Manous Design

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Manous Design Michael Manous has come a long way from playing with LEGOs as a child — his company recently completed building the new Permobil North Aemerican Operations Center in Lebanon, Tennessee.

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With a varied scope of design concepts fusing into one small firm with an extensive portfolio, Manous Design has taken their talent and vision to new levels. by Joel Cornell


ichael Manous was one of those kids whose room was filled with models and dioramas, Lincoln Logs and LEGOs. With his natural inclination for putting things together in dynamic and inventive ways, Manous’ future career was all too evident to his parents. Today, Manous Design has become one of the Tennessee’s most respected architecture firms and one that is building across the nation. “For me, creating places means giving interior and exterior space form and character,” Manous said. “It is about making spaces where people want to be.” Upon receiving his bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee’s School of Architecture in 1985, Manous dove into the design and architecture business head first. Many of his first clients included big names like Bridgestone/Firestone, Saturn Corporation, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores and Performance Food Group. His firm of four now handles projects that range from small renovations to complex $250 million mixed-use planning projects. “At first, I cut my teeth working for a very large national engineering/architecture firm,” Manous said. “I was the lead architectural designer on many large and complex industrial construction projects. But after a while I became disillusioned with the way that larger firms operated. I understand the rationale used and the resulting organizations of these highly successful businesses; I simply wanted to do things a bit differently.” Manous Design was founded in Lebanon, Tenn. in 1992 with a vision intent on creating places

OPPOSITE: The day lit employee commons serves as the organizing spine for the diverse operational program at Permobil's North American Operations Headquarters. Photo by 814 Photography.

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that enhance, complement and serve what is best in each community ‑ its heritage, its physical beauty and its people. The firm’s mission has been to preserve the integrity of place. Whether that mission entails saving and re-purposing historic structures or designing in harmony with the surrounding environment, Manous and his team are making an impact. The firm has completed facilities in California, Indiana, South Carolina, Texas, Florida and Maryland. Still, a large portion of their work takes place in central Tennessee. Additionally, Manous Design employs two CAD designers in order to assist in the design and construction drawing process. The small size of the firm, however, does not reflect an inclination towards projects of a limited scale, scope or complexity. Some of the firm’s highest dollar value projects have been in the industrial and customized distribution segments; though, the private projects such as banks, corporate office buildings, restaurants, recreations and lifestyle centers have been the majority of the firm’s work in terms of quantity. “Our philosophy is to integrate the entire land planning, civil, architectural and structural conceptual design into one element,” Manous said. “This leads us to very site -specific, customized solutions for our clients’ building needs as the design process evolves.” Throughout the late 70s and early 80s, Manous was a part of what he calls the first great energy awakening in the U.S. – his alma mater is near a major Tennessee Valley Authority design and research facility. “We were very fortunate because there was a lot of interaction between the students, faculty, architects and engineers who were researching and creating many techniques used today in sustainable design. This naturally reinforced our bend towards this way of thinking and heavily influenced our architectural solutions as we learned the process of design,” Manous said. “What is known as green design today was something that was always LEFT: The use of natural light and advanced lighting control coupled with a photovoltaic solar array allows the off-set of over 120 kw of electrical usage in the manufacturing area. Photo by 814 Photography. BOTTOM LEFT: The use of natural materials and textures helps create human scale for this large facility. Photo courtesy Manous Design. BOTTOM CENTER: The day lit lobby welcomes visitors, management and production workers alike. Photo by 814 Photography. BOTTOM RIGHT: Typical open department entry from employee commons in the ultra-ADA friendly facility. Photo by 814 Photography.

