Categories Design, Narrative, Tech Industry

Chinese Company Headquarters WAY different than U.S.


Chinese company, Tencent, just finished its global headquarters.  In previous narratives, I have discussed US-based tech companies’ cool new headquarters (Click here to read my narrative on Apple’s HQ). This week, I have included two different articles about the same building.

What is different?

  • Technology.  In China, the government allows some technology that is not accepted here, including facial-recognition.  This allows WeChat App to check bus schedules and book conference rooms, and of course, increase security.
  • The buildings are not campus orientated.  Rather, see below.  Two massive towers (one is 50 stories with three really cool multi-story sky bridges). 
  • Below is a graphic on the bridges. They include health and gym facilities, a cafeteria, and a 500-person auditorium.
  • Robots act as guides in the lobby.

These are huge differences compared to US-based companies (other than Salesforce HQ in San Francisco – click here to read my narrative on this topic).  The comparisons open up lots of new directions to analyze.

P.S. I was recently on the 7 Rules Podcast with Nick Raithel.  We discussed my 7 Rules for Real Estate Investing.  Great podcast to focus you on the important issues when investing in Commercial Real Estate.   Click here to listen.




Inside Tencent’s new $599 million Shenzhen headquarters
The company’s headquarters flips the sprawling tech campus on its side.


[Photo: Tim Griffith/NBBJ]

When it comes to their headquarters, American tech companies tend to favor sprawling campuses with pathways, pantries, and soccer pitches designed to foster interaction among employees across different departments. For its new, reportedly $599 million home, in Shenzhen, China, internet giant Tencent tasked the architecture firm NBBJ with turning this model on its side and imbuing a 50-story skyscraper with the same collegiate-style atmosphere for 12,000 employees. Step one, says lead designer Jonathan Ward, was splitting the building into two towers and connecting them by three bridges, “so there is a conversation happening between them.” Below, a look at how the firm brought new energy—and a green sensibility—to the corporate high-rise.

The building is in a burgeoning tech district next to Shenzhen University, on the city’s far west side—an area intended to be China’s answer to Silicon Valley. Constructed on land reclaimed from the sea, the towers were built to comply with China’s Sponge City initiative, which tackles runoff pollution and flooding by making urban landscapes more capable of filtering and holding water.

The building’s one-acre plaza is covered in permeable ceramic bricks made from recycled materials that filter rainwater as it drains into the ground. This absorbent layer—along with gardens atop the roofs and bridges—has more than doubled the building’s water-retention rate compared with traditional construction techniques.

Nicknamed the “brain” of the building, the top bridge houses Tencent University, where employees can take classes to brush up on skills such as coding. Several conference rooms are located here, as well as space for after-work activities, such as guitar and English lessons.

[Illustration: Adam Quest]

The “heart” bridge contains more than 25,000 square feet of health and gym facilities, including a track, climbing wall, basketball court, dance studio, 2 badminton courts, 6 billiards tables, and 12 Ping-Pong tables. There’s also a juice bar.

The lowest link contains a museum about the history of Tencent, two levels of cafeteria space, and a 500-person auditorium.

Tencent buses pick up employees throughout the city and drop them off in an underground terminal below the building. Escalators rise up to plaza level, allowing natural light to filter in.

The glazed, self-shading exterior regulates how much sunlight and heat penetrate the building, reducing the need for air-conditioning. NBBJ estimates that the building uses 40% less energy than a typical office tower.

Tencent is developing a building-wide internet-of-things system to help automate heating, air-conditioning, and security. Already, facial-recognition technology identifies employees and allows them to access certain floors. Smart rooms within the building can adjust their temperature based on how many people are in them. Robot guides in the lobby show people to bathrooms and other facilities.


New Tencent Headquarters Offer Glimpse Into Workplace of Future
Workers at the Seafront Towers headquarters use facial recognition technology and an official WeChat app for employees
By  Dominique Fong and
Shan Li

Jan. 22, 2019 9:00 a.m. ET

SHENZHEN, China—Tech giant Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s new twin-tower headquarters in this southern megacity offers a glimpse into the future of office life, a future where China is pulling ahead in the race for innovative workspaces.

Tencent—a company best known for developing WeChat, the social-networking mobile app with over a billion users—began moving employees into its centerpiece high-rises, the Seafront Towers, in October to prepare for future expansion.

Cammy Liu, a 24-year-old Tencent secretary, enjoys the new home base’s state-of-the-art benefits. A camera scans her face using facial-recognition technology so she can enter the elevator and go up to her floor. She can order meals via smartphone and have them delivered to her in some of the staff dining areas.

It was so convenient, “I gained five to six kilos after the move,” Ms. Liu said.

Tencent declined to disclose its total investment in the new headquarters, but analysts estimate construction costs at around $600 million.

Bridges connecting the two towers provide communal gathering spaces, like quads in a vertical campus. PHOTO:TIM GRIFFITH/NBBJ

The complex, with a shared lobby connecting the two towers, is among a new crop of buildings in China that reflect a growing change in corporate work culture. Chinese firms are encouraging a stronger sense of community by featuring more open gathering spaces and advancing new technologies to make office life more efficient.

Tencent, partnering with an architecture firm, envisioned a twist on the Silicon Valley-style tech office space. Instead of a flat suburban box, the headquarters is split into two vertical towers. Two midair bridges connect the towers and provide communal gathering spaces, like quads in a vertical campus.

One reason for the vertical design was that nine years ago, Tencent could buy only a small real-estate parcel in Shenzhen, which was running out of open urban land during its makeover from a small fishing village to China’s leading tech hub. The building’s design was also intended as a solution to create more mobility and flow, leading to more chance encounters among employees.

“The challenge of the high-rise building is it’s inherently anti-connection, a series of these stacked plates,” said Jonathan Ward, a Los Angeles-based design partner at architecture firm NBBJ and the lead architect for Tencent’s HQ project. “They go up in the sky and nobody can see each other. We have to rethink the high-rise building.”

Mr. Ward said cultivating a family spirit within its headquarters was a priority for Tencent in China. “I don’t see that so much in the U.S. as a fundamental driver,” he said.

On a recent visit, Tencent employees were on the bridge at the 21st floor, playing ping pong and basketball together and lining up for a rock-climbing wall. Tencent wanted the bridge to promote health and wellness and to symbolize the heart of the complex. The bridge beginning at the 34th floor includes a Tencent University training center for employees.

Open meeting spaces scattered throughout the towers encourage workers to change up their routines. PHOTO: TIM GRIFFITH/NBBJ

Sebastian Hill, an architect at NBBJ in Hong Kong, said open meeting spaces scattered throughout the towers encourage workers to change up their routines. About 8,000 Tencent employees moved from another building in Shenzhen to the new offices, which can handle a total of 10,000.

“The old headquarters wasn’t very big, so you had to stay at your desk to work,” Ms. Liu said. “But now there is plenty of space, lots of sofas and places to sit and work and chat with co-workers. We don’t just sit at our desk.”

Chinese companies are becoming more willing to experiment with new workplace technologies, analysts say. At Tencent, people can book conference rooms and check shuttle-bus schedules using an official WeChat account for employees. Facial recognition to enter office buildings is becoming commonplace.

