted Bielicky, Senior Director of Facilities, mentioned several innovations.


By far the most ambitious aspect of the project was bringing more daylight into the building. While the herringbone structure lends itself to such an approach, the concrete panels separating windows created a bulky facade that hid interior spaces. As a result, the building was refaced, providing 7 foot windows that let in the light along with the impressive wooded environment.

Lifeworks Restaurant

Novo Nordisk chose Aramark's LifeWorks to bring a range of food choices. They include not only a large corporate cafe, but also markets placed throughout the building, so that people don't have to walk the 730,000 square foot building for a cup of tea and a healthy sandwich. LifeWorks' commitment to local, minimal processing, recycling and reuse, were also key for Novo Nordisk. However, as Mr. Bielicky, facilities manager noted, “This is not a subsidized effort. Although the company does provide some heart healthy meals at below cost, LifeWorks is able to provide meals at prices that satisfy a range of personal budgets.

Lowering Carbon Emissions

The corporate parent has plans to be carbon neutral in the future. In Denmark, where the products are manufactured, the company owns their own wind production. In Plainsboro, Novo Nordisk purchases offsets from windfarms, and has installed several features that lower the footprint. Many of them are passive in nature, requiring no changes in mechanical systems.

1 :: Passive Solar.

Cooling commercial buildings consumes a very high percentage of electricity. Novo Nordisk installed enhancements that reduce the impact of sunlight such as:

  • charts-for-novo-nordiskNew coated glass that protects the windows from heat, keeping down air-conditioning costs.
  • White painted roof to reflect heat, instead of creating a heat island that elevates emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases, in addition to impacting water quality from rainwater.

2 :: Daylight Access.

95% of office areas have access to natural light. They achieved this by building improvements that incorporate modern design.

  • The herringbone design of the building lent itself to lots of opportunities for windows.
  • Concrete that separated the floors in the old building were removed so that 7’ windows could be installed.
  • The company promotes a 'neighborhood concept'. Offices are perpendicular to the exterior, leaving room for work stations and small groupings along windows. This arrangement reduces noise and creates a more collaborative environment.


Ted BelickyMr. Bielicky said their agenda "starts at the top. When you walk into a Novo Nordisk building, you'll know", he said. "You will see clean, simple, modern lines, natural materials, and a sense of serenity. We want to mimic our commitment to transparency with the design of the building." He added that as you go farther into the building, some of the guidelines loosen up to accommodate the technology and science requirements of a modern pharmaceutical. However, Mr. Bielicky noted with pride that "We (Northern America) have taken steps that Denmark had not thought of and that they were pleased with." He concluded, "We have very low turnover rates. So it is working."