From busy suburbs to remote rural communities, America’s electric cooperatives provide reliable energy to thousands of homes while serving as engines for economic growth. According to the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), these vital enterprises play a key role in transforming communities by powering 56% of the nation’s landmass and investing in the future of those localities. South Carolina’s Broad River Electric Cooperative (BREC) has been a leader in innovative technologies and client service since its founding in 1940.
The Broad River team recently completed the daunting task of relocating its headquarters from Gaffney to Cowpens with the goal of fine-tuning efficiencies and workflow. In addition to situating the complex in a more centralized location, key objectives for the new build included facilitating department interactions, streamlining work crew logistics and enhancing customer service.
CEO Terry Mallard explained, “If we can get closer to where our members live, we are able to improve our response time for restoring services. That is the type of reliability that our members have come to expect, so we’ve got to make sure that everything we do is to the best of our ability.”
Chris Nordmeyer is an expert in this niche area of design and serves as the managing director for the Greenville office of SGA|NW, a GF Design Company. As the lead architect on the BREC project, he drew on his extensive experience working on electric cooperatives to deliver a successful outcome. His background gave him a clear understanding of the project goals—seamlessly integrating high functionality with a welcoming atmosphere.
Top-quality, sustainable materials were a key consideration for all aspects of this meticulously planned build. Once the interior layout was finalized, Nordmeyer was able to address design goals for the exterior of the highly visible headquarters building. Along with traditional brick, he chose Waterford Stone, an Echelon Masonry product and Nichiha, a composite wood element to create the desired effect.
The architect noted, “We have been big fans of Echelon Masonry and have used it on other electric cooperative projects including Edisto, Barnwell and Georgetown. The full-bed units made the installation go smoothly, and the aesthetic was a great complement to the other materials.”
Along with its adaptable design features and easy installation, Waterford Stone was engineered to hold up to the toughest conditions. The water-repellant composite stone resists mold and fading for a maintenance-free exterior, a desirable feature for the humid Southeastern climate.
Throughout the planning process, Nordmeyer partnered with Mike Metz, President of MBM Consulting, a family-owned business that specializes in configuring electrical cooperative layouts to achieve peak efficiency for internal workings.
Metz explained, “As the owner’s representative, we manage the process from beginning to end from purchasing property to hanging pictures before we leave. We provide a very specialized service for the cooperatives. The process is designed around the flow of business from the inside out.”
“Mike and I have a history of collaborating on these projects,” Nordmeyer added. “He assesses and interprets the needs of the client and conveys that to me; the design is then driven by those functionality goals.”
Within the rectangular two-story headquarters building, Nordmeyer carried out Metz’s efficiency directives by factoring in the specific needs of each department. The less hands-on administrative offices would occupy the second floor, whereas the ground floor was designed to facilitate daily operations.
Departments with frequent interactions were placed close together at one end of the building, and customer service was situated at the opposite end and made more publicly accessible. The layout was guided by the most efficient use of time and space to best serve clientele—those entering through the service lobby and those utilizing drive-up lanes.
For continuity, Waterford Stone was used to form the base of the Broad River logo sign located at the public entranceway. The same modular units were used on the columns of the drive-through lanes.
The element of flexible convenience, a dedicated staff of Customer Service Representatives and a warmer design concept for the headquarters façade added a welcoming feel to the in-person experience, and the centralized location provided a wider range of regional accessibility.
Crystal Petty, Member Service Representative, explained, “Our co-op members come first—without them, we wouldn’t be here. Every phone call is important, because if a member has an issue, we want to help them as quickly and efficiently as possible.”
In the rear of the complex, the industrial components of the build included a 22,700 square foot warehouse and a 15,000 square foot truck shed and crew quarters. Metz’s calculations assured that crew members could move through the facility in a streamlined manner.
Cary Johnson, Chief Operating Officer, remarked “With our new building and the way our warehouse is set up, we’re more productive because we’re getting in and out quicker.”
While the inner workings of the Broad River complex prioritized efficiencies, Nordmeyer managed to create a lodge-type aesthetic for the public face of the headquarters by including side pitched roofing on each end of the building and blending earth tone mixed materials—Waterford stone in Avondale color, traditional brick and composite board in pleasing configurations. The modern window design is enhanced with alternating brick arch-shaped brackets, which were scaled down by horizontal wood composite canopies.
“This building is a marked departure from typical electric cooperatives, which tend to have a more common look,” said Metz. “The high-level design is not only functional but makes an attractive architectural statement—Chris gets all the credit for that.”
The new Broad River headquarters has generated a great deal of attention across the region for its innovative design and build. Staff members have been hosting regular tours of the complex since its debut in 2021.
CEO Terry Mallard explained, “The one principle that is so important to us as we serve our membership is concern for the community. We’re here for the long term, and we’re here to serve those members with reliable service at reasonable rates. That’s a key reason we built this facility.”