Many people in the U.S. and even more so in the EU, would see that as an invasion of privacy, but in China people really appreciate the convenience it creates,” said Jordan Kostelac, property technology director at JLL, a real-estate brokerage firm.

The Seafront Towers design, a vertical version of a Silicon Valley tech campus, was meant to encourage mobility, flow and more chance encounters among employees. PHOTO: TIM GRIFFITH/NBBJ

Elsewhere in Shenzhen, one of China’s largest insurers, Ping An Insurance, took inspiration for its new headquarters from the shape of New York City’s Empire State Building. The second-tallest skyscraper in China, it was completed in 2017. (China’s tallest skyscraper is the 128-story Shanghai Tower.)

“We really wanted to have a statement,” said Florence Chan, an architect at New York-based Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, which designed the tower.

Ping An Financial Centre also employs a facial-recognition system for employees. And from about noon to 1:30 p.m. the ceiling lights dim, so employees can comfortably nap at their desks, a common practice in Chinese work culture.

In Hangzhou, a prosperous coastal Chinese city, employees at the headquarters of Ant Financial, an affiliate of Alibaba, work in open spaces referred to as Z-Space, which is meant to encourage “hierarchy-free collaborations and straightforward communications,” an Ant Financial spokesman said. Employees can book meeting rooms and receive automated alerts for package deliveries via a smartphone app.

During its building heyday starting around the Beijing Summer Olympics, China was a playground for global architects testing out whimsical showpiece designs, like the iconic China Central Television building in Beijing designed by Rem Koolhaas, which looks like a pair of entangled trousers, or the egg-shaped National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing.

The enthusiasm has cooled in the years since President Xi Jinping called for an end to “weird” buildings in 2014. That remark caused some architects to pre-emptively tone down designs to avoid possible government scrutiny.

Architects have since begun to “rethink” splashy tower designs in China, Ms. Chan said.

Categories Design, Narrative

Open Plans Kill Productivity

In my ongoing effort to explore both sides of the open office vs. traditional office debate, here are some thoughts based on science.  The Journal of Environmental Psychology jumped into the fray and came out with a huge study (40k+ workers and over 300 companies).  What did they find out?
— Closed offices outperformed open offices for productivity.
— Proxemics issues (how people feel when close) create uncomfortable workers (and therefore less productivity).
— Noise and visual disruption (or as Geoffrey James says below “visual and noise pollution”) creates distraction and focus issues.
Read below for more.  The debate continues and there are fatal flaws to both sides.  




Open-Plan Offices Kill Productivity, According to Science

By Geoffrey James

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Earlier today, I got a story pitch on the “office of the future” that featured the following bullet points:

  Remote Work Will be the New Norm: According to recent Fuze research, 83 percent of workers don’t think they need to be in an office to be productive, and 38 percent said they would enjoy their job more if they were allowed to work remotely.
  Physical Space Will Shrink: We’ll see more companies shift to a more collaborative office space model with workspaces that bring together teams, spark conversation, and create the best ideas.
  Traditional Desks Will Disappear: The so-called cubicle farm will become a distant memory and people will start embracing an environment that suits their needs — whether it be a table at a coffee shop, a standing desk, or collaboration space.
  “Office Hours” Will Become Obsolete: The workday isn’t 9 to 5 anymore, it’s 24/7. In fact, a recent Fidelity survey found that Millennials will take a pay cut for a more flexible work environment.

The list (which is very much “conventional wisdom”) illustrates the crazy-making way that companies think about open-plan offices. Can you see the disconnect? Bullets 1 and 4 are saying that people don’t want to work in an office, while bullets 2 and 3 are defining the very office environment where people don’t want to work.

And isn’t that the sad truth? Most people would rather work at home and or tolerate angry stares from the other patrons in a coffee shop (should one need to make a call) than try to get something done in an open-plan office.

In previous posts, I’ve provided links to numerous studies showing that open-plan offices are both a productivity disaster and a false economy. (The productivity drain more than offsets the savings in square footage.) I’ve even posted some videos showing how wretched (and in some cases ridiculous) these environments truly are.

Well, just in case you weren’t yet convinced, here’s some new evidence from a study of more than 40,000 workers in 300 U.S. office buildings–by far the most comprehensive research on this issue. The results, published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, came to the following conclusion:

“Enclosed private offices clearly outperformed open-plan layouts in most aspects of IEQ (Indoor Environmental Quality), particularly in acoustics, privacy and the proxemics issues. Benefits of enhanced ‘ease of interaction’ were smaller than the penalties of increased noise level and decreased privacy resulting from open-plan office configuration.”

Don’t let the jargon confuse you. The term “proxemics issues” refers to how people feel uncomfortable when they’re forced into close proximity with other people. To be perfectly clear, here’s what the paragraph says: “Open-plan offices aren’t worth it.”

BTW, it isn’t just the noise and the interruptions that cause people to hate open-plan offices. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article:

“All of this social engineering has created endless distractions that draw employees’ eyes away from their own screens. Visual noise, the activity or movement around the edges of an employee’s field of vision, can erode concentration and disrupt analytical thinking or creativity.”

Unlike noise pollution, which can be remedied with a pair of headsets, there’s no way to block out the visual pollution, short of throwing a towel over your head and screen like a toddler’s play tent.

So, getting back to the story pitch and the conventional wisdom it represents: Yes, indeed, people want to work at home, and yes, indeed, they’re willing to take a cut in pay to get away from the open-plan office that you’ve offered them.

What’s weird is that the people who design office spaces and the executives who hire them don’t see the connection. They seem unable to understand that forcing open-plan offices down everyone’s throat is not only ruining productivity but it’s actively driving good employees to avoid to coming into the office.

So let me make it simple.

Dear Executive: Do you want your employees to come into the office and work long hours while they’re there? THEN GIVE THEM PRIVATE OFFICES. At the very least, give them high-walled cubicles that provide a modicum of privacy.

For crying out loud, is this really that difficult a concept to understand?

Categories Architecture, Design, Narrative

Exposed Ceilings Are Cool But Not Cheap

Exposed ceilings are all the rage, but users pay a price for this look. Most of our clients think it’s less expensive to just demo the ceiling and have a cool open space.  Not so fast.
Here are some of the additional costs that come with an exposed ceiling:

– Re-running electrical cabling and HVAC ductwork with the added pressure of making it look cool (“cool” is another word for additional expense).
– Painting the now-exposed components.
– Sound proofing/noise mitigation.  If not designed AND negotiated properly, this could be an after-relocation expense to the tenant. 
These are costs to actually construct the open ceiling.  Many times the open ceiling will come with increased utility bills because you have more space to heat and, in Phoenix, to cool.  While this is usually negotiated into the Base year, if the building has more tenants moving in and opening up the ceilings, expenses will continue to rise. 
This is something to put in the back of your mind as you contemplate your next office.  OR you can just call us.  We live these issues daily.




By Clay Edwards

March 4, 2018
Open ceilings, with their exposed ductwork and industrial vibe have become popular – but trendy rarely equals inexpensive. For many years, omitting the traditional drop ceiling was assumed to be not just cooler but also to cost less. Common sense seemed to be that by choosing open ceilings, the cost of the drop ceiling was simply avoided, saving on labor, materials and time.

