From One Hub to Another

Building a brand-new space from the ground up is a unique opportunity for any business. For Accenture, one of the world’s largest management and consulting agencies, it was also the chance to create a truly stunning space. Located in Atlanta, the company’s new Innovation Hub features a contemporary environment complete with railroad tracks on the ceiling.

A custom ceiling system provides wayfinding and acoustic control while paying homage to Atlanta’s history as a railroad hub

By Steven Udolph

Nov19 Case Study Hunter Douglas

An homage to Atlanta’s history as a railroad hub, these crisscrossing tracks are the focal point of the space yet serve an important purpose—they provide much needed wayfinding while providing acoustic management properties for the sprawling open-concept office.

Project Background

The Atlanta Innovation Hub—one of 11 Accenture offices across North America—is designed for immersion, collaboration and rapid development. In this 30,000-square-foot co-creation space, business leaders come together to tap into the most advanced thinking in the region and use data-driven market insights to create human-centered solutions.

To develop a space that is as impressive as the work that happens within its walls, Gensler, San Francisco, worked with Hunter Douglas Ceilings and Walls, exclusively from CertainTeed, Malvern, Pa., to design and specify a beam and baffle ceiling reminiscent of Atlanta’s famous railyards. The city’s history as a major hub for rail traffic in the American Southeast plays an important part in the overall design of the space—there is even a flip-disk display board—yet the beautiful and unique ceiling stands as the ultimate tribute.

The hub includes designated spaces for think tank sessions and all-day meetings. This includes living walls, writable surfaces, reconfigurable spaces and LED cloud-shaped lighting. One space even mimics the look of a basketball court with floor from a middle school gym, garage doors and graffiti art by a local artist. To tie these areas together, the design team focused on the ceiling—conceptualizing a ceiling-mounted set of railroad tracks to usher guests and employees from space to space.

To achieve this look, the design team specified a flexible beam and baffle ceiling system. Featuring robust extruded aluminum beams finished in complementary colors and wood-looks, the system spans thousands of square feet throughout the new innovation center. At first glance, the ceiling system looks exactly like reclaimed railroad ties, yet it is comprised of High-Profile Series Straight Baffle ceiling system.

These products also feature a perforated pattern, which help better manage acoustics and sound attenuation in open concept spaces like the innovation hub. Plus, the beams and baffles created easy plenum access for the facility team. The products are also compatible with industry standard lighting, HVAC, speaker, fire safety and security services.


While the design team knew the railroad tracks would look great and help provide much-needed wayfinding, the general contractor soon discovered that the complex track layout—which travels in multiple directions through multiple spaces, crisscrossing each other along the journey—would be a challenge to install.

“The biggest problem was getting the curves to lay correctly in the space,” explains John Van Dyke, general manager with Humphries & Co. LLC, Smyrna, Ga. As the general contractor on the project, Van Dyke leveraged his 35 years of experience in commercial ceilings and drywall to develop an efficient installation plan.

“With multiple intersecting curves and complex designs, it was absolutely critical that the installation team aligned every beam and baffle perfectly,” says Van Dyke. “While the finished look is a railroad track—it is really a multilayer ceiling that incorporates lighting and HVAC systems.”

In order to achieve the look, Van Dyke created a detailed, multidimensional layout. Next, his team hung support wires with pinpoint accuracy. From there, aluminum timber beams were hung, followed by the railroad tracks themselves. The timber and tracks are powder coated to mimic the look of natural wood, making them light enough to easily maneuver and install with a small team.

Van Dyke worked with his team of six seasoned installers to address all potential product issues. The team created a mock installation on the floor to ensure that all products were built and finished to exact specifications. Since all beams were manufactured and delivered to spec, there was no need for cutting and trimming onsite. This was a huge relief for the installation team and saved time on the job site—allowing the team at Humphries & Co. to switch off with other trades and maintain an eight-week, multi-phased installation.


“The clients were able to see the ceiling come together in phases and each subsequent weekly meeting on the job site led to a lot of anticipation,” explains Van Dyke.

The end result tells a story, helps with wayfinding and it pays tribute to the history of this amazing city,” adds Chris Jones, general manager, Hunter Douglas Ceilings and Walls.

Additionally, the installed ceiling was applicable for USGBC LEED v4 environmental categories and performance requirements as indicated in the LEED v4 for Interior Design & Coordination. These include Material & Resources (MR) credits for building product disclosure and Environmental Quality (EQ) credits in low-emitting materials, indoor air quality assessment and acoustic performance.

Steven Udolph is the national sales manager at Hunter Douglas Ceiling & Wall Products, exclusively from CertainTeed, Malvern, Pa. For more information, visit