ALL THE NŒRDY FACTORY DETAILS
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Please mention the Photo Credit: Roland Tännler
After almost two decades in Zurich’s post-industrial district 5, the F-Crew moved reckless three miles into their new building in Zurich's pre-hip district Oerlikon in 2011. Despite the name NŒRD, the F-Factory is everything but boring.
It’s in the north of Zurich, in a district called Zurich-Oerlikon, and once you’ve finished reading this, you’ll know just how noerdy NŒRD really is. Already some years ago, FREITAG’s hub at the former gear plant Maag-Areal started showing signs of decay: Musical stages moved in next door, post-industrial bars and clubs put up their disco balls. The atmosphere tipped from production to consumption, and when plans for the Prime Tower, Zurich’s highest building, were released, FREITAG started looking around.
There are not many empty lots in Zurich. At least not above 5'000 square meters. And sizeable rentals in this city are usually better fit for the next Lehman Brothers, than for the old FREITAG Bros. Being a hands-on manufacturer, FREITAG needs hands-on space for washing, cutting, for packaging and storage. And being FREITAG, they just couldn’t move outside of the Zurich city limit. Luckily they found the impossible.
A SMALL LESSON IN GROWTH.
FREITAG has been growing every year from the moment the first tarps were washed in the Bros.’ own bathtub. The individual recycled bag makers have come from 2 to around 200 employees, from 1 to over 40 bag models and from 1 push cart to 25 FREITAG Stores and over 400 resellers worldwide. All without a penny from investors.
Still, when you’re «building your own factory», people are mildly surprised. No, FREITAG did not put down millions. As ever so often, they put down an idea: «How about an entire block of affordable industrial and creative space in Zurich. Leaving out all luxury. But built to highest environmental standards.»
When the lot was secured, it didn’t take long for the posse of NŒRDs to form: The developer, the contractor, the investor, the partner. Turns out FREITAG is letting a whopping 7'500 square meters – in a building they conceived, with neighbors they chose. Isn’t it grand?
BUILT THIS CITY ON R'N'R.
FREITAG in two words: recycling and recontextualization. FREITAG thinks and works in cycles and so does their building. Built on a previously contaminated lot (why did you think it was vacant?), NŒRD starts by recycling the very land it’s built on.
As for the FREITAG production line, the Swiss perfectionists
• re-use rain water collected from NŒRD's rooftops to wash their tarps
• re-use the relatively clean water of the last washing cycles of one load for the second cycle of the next load
• re-use the temperature of used water to heat up the rain water
• re-use all kinds of wasted material in «Biopoints» installed in the office tracts
According to expert calculations, saving water and energy will pay for the necessary investments in about, erm, year 2026.
Simplicity, longevity, sustainability: FREITAG takes 50 % of its heat from waste power plants, uses a lush rooftop garden for inspiration and insulation, and pays a premium for hydroand solar electricity. It uses galvanized mesh wire fencing for its balconies, anodized steel for its doors, supersized insulating windows for light and lots and lots of straightforward, insulating concrete. It gets cold in Switzerland.
A NOERD’S PARADISE.
Since1993, a lot has happened: From the first messenger bags sewn by hand from recycled truck tarps, car seatbelts and bicycle innertubes in a little Zurich apartment. To the first copycat product, «Donnerstag», by Switzerland’s leading super-market chain. To first retailers in Europe and overseas.
To moving into the first big, industrial hall at Maag-Areal. To opening the first FREITAG store in the unlikely town of Davos. To the first accolade of a FREITAG bag by the MoMA NYC. To award winning stores in Zurich and Hamburg. To NŒRD.
In all this crazy development, however three things haven’t happened:
1. No turbo-capitalism. FREITAG still thinks and works in cycles, true to the original product philosophy, even if it takes a little longer.
2. No farming out. FREITAG still washes, cuts, stores, packages and dispatches in Zurich, even if it costs a little more.
3. No conformity. FREITAG still experiments with product, production and marketing, even if it confuses some people.
What’s happening now: At NŒRD, FREITAG has room to grow. To grow in professionalism, where a palette used to be one and the same truck tarp design, now every shipment is perfectly assorted. To grow in output, getting the production time down.
Not to grow in waste production and energy consumption, looking at every step and every cycle not only through the eyes of business, but through the eyes of FREITAG.