2008 study of retail and office interior construction in five cities seemed to back up that assumption. Sponsored by the Ceilings & Interior Systems Construction Association (CISCA), the study found that initial construction costs for suspended ceilings were 15-22 percent higher than for open plenums in offices, and 4-11 percent higher in retail spaces.

Great news! Or was it? It appeared this popular feature that conveys a sense of spaciousness and casual charm also saved money. Unfortunately, the news was premature.

Our years of experience have shown that open plenum ceilings have many benefits, but being cheaper isn’t one of them. It’s important to consider the hidden costs of open ceilings, which almost always make them more expensive, particularly over a building’s life cycle.

Hidden expense #1: Open does not mean unfinished
At first glance, it might seem contradictory to think that an open ceiling would cost more than installing a suspended ceiling system and infrastructure. The catch: there’s work required in both cases. Even when ductwork is exposed, it’s anything but unfinished. Hidden ductwork is typically blocky, dirty, oily and generally not aesthetically pleasing. Round or oval ducts deliver a more “finished” look but are significantly more expensive.

Hidden expense #2: Higher labor costs
As commercial construction has ramped up in recent years, developers are seeing a shortage of skilled labor in many trades, driving up construction costs. Open ceilings may involve lower material costs than suspended ceilings, but any savings is more than offset by the cost of labor-intensive tasks required for open plenum. For instance, this may include running all electrical distribution conduit tight to the deck above with the associated additional bends in the runs, rather than running all of the conduit that crosses paths at different elevations.

Hidden expense #3: Making it pretty
At a minimum, space users want everything painted, from the exposed ceiling to the ductwork and plumbing — a job that’s more complicated than simply painting walls. More significantly, existing infrastructure that’s been hiding behind suspended ceilings is often unsightly, requiring major work to make it attractive to employees or customers. In other words, the casual look of an open plenum is actually the result of substantial work.

Hidden expense #4: Sound considerations
In addition to visual considerations, open plenum plans come with a need for acoustical treatments. The panels in suspended ceilings are called acoustical tiles for a reason: they absorb sound to keep ambient noise levels from being disruptive. The hard surfaces of an exposed ceiling can create an echo effect that gets amplified as people talk louder to be heard over ambient noise.

Avoiding noise problems in open plenum plans comes at a cost. Office and retail users may install acoustical panels directly onto the deck, or suspend baffles to absorb sound in critical areas. Another solution: spray-on acoustical material on the ceiling’s hard, reflective surfaces. These products soften the surfaces to absorb some of the noise, and typically have other benefits such as thermal insulation and fire protection.

Hidden expense #5: Skyrocketing energy bills
Even if open plenum ceilings can be installed cost-effectively, there are operational cost considerations that can change the equation somewhat. A major trend in construction cost estimation is to look at the entire life-cycle cost of different solutions, including the cost of energy consumption and maintenance over time, as well as the initial materials and labor.

The CISCA study mentioned previously noted that energy costs were found to be lower in suspended ceilings than in open plenum ceilings. The savings ranged from 9 percent to 10.3 percent in offices, and from 12.7 percent to 17 percent in retail spaces studied. In addition, CISCA noted that open ceilings required frequent cleaning and periodic repainting. “Considering both first-time and operating costs, suspended ceilings are extremely cost effective,” the study concluded.

Weighing the pros and cons
The additional cost of open plenum ceilings shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. Office and retail space should be designed and built to maximize its appeal to employees or customers and to enable productive use of the space; incurring an incrementally higher cost structure is a secondary concern. But users who are getting ready to build out space should be aware of the true cost of different alternatives to avoid surprises during construction. It’s natural to make the assumption that an informal, exposed ceiling is less expensive than a suspended ceiling — but the reality is often quite different.

Categories Architecture, Design, Narrative

The Legacy of Steve Jobs and Office Space

Apple moved into their spaceship this year.  I wrote about it while under construction and now you have probably have seen finished photos all over.  If not, here are some.But today’s narrative is not about this inspired headquarters.  Today, I want to talk about Pixar’s headquarters built in the late 1990’s.  The standards of creative office (and all the baseline design for the new Apple HQ) came out of Job’s vision for one of his early companies. 

This headquarters had:
·       Open space so that the workers could be more creative.
·       All specialties among workers were split up within the premises.
·       A cafe, foosball, fitness center, two 40-seat viewing rooms, and a large theater—keeping them in the office longer.
·       Open atrium so people will run into each other creating interactions.

So what is my point?  Three things struck me when I read the below article:

–Good design lasts—we know that but in office space, it’s the same.  We can build something that we love that does not need to be torn down every 5 years.
–Committing to what you need is critical.  We know how you work today.  What works, what doesn’t.  Where is technology taking you and your team?  
–Having the right team is paramount. This includes brokers—that’s us—plus design, contractors, furniture, etc. Make sure the team is the right on for you and your business.

We can help.



Pixar Headquarters and the Legacy of Steve Jobs

Source: Office Snapshots
Date: 8/30/18

The first office ever posted on Office Snapshots was Pixar’s Emeryville headquarters – and is naturally one of the most popular. It is a place where, just by looking at it, one can tell that creativity abounds. After 5+ years of studying, posting pictures of, and writing about office design – it seems like a good idea to take an in depth look into just what makes their office space so special.

A New Campus VisionThe story behind Pixar’s headquarters starts in 1999 with Steve Jobs. As Pixar’s CEO, Jobs brought in Bohlin Cywinski Jackson – famously known for designing Bill Gates’ Washington residential compound – to flesh out his vision for the campus, which was planned to hold up to 1000 employees.

According to Jobs’ recent biography, the headquarters was to be a place that “promoted encounters and unplanned collaborations.”  Given that collaboration has recently been one of the major topics in office design, and that the late 90’s were filled with cubicle farms, his ideas were clearly ahead of the curve.

Jobs also strived for a campus that stood the test of time. Tom Carlisle, Pixar’s facilities director adds that, “He didn’t want a standard office-park building—one with corrugated-metal siding or ribbon windows. The building had to look good 100 years from now. That was his main criterion.”

The Atrium and Unplanned CollaborationsPixar’s campus design originally separated different employee disciplines into different buildings – one for computer scientists, another for animators, and a third building for everybody else. But because Jobs was fanatic about these unplanned collaborations, he envisioned a campus where these encounters could take place, and his design included a great atrium space that acts as a central hub for the campus.

The biography adds that Jobs believed that, “If a building doesn’t encourage [collaboration], you’ll lose a lot of innovation and the magic that’s sparked by serendipity. So we designed the building to make people get out of their offices and mingle in the central atrium with people they might not otherwise see.”

The atrium houses a reception, employee mailboxes, cafe, foosball, fitness center, two 40-seat viewing rooms, and a large theater – and was planned by Jobs to house the campus’ only restrooms. The idea was that people who naturally isolate themselves would be forced to have great conversations, even if that took place while washing their hands. Today, they do have more than one restroom, of course. But it was the idea behind it that was important.