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instilled in us as good or smart design,” Manous said. “From energy conservation and alternative energy production to well-minded site evaluation and building orientation; the idea that green thinking is a sudden, new trend in design is not exactly accurate.” “These are elements that we continually strive to integrate into our projects, and we always try to educate our clients about the importance of these issues. LEED certification, Energy Star ratings and the like have been fantastic programs raising public awareness of the role of proper design in community and building construction.” Recently, Manous Design finished the new Permobil North American Operations Center in the firm’s hometown of Lebanon. Permobil, Inc. is the international leader in the design and manufacturing of custom, powered wheelchairs. Manous and his team were involved from the earliest phases of site evaluation and process planning throughout the final stages of construction and building commissioning. This $12 million mixed-use facility was recently recognized as “Industrial Development of the Year” by the Nashville chapter of NAOIP. “Having the opportunity to interact with a client group of Permobil’s mindset was a fantastic opportunity for an architect like me; these guys are the innovators in their industry,” Manous said. “What was interesting and challenging about designing their highly-customized facility was that we got to work with the client from the initial conceptual stages based on how they manufacture — not just what they manufacture. We tailored the facility around their very specific industry and worked to integrate the vastly varied program into a compressive whole. “The facility needed to include not only manufacturing space, custom shops, warehousing and distribution space, final inspection and testing facilities, but also a 24-hour North American call center, corporate offices, research and development labs, sales and marketing areas as well as a large, multi-purpose TOP LEFT: Extensive detail in the tilt-up concrete wall panels is repeated on the exterior of the facility. TOP CENTER: High ceilings, natural lighting and a dynamic yet soothing interior design theme reinforce a productive office environment. TOP RIGHT: Multi-purpose learning facility RIGHT: The employee cafe continues the interior design theme of the building and blends the stone, bamboo and stained concrete used through out the building creating a pleasing environment for workers. Photos by 814 Photography.

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learning center. All of these unique and individual aspects of their business model merged together to create a truly unique and dynamic series of spaces. One of the Swedes told me he feels like he is in a small city,” Manous said. Because of Manous Design’s vast range of experience, they are able to draw upon a widely-varied collection of knowledge and skill sets. Manous finds that design elements, materials and construction detailing can be translated from building type to building type in innovative ways. This distinct advantage is an attribute most clients seek when selecting an architect; and, it’s reinforced even more by the depth of character this architectural firm’s projects possess. CLT

RIGHT: The 60,000 sq. ft. corporate office building is currently under construction. Rendering courtesy Manous Design. BOTTOM LEFT: Municipal recreation facility, outdoor play pool. Photo by Bryan Allen Photography. BOTTOM MIDDLE: Historic restoration; D.E. Mitchell House, circa 1912. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store. Photo courtesy Manous Design. BOTTOM RIGHT: Manous has completed over 30 banks and financial-related projects like this one. Photo by Bryan Allen Photography.

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When Manous Design needed to bring their Permobil North American Operations Center project to fruition, their first choice for general contractor was easily made- TW Frierson Contractor, Inc. The Nashville-based company has partnered with Manous on a wide array of projects since 1995. “TW Frierson Contractor, Inc. was involved with us even as far back as the preconstruction and conceptual stages with the Permobil project,” said Michael Manous, founder and principal of Manous Design. “We had already been working with them as our general contractor for more than a decade, so they were brought in for the early stages of design and they were a great help in aiding the client make decisions based on cost as we developed the concepts for the building.” Since the company’s inception in 1958, the family-owned business has been a local leader in the building industry, while staying true to their own roots. The company performs all of their own concrete installation, steel erection, sheet metal and carpentry work with their own personnel. As a merit shop general contractor specializing in commercial, industrial and institutional facility, TW Frierson Contractor, Inc. averages an annual volume of over $100 million. “TW Frierson went on their own merits through a competitive process against nationally recognized contractors for the Permobil projects, and we were thrilled to see them elected as general contractor on the project,” Manous said. “Their expertise in concrete tilt wall construction was a major consideration for Permobil. We had elected to go with a decorative tilt wall system for the project, and we knew we had to have TW Frierson on the project as they're the premier general contractor in the area for that type of work.” TW Frierson Contractor, Inc., having worked in the Tennessee region for more than half a century, first worked with Manous Design on a local historic restoration in Manous’ hometown of Lebanon, Tenn. Their collaboration was part of the nearby Castle Height Military Academy, as one of their older buildings was to be renovated into city offices for city hall. The project became an instant success as the two firms worked together to turn a derelict, abandoned piece of historic property and bring it into the modern age with full EnergyStar and ADA compliance and a full suite of integrated technological systems. “Being a second generation family business TW Frierson Contractor, Inc. has brought a level of service and attention to each project we collaborate on, which has really stood out from the many other contractors we see daily,” Manous said.

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