Brad Bird, director of The Incredible and Ratatouille, said of the space, “The atrium initially might seem like a waste of space…But Steve realized that when people run into each other, when they make eye contact, things happen.”

And did it work? “Steve’s theory worked from day one,” said John Lasseter, Pixar’s chief creative officer “…I’ve never seen a building that promoted collaboration and creativity as well as this one.”

Jobs’ Meticulous Eye for… Steel Beams?

Steve Jobs is well-known for his meticulous eye for elegance and design when it comes to Apple’s products. But another area where this fanaticism for detail came out was with regard to the steel beams used in the construction of the Atrium.

“The architects used cold-rolled, bead-blasted steel, and all connections are custom-bolted, not welded, purely for aesthetics’ sake.”

His biography adds more, “Because the building’s steel beams were going to be visible, Jobs pored over samples from manufacturers across the country to see which had the best color and texture. He chose a mill in Arkansas, told it to blast the steel to a pure color, and made sure the truckers used caution not to nick any of it.”

And some additional investigation found that, “A field painter cleaned it again and applied a “clear coat” of paint to it. All of the bolts that were visible had round heads in lieu of hex heads to give the illusion riveted connections. Rivets have not been used since the 1950′s.

At one point in time Pixar asked that the round head of the bolt have the Pixar “ant” stamped into the head. They abandoned this idea due to cost.”

A Clean Interior Slate to Allow Organic Creativity

Moving beyond the atrium itself, the entire building plan was meant to provide a clean slate that gave Pixar the ability to creatively fill the space as it saw fit – in a very organic way.

One fun way in which this organic creativity manifested itself was in the creation of a hidden speakeasy known as the Lucky 7 Lounge – which has been visited by many special visitors like Randy Newman, Michael Eisner, Michael Cera, and even Steve Jobs himself. Though the lounge was not in the original plan, allowing for fun and spontaneous elements was.

Office Spaces That Live and Breathe

Having tried a much more open, cubicle-based plan at their previous headquarters and noting the difficulty in getting work done, Pixar opted to go with a much more closed environment this time around. Many offices are arranged in U-shaped units of 5-6 individual offices – with a central gathering area in the middle that brings the idea of the creating unplanned collaboration down to a smaller, workspace-sized concept.

In terms of decoration and style, employee office spaces are a sight to be seen. Some work in small house huts, other share space, some stand up. John Lasseter’s office (image right, click to zoom) is filled to the brim with toys – clearly not your average executive office.

Brad Bird notes, “If you walk around downstairs in the animation area, you’ll see that it is unhinged. People are allowed to create whatever front to their office they want. One guy might build a front that’s like a Western town. Someone else might do something that looks like Hawaii…John [Lasseter – Pixar’s Chief Creative Officer] believes that if you have a loose, free kind of atmosphere, it helps creativity.”

Many employees, especially animators, are given setups with 2-3 very large monitors, some 3d enabled with Pixar specific animation software that was developed in-house.

Steve Jobs’ office was described as being the cleanest office at Pixar – which from the looks of it houses a very minimally spaced set of Eames Plywood chairs, a Noguchi Table, a Razor scooter, and not much else.

Elsewhere in the campus lie office chairs that originally were owned by Walt Disney Studios from the 30’s. Though the original plan called for a very mid-century modern aesthetic, utilizing classic design as well as rugs that were handwoven by Tibetans in Nepal.

The campus itself also houses modeling workshops, storyboard rooms, a massive render farm, and of course orchestra and sound recording facilities.

An Epic Campus Landscaping Plan

Though most companies do not have the ability to develop a major campus landscaping plan, Pixar wished to use their 20-acre campus as a special, unified place carved out of the surrounding urban context. “The landscape, designed by Peter Walker Partners, is agrarian than manicured in character, with many seemingly undiscovered places to walk, sit and talk, or eat lunch.”

The exterior campus includes a 600-seat outdoor amphitheater, a soccer field, and an organic vegetable garden used by Pixar’s chefs, flower cutting gardens and a wildflower meadow. And for both fun and fitness, they also have an olympic-sized swimming pool, volleyball court, jogging trail, and basketball court.

As Jobs put it – these amenities were meant “to keep his young animation staff happy – and animated.”

In order to create the desired agrarian atmosphere, the exterior is filled with both native and exotic plants and trees – including European beech, live oak, palms, redwoods, Japanese maple, and cottonwood trees. The visitor entrance also boasts a series of beautiful rose gardens.

To Fence or Not to Fence?

An interesting point of contention in the development of the campus came, oddly enough, over Pixar’s desire to fence in the property during the second phase of the campus. Why fence in the property?

The company’s Director of Facilities explained, “We are a movie studio, and this is what movie studios do, now that we are a more successful company, people want to get into Pixar. We get fans and tourists; we call them ‘looky-loos. But we also get people who want to steal our intellectual property, our ideas, It’s no laughing matter that the world is a much different place than in 1998.”

Emeryville’s city council initially denied the expansion plans over the fence, but it seems after pressure from Pixar – and a threat or two to leave Emeryville – the plan (fence included) was approved.

Connecting with the Workplace

Creating a work environment that people enjoy working in can be one of the most challenging aspects of modern office design. And surely one of the most memorable features of Pixar’s are the many characters, both big and small, that find their way around the campus. Outside you’ll find a huge version of Luxo Jr., while the cast of The Incredibles and Monsters Inc. can be found within the atrium.

Why do they do this? Sure it adds some brand value to a campus that otherwise might seem plain, but for a company like Pixar who slaves for many years bringing their films to life, I think it represents a connection to and love of their work.
There can be no greater feeling that walking around the workplace and being reminded of the great work you helped to produce – as well as seeing the smiles of the many visitors as they recollect the ways each movie touched their lives.

Coming Back to Reality

If you’ve been reading and thinking about how much your work environment need improvement in order to match up with Pixar, you aren’t alone. The company currently employs around 1200 people – has since built several more phases which have added room for more employees in additional buildings which include a rooftop garden, central hearth, as well as bringing much of the campus to LEED Silver certification.

Much of the latest work has been completed by Huntsman Architectural Group, and Gensler.

Now while the campus has expanded significantly past its original bounds, the plan designed around creating an atmosphere where creativity thrives is still very much intact.

But while we can sit around and mope about how our offices are stiflingly terrible, we should actually be considering what things we can learn from this design and how we can implement them into our own workplaces.

Here are a few things to help create that ‘Pixar feeling’ in your office:
1.    Be intentional about designing for collisions and unplanned collaboration – rather than using managerial force.
2.    Use the office space to remind employees why they work for the company.
3.    Make the office fun and a place employees want to work, rather than have to work.
4.    Allow employees to express themselves through their workspaces.

Additional Photography

While my original post on Pixar included some shots, I have since come across a number of additional campus views that I hope you will enjoy. Much of the following photography – specifically the beautiful architectural photography – was completed by Sharon Risedorph Photography. The photo of Luxo JR was taken by Jason Pratt.

Categories Architecture, Design, Narrative, Tech Industry

How Tech Office Space Sets the Bar for Everyone Else

What would you do if you had an unlimited budget to improve your company’s next office renovation?  Below is a great article detailing what some tech giants are doing to their interior design to keep their employees happy, productive and in the office. 
One simple takeaway is that these companies are doing THE most innovative and comprehensive buildout you can possibly build.  AND they are applying everything in the real world.  We find that our clients, regardless of industry, are watching and observing all these changes and then incorporating as many of their favorite features as they can afford into their own space.
Contact me if you would like to see some examples in Phoenix or across the US.



Technology firms and the office of the future
Their eccentric buildings offer clues about how people will work

April 29th 2017

FROM the 62nd floor of Salesforce Tower, 920 feet above the ground, San Francisco’s monuments look piddling. The Bay Bridge, Coit Tower and Palace of Fine Arts are dwarfed by the steel-and-glass headquarters that will house the software company when it is completed later this year. Subtle it is not. Salesforce plans to put on a light show every night; its new building will be visible from up to 30 miles away.

It is not the only technology company erecting a shrine to itself. Apple’s employees have just begun moving into their new headquarters in Cupertino, some 70 kilometres away, which was conceived by the firm’s late founder, Steve Jobs. The four-story, circular building looks like the dial of an iPod (or a doughnut) and is the same size as the Pentagon. At a price tag of around $5bn, it will be the most expensive corporate headquarters ever constructed. Apple applied all its product perfectionism to it: the guidelines for the wood used inside it reportedly ran to 30 pages.

Throughout San Francisco and Silicon Valley, cash-rich technology firms have built or are erecting bold, futuristic headquarters that convey their brands to employees and customers. Another example is Uber, a ride-hailing company, which is hoping to recast its reputation for secrecy and rugged competitiveness by designing an entirely see-through head office. It is expected to have some interior areas, as well as a park, that will be open to the public.

The exteriors of the new buildings will attract most attention, but it is their interiors that should be watched more closely. The very newest buildings, such as Apple’s, are mostly still under wraps, but they are expected to be highly innovative in their internal layout. Some of that is because of fierce competition within the tech industry for the best engineering and other talent: firms are particularly keen to come up with attractive, productive environments. But these new office spaces will also signal how work is likely to evolve. Technology companies have already changed the way people behave in offices beyond their own industry, as a result of e-mail, online search and collaboration tools such as Slack. They are doing the same for physical spaces.

The big idea championed by the industry is the concept of working in various spaces around an office rather than at a fixed workstation. Other industries have experimented with “activity-based working”, but tech is ahead. Employees may still have an assigned desk but they are not expected to be there, and they routinely go to different places to do various tasks. There are “libraries” where they can work quietly, as well as coffee shops, cafés and outdoor spaces for meetings and phone calls. The top two floors of Salesforce Tower, for example, will be used not as corner offices for executives but as an airy lounge for employees, where they can work communally and gaze out at the views over a latté.

A fluid working environment is meant to allow for more chance encounters, which could spur new ideas and spark unexpected collaborations. Facebook’s central building is the world’s largest open-plan office, designed to encourage employees to bump into one another in its common spaces and in a nine-acre rooftop garden. Communal areas are meant to be casual and alluring. John Schoettler, head of real estate at Amazon, says he aims to make them into “living-room-like spaces”. For offices to feel like home, it helps to hire a designer with expertise in residential real-estate, says Elizabeth Pinkham of Salesforce. In common areas at the firm’s offices, there are TVs, couches and bookshelves. Framed photos of a few employees add to the effect.

The new “working at home”

For those who scoff at the creative benefits of being surrounded by pictures of Colin from accounts, there are more tangible payoffs. The lack of fixed workstations shrinks the amount of expensive real estate given to employees without leaving them feeling too squeezed. Tech firms devote around 14 square metres to each employee, around a quarter less than other industries, according to Randy Howder at Gensler, a design firm. Young workers are thought to be more productive in these varied environments, which are reminiscent of the way people study and live at university. One drawback, however, is that finding colleagues can be difficult. Employees need to locate each other through text messages and messaging apps.

Collaborative spaces can also expose generational tensions, says Louise Mozingo, an architecture professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Tech firms’ elderly employees (otherwise known as the over-40s) can struggle to adjust to moving around during the day and to the frequent disruptions that come from large, open-plan offices. Many of Facebook’s employees do not like their office because it is noisy, and some Apple employees are hesitant to move into their new building for the same reason. Plenty also balk at the massive distances they will need to walk.

That may not be the only thing to cause employees concern. Tech firms are increasingly keen to use their own products in their headquarters. Jensen Huang, the chief executive of Nvidia, a chipmaking firm whose graphics processing units are widely used in artificial-intelligence programmes, says his firm plans to introduce facial recognition for entry into its new headquarters, due to open later this year.

Nvidia will also install cameras to recognise what food people are taking from the cafeteria and charge them accordingly, eliminating the need for a queue and cashier. A self-driving shuttle will eventually zip between its various buildings. And Nvidia’s own AI will monitor when employees arrive and leave, with the ostensible aim of adjusting the building’s heating and cooling systems.

The data that firms can collect on their employees’ whereabouts and activities are bound to become ever more detailed. Another way of keeping tabs on people is through company-issued mobile phones. “Every employee has their own tracking device,” observes Mr Howder at Gensler. “Technology firms will sooner or later take advantage of that.”

Few of them are willing to share details of their future plans because of concerns about employees’ privacy. However, some of their contractors signal what sort of innovations may be in the pipeline. Office-furniture makers, for example, are experimenting with putting sensors in desks and chairs, so that firms will be better able to monitor when workers are there.

Such data could be anonymised to allay privacy concerns. They could also save electricity or help people find an empty room to hold a meeting. But it is not hard to imagine how such data could create a culture of surveillance, where employees feel constantly monitored. “Technology firms could be an indicator of what will happen with privacy in offices more generally,” says David Benjamin of Autodesk, a company that sells software to architects, among other clients.

Silent discos and Bedouin tents

A less controversial trend is for unusual office interiors. These can distinguish companies in the minds of their employees, act as a recruiting tool and also give staff a reason to come into the office rather than work from home. For companies that do not ship a physical product, such offices can serve as important daily reminders of culture and purpose.

Last year LinkedIn, a professional social network, for example, opened a new building in San Francisco that is full of space set aside for networking, and that includes a “silent disco”, where people can dance to music with headphones on. Instead of offering generic meeting rooms with portentous names, Airbnb, a tech firm that lets people rent out their homes, has designed each of its meeting spaces after one of its rental listings, such as a Bedouin tent from Morocco. It also has a meeting room (pictured above) that is an exact replica of the rental apartment where the founders lived when they came up with the idea for Airbnb. Every detail, including the statue of Jesus in red velvet on top of the fireplace, is accurate, says Joe Gebbia, one of the company’s founders.

Nvidia is obsessed with triangles, the basic element of computer graphics used to create lifelike scenes in video games and movies. Its new headquarters, which cost $370m, is shaped like one (see picture), and its interior is full of them. Everything, from the skylights to the benches in the lobby, is triangular. “At this point I’m kind of over the triangle shape, because we took that theme and beat it to death,” admits John O’Brien, the company’s head of real estate, who pointedly vetoed a colleague’s recent suggestion to offer triangle-shaped water bottles in the cafeteria.

Such workspaces remind staff that they are choosing not just an employer but a way of life. In the tech bubble of the late 1990s companies disrupted the workplace by offering foosball tables, nap pods, blow-up castles and free lunches. Now the emphasis is on amenities that help employees save time. Larger firms, including Facebook, Alphabet and LinkedIn, offer their staff something akin to the services used by the extremely wealthy, helping employees to find places to live, adopt pets and the like. Some large tech groups offer on-site health care.

The effect of all this is that the typical office at a technology firm is becoming a prosperous, self-contained village. Employees have fewer reasons than ever to leave. With the spare cash they can throw at their employees, tech giants have vastly raised the bar for other kinds of company, which also want to recruit clever engineers and techies for their projects.

Other industries would be wise to take time to watch how tech firms are structuring their work environments. There is certainly a chance of a backlash against those that use their products to watch employees too closely. Workers may like free lunches and other perks associated with the tech business, but probably not enough to surrender their privacy entirely.


Categories Architecture, Design, Narrative

World’s Coolest Offices 2017

Every year, we share the most innovative offices from around the world (and a few from our own clients).  Below is our list from 2017. 

First, you get a few of the best clients we were fortunate enough to work with this past year. We can hold our own here in the Valley of the Sun.  Below our clients are the international companies from Inc. Magazine. It’s amazing to see the creativity that goes into building out all of these spaces.  
Pick your favorite. I love Kudelski (our client—but I’ve been in the space), and the Airbnb space in Dublin.  Scroll down, it’s worth your time. 


PS — In addition to the coolest offices of 2017, we had a client (Oaktree Capital and Cypress Properties) turn loose 4 architects to build out 4 spaces without direction or budget.  We called it Project Future (check out this background video). These 4 spaces turned out fabulous and the 600 people who toured them on opening night loved the show. Click here to see the spaces and the party.



SkySong 4


Greater Phoenix Economic Council


Booker Software


Kudelski Security


And of course, our home, Lee & Associates



December 29th, 2017


Crazy indoor plant life. Castles and opium factories converted into headquarters. Inc. has been keeping tabs on the very coolest offices throughout the year. Here are the best of the best. 

1.    One with nature

If you can’t work outdoors, bring the outdoors inside. Swedish gaming company King used real lichen and trees built out of plywood to create a hideaway that feels like a Scandinavian forest. 


2. Nod to yesteryear

Airy and filled with natural light, WeWork’s flagship China office is built into what used to be an opium factory. The space uses the building’s original staircase and steel beams, painted green for a more natural feel. 


3. Color by number

Dutch architecture firm MVRDV designed a wing of its headquarters to resemble a doll house. The rooms are color-coded by purpose, from the red TV lounge to the dark blue meeting room.


4. Through the years

The offices of genealogy company Ancestry pay tribute to the firm’s employees–and their roots. Portraits of long-tenured workers are hung next to photos of family members from generations ago.


5. Over the rainbow

Media agency Canvas outfitted its office with dichroic glass, which reflects light at different angles. The glass changes color depending on the time of day and the angle at which you view it. 


6. Get nutty

Vice’s Toronto office has a bar designed to feel like a throwback saloon. Made of walnut, it’s stocked with coffee and tea, plus bourbon and whiskey for after hours.


7. A colorful history

British startup converted a Victorian castle into its new home. The new digs combine old-fashioned decor with kitschy elements and pops of color for a truly unique feel. 


8. Stepping up

Airbnb’s Dublin office is the first one the company has designed from scratch. It’s broken into 29 distinct “neighborhoods,” and the staircase at the center serves as a lounge and meeting area.


9. Recharge

PwC’s new Switzerland office gives employees the chance to catch up on rest in the nap room. The natural color palette gives the space a calming, outdoorsy feel.


10. Keep it green

Instead of dividers or walls, co-working space Second Home separates its cubicles with greenery. The Lisbon, Portugal-based office is home to more than 1,000 plants, which also helps improve the office’s air quality.


11. Grayscale

Squarespace went with a sleek, minimalist scheme for its 98,000 sq. ft. New York office. It’s almost entirely black, white, and gray, with the only splashes of color coming from the plant life. 


12. The ring

Apple’s new spaceship-like headquarters give life to a vision initially laid out by Steve Jobs. The campus is home to 12,000 employees and 9,000 trees, and it relies entirely on renewable energy.


13. It’s alive

That’s not a painting: LinkedIn’s 26-story San Francisco headquarters feature a living wall next to the 17th story juice bar. It’s made of various types of moss and has both depth and texture.


14. Dual purpose

Boston-based Pillpack outfitted its lounge with a refurbished Prohibition-era bar. It serves espresso during the day and turns into a DJ booth during nighttime events.


15. Looking forward

Google broke ground on its new London headquarters in late 2017. The 1,066-foot “landscraper” will contain offices, swimming pools, and basketball courts, and will be almost as long as the Empire State Building is tall.




Categories Architecture, Design, Narrative

Third Space First

You heard it here first (hopefully).  There is a new type of space for companies called third spaces.  Third spaces are places for local people to gather and eat, with areas for creative, cultural, and community activities. This is where ideas and startups are born.

If this concept takes off, the next wave of development will need to add third spaces into the design, and existing developments will renovate to add them.  We are seeing it happen with a couple of projects we have in Phoenix.

Renaissance Square is turning two old tennis courts into a very cool collaborative space that will include a multi-use turf field, kitchen and bar area. Here is what it looks like today and the rendering:

Tennis Courts Rendering      Ren Tennis Courts

Camelback Commons took a huge gravel courtyard and added several workspaces along with games and seating areas that are right next to an onsite restaurant.

Camelback Commons Before   Camelback Commons

The market is changing…..and fast. We are right in the middle of it. 




P.S. In part 2 of the premiere, the guys get some one-on-one time with Figtree Capital to see if they can make that special connection.Watch the video below!


Third Space First
The quickly growing number of third spaces is good news for both the social and the urban fabrics. 

By: Erling Fossen 
January 10, 2017

Real estate used to be quite simple. Either you built houses where people lived (first space), or you built offices where people worked from 9 to 5 (second space). What a way to make a living. Then came mixed-use development, where you combined living, working, and leisure in the same area. New York got its first mixed use-zoning districts [pdf] as late as 1997. Now it’s all about third spaces.

A local community group in Dublin gives the best and yet simplest explanation of the “third space” concept, defining third space as “places for local people to gather & eat easily, inexpensively & regularly, with space for creative, cultural and community activities.”

If we dig below the surface of that definition, there exist two fundamentally different approaches to third space, though they are united by the core concept of human interaction. One is connected to an American nostalgia about great places and the erosion of social capital. Communities need places where people can interact and nurture common values. There can be no community without common values.

The other approach is connected to innovation and creativity. Third space connotes creative places where new ideas and start-ups are born. Third places can be co-working spaces, co-creation spaces, shared spaces, community spaces, social spaces, and more. At the center of all these approaches to third spaces are creativity and the desire to foster and commercialize new ideas. Even co-working spaces put their biggest effort in community building. In an ongoing global survey of co-working spaces, nearly 80 percent say the most important feature to attract new members is community building.

In the Western Hemisphere, the number of co-working spaces is increasing rapidly every year. Oslo had ten co-working spaces last year, and we’re looking at 20 this year. Even the secretary of finance in Norway—Siv Jensen—visited a co-working space to learn about how Millennials work and play. When she visited Tøyen Start Up Village last year, she boldly stated that “the entrepreneurs are the real heroes” of our time.
Commercial real estate used to be all about building new headquarters for Fortune 500-companies—or at least for a large single user with a 30-year lease. But end users are not what they used to be. There are many users occupying a single building—drop-in users, short-term users, and maybe a few long-term users. That means developers and designers have to create third spaces both inside and outside the building, where people can interact and capitalize on the ideas brought into existence during and after interplay. Without third spaces, there is no interaction, no attraction, and there are no users.

Public places suffer in general because they don’t generate profit. Both the public authorities and the real estate developers are constantly trying to push the responsibility over to each other. The contemporary quest for third spaces is, therefore, good news. Real estate development must be urban development, literally building its business model around the third spaces. Real estate developers must scrap their Excel sheets and the old business models, or somebody else will. Professional co-workings spaces like WeWork can offer medium sized companies a shared space in larger buildings. Another example, the extensive New Lab in the former Brooklyn Navy Yard, offers a roof and creative surroundings to all the hardware geeks in New York.

Real estate is no longer about buildings, but how we use the urban fabric to create communities that are economically and social sustainable. That’s a completely new ball game for real estate developers. But it’s very good news for the rest of us.


Categories Design, Narrative, Tech Industry

Finally! A Possible Solution to Thermostat Wars

Finally. Maybe? No shot!!  Those were my immediate thoughts when I read the below article.  The war over office temperatures has been fought for decades. The ability to heat and cool their space for themselves, is one of the biggest issues our tenants have. In Arizona, this is compounded by the heat and sunlight beating on the windows during the summer.  

New technology in HVAC data collection and implementation is bringing hope to tenants.  Here are a few highlights:

1.     Agnelli Foundation Headquarters –This building is being equipped with thousands of sensors to track temperature, light, density, etc. in order to provide a climate bubble for each employee.  As the price of sensors drops precipitously, this will change how energy management systems can analyze data.

2.     Comfy – An app designed to give employees the ability to instantly cool or heat their environment.

3.     The Edge – The most high-tech office building in the world provides its tenant with an app that connects them to the building’s lighting and heating systems.  As each individual uses the app, the system becomes smarter, optimizing the environment.

There is no end all be all solution…..Yet.  But there is hope.  Email me if you want us to give you hope in your office space negotiations.


At Last, a Possible Solution to Office Thermostat Wars
New technologies are giving individual office workers more control over the climate around them

By Rachel Emma
March 3rd, 2017


Wars over office temperature may be coming to a thaw.

Thanks to advances in workplace architecture and new sensor and app technologies, individual workers are getting more control over the climate around them, which has long been a battleground for office workers.

Some of the new technologies seem straight out of science fiction. One building under renovation in Italy is going to provide workers with their own “thermal bubbles” that can follow them around the building, so workers will each have their own climate-controlled zone. Elsewhere, smartphone apps such as Comfy let workers order a 10-minute blast of hot or cold air. Users click on either “cool my space” or “warm my space” functions on the app, which connects to a building’s ventilation system, says Erica Eaton, Comfy’s director of strategy.
The headquarters for the Agnelli Foundation in Turin, Italy, is being equipped with thousands of sensors that measure things like temperature, light levels and occupancy levels, and can make adjustments to temperature and lighting throughout the building in real time, says Carlo Ratti, who heads the eponymous architecture firm that designed the renovation of the more than 100-year-old building. Employees can set their preferred workplace temperatures on an app. Then, heating and cooling units located in the ceilings can be activated by their phones, allowing a “thermal bubble” to follow them around the building. When an occupant leaves a particular space, it will return to an energy-saving “standby mode,” like a computer, says Mr. Ratti, also a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
If two employees in proximity have conflicting preferences, the system will average them out, “without any thermostat wars,” he says. “Our aim is to shift the focus from heating or cooling spaces, to heating or cooling people and the space they are occupying.”
At the Edge, the Amsterdam office of professional-services firm Deloitte that opened in December 2014, workers can provide their heating, cooling and lighting preferences and make subtle adjustments to temperature via their smartphones, after downloading a special building app, says Dave Sie, a strategy and operations executive at Deloitte Real Estate Consulting.
The 14-story building’s 28,000 sensors collect anonymized data about workers’ temperature and lighting adjustments, eventually learning aggregated users’ preferences.


Architecture firm NBBJ, which has designed headquarters for firms such as Inc., is experimenting with new temperature, lighting, movement and sound-tracking sensors it calls Goldilocks, says Ryan Mullenix, an NBBJ design partner in Seattle.

Last year NBBJ placed about 50 of the sensors in its New York office. The sensors generate heat maps that workers can track on their phones, helping them to choose workspaces in the office based on their heating, light and sound preferences, which might change throughout the day, Mr. Mullenix says.
NBBJ hopes that the data collected by Goldilocks about its employees’ climate preferences can help the firm design more thoughtful solutions to office climate battles.

“When six people are in one room and they all want six different things regarding climate and light, how do you come to the right consensus? That is the next challenge,” Mr. Mullenix says.

Categories Design, Narrative

Driving Change In Your Office

We spend a large amount of time with our tenants talking about the changing workforce, and how to drive change within the company. Below is a great infographic from Forward Tilt and Allsteel on how to do exactly that — drive change. To drive change, you should know some of the myths that are perpetuated, including:

How much time people spend at their desk. Your people say 80%, but it’s actually 40%. 

Full occupancy and the belief that we need to grow. However, it is estimated that 50% of all office space is underutilized. We spend time making sure built-in growth is real. 

Lots of initiatives — lots of failures. 70% of all change initiatives fail. Designing to the latest initiative is naïve. How you and your team work is way more important. 

Spending time thinking about these issues up front, before you tour, before you renew, before you hire any design group, is paramount. If you’re looking for ways to change your office to better fit your company’s culture, meet your financial goals, and drive change, we can help. Call or email me. 


RCC signature                                                                        


Click Here to EnlargeWorkplaceChange_Infographic


Categories Design, Narrative

UBS Reinvents the Work Space

When you start a new job at a new office, what’s the first thing you do? For most of us, the answer is get settled in your workspace. You are assigned a desk, maybe put up a few pictures, stock the drawers with your favorite pens, and meet your neighbors.

But this simple act of settling in is disappearing as offices move away from permanent work stations to a more flexible office concept.  

UBS is one company making the settling in process go away. Here are some of the revolutionary things they are doing in their office space: 

–They allow and encourage employees to move from desk to desk. (They now have 25-30,000 people using mobile desktops…by the end of 2017 they expect over 70,000.)
–Using the ratio of 1 available desk for every 1.2 employees. This forces movement.

–They are looking to have a total of 6,000 employees going mobile, which will reduce the number of individual offices by 40%. So, there is a bottom-line win for these changes. 

I am not completely sold on these changes. They will not work for every company, but knowing that real companies are making real change helps us think about our own environments.

We work every day with tenants that are implementing this kind of radical change in their workspace. Want to know more? Give me a call. 



No Laptop, No Phone, No Desk: UBS Reinvents the Work Space
By: Chad Bray
November 3, 2016
UBS offices in Zurich. In its newly opened building in London, the banking giant is
looking to change the way employees view their relationship with their workspaces.
 CreditArnd Wiegmann/Reuters

LONDON — A desk is like a home away from home for many in the working world.Family photos, trinkets from a vacation, an extra pair of shoes or spare chopsticks are just some of the things routinely left lying around in what has become personal space.

But that comes at a price for companies, particularly in cities like London or New York, where the cost of real estate is at a premium, and at a time when workers are more mobile than ever.

In its newly opened building in central London, the Swiss banking giant UBS is looking to change the way employees view their relationship with their work spaces.Many of its employees at 5 Broadgate in the City of London will no longer be tied to the same desk every day with a telephone and desktop computer. Instead, the company has deployed so-called thin desks throughout the building.

Phone handsets were replaced by personal headsets, and employees can log onto their virtual desktops on computers at any desk in the building or at home. There are no laptops to lug around, and their phone numbers follow them from desk to desk or to their mobile devices.

“For me, it’s opening up and allowing people to work in different ways on whatever project, whatever activity they’re working on,” said Andrew Owen, managing director for UBS group corporate services in London. “Being chained to a desk in a singular environment is restrictive.”Employees have a small amount of filing space and a locker where they can keep any personal items they might use during the day. (Larger caches of documents that are held on paper for the longer term can be retrieved from an off-site location within two hours.)

The elimination of fixed desks is not a new concept — it has proved particularly popular among technology companies and start-ups — but only in recent years has technology made it more viable for larger companies.
It is still a rarity, however, in investment banking. Citigroup is one of the few companies that has a similar setup, at its new headquarters in downtown Manhattan.

And the practice has not yet infiltrated all aspects of UBS’s business.The trading floors at UBS in London still have a more traditional setup, with groups of employees heading to the same set of desks each day to view three or six screens of trading data.

But that could change in the future. “The trading desk is our next port of call to achieve user mobility,” Ashley Davis, managing director for the UBS corporate center in London, said.

By having a more mobile setup for its employees, UBS believes it is able to use its real estate more efficiently. The company is using a ratio of one available desk for every 1.2 employees who work in the new building in London.More than 6,000 people will ultimately work there; about 89 percent have moved in so far.

There are common areas where employees can gather for meetings or work if the company finds itself at full desk capacity. Most days, however, someone is traveling or on vacation.

UBS executives insist the shift is not all about costs.“I would be wrong to sit here and say there isn’t an economic efficiency dimension,” Mr. Owen said. “In and of itself, that’s not the reason to do it. It would fail on that basis. It has to be of value to our staff and our structure in the way we operate. There has to be a value there.”

UBS spent two years preparing workers in London for the new mobile desk concept and addressing their concerns, Mr. Owen said.

The new metal-covered office building, designed by Ken Shuttleworth of Make Architects, had to overcome a variety of challenges to fit into the neighborhood.

It could not block the view of St. Paul’s Cathedral in central London from King Henry’s Mound, 14 miles away in Richmond. (Legend has it that the mound was the spot where Henry VIII watched a rocket fired from the Tower of London to signal the execution of his second wife, Anne Boleyn, but historians believe the story to be untrue.)As a result, the 700,000-square-foot building is long and flat and rises only 13 stories, what Make calls a “groundscraper” rather than a skyscraper. UBS has a 20-year lease on the property.

Inside, UBS has significantly reduced the number of individual offices, by about 40 percent. None sit against the windows, allowing light throughout the building.

UBS first started a pilot project for mobile desks in Switzerland in 2010 — about the same time it was preparing for the construction of its new building in London.It now has 25,000 to 30,000 employees using mobile desktops in Switzerland and is rolling out the concept to its operations in Nashville and India. By the end of 2017, the company expects to have about 72,000 thin desks globally.

“Working together, talking to each other, working in a more agile way. People are probably not so fixed any more in their working environment,” said Harald Egger, UBS’s head of group corporate services and sourcing. “They work much more in projects.”

Categories Design, Narrative

World’s Coolest Office Spaces 2016

We love office space. It’s our job. And every now and then we find some really cool spaces that we just have to share. Every year, we take a look back on some of the coolest office spaces built over the past 12 months. For 2016, we saw some really cool, some classic, and a few crazy, out-of-a-huge-box office spaces. Click here to see 10 incredible spaces from the Inc. September 12th issue. 
My top 3:
1. AKQA—Tokyo, Japan
2. Make—Carlsbad, CA USA
3. Gensler—Oakland, CA USA
One cool local office is our new space for Lee & Associates. What do you think?

lee office lobby

Lee Office aisle

Pick your favorites from the Inc article, and if you have any other cool office spaces to share, email me. 


Categories Design, Narrative

Innovators and Office Space

Each year I read tons of reports, market studies, and research.  One of the best in the business is Gensler’s workplace survey. This year, Gensler takes a deep dive into innovators–how they work, how design drives innovation, and what is happening for the individual worker.

At the end of this email is a link to the entire report (well worth your time, if you are an office space trends geek like me), or you can read a few of the high points from my perspective below:

Workplace design needs to prioritize both the individual and group work. Below is a graphic showing there is still a long way to go in this area.  When this happens, a number of good metrics come out (job satisfaction and level of meaning go up).

State of Workplace


Not surprisingly, innovators spend more time away from their desk.  Below is a cool graphic that shows this trend. All our clients are asking us how to do this while still getting productivity and creating a team.

Innovators Spend time


Innovators see their office space in its entirety. They have better designed workspaces throughout the office. See below where they find opportunity to make workspaces better and more innovative.

Better Designed workplaces 2
There is lots of disruption in the changing office demographic profile, the nature of work, and of course the design to meet the needs of all this change.  We are a steady hand helping more than 100 companies annually find and lease office space.  Over the past 30+ years, our team has done over 3,500 leases.  We can help you navigate the changing world of office space leasing and design. Email or call me. 

P.S.- Throughout 2016, we endeavored to bring some humor into your day with our video series. At the same time, we hoped you would get to know us and our services as we took you on a tour of our website. How did we do? Any feedback?  If you missed any of the videos, you can find them all by clicking here. Thank you for your thoughts.  

Click here to read the full Gensler report.
Gensler US Workplacec2-webbutton-Share-04

Categories Design, Narrative, Tech Industry

World’s Smartest Building

Sustainability is a huge priority for many in commercial real estate these days. The movement towards green, sustainable buildings has opened the doors for new innovations. The below article highlights a building in Amsterdam that received the highest score for sustainability in the world from BREEAM, the world’s leading assessment for sustainable buildings. Even more exciting for me are all the OTHER upgrades that also make it the smartest building in the world.
This building features sustainability measures like:
-Thousands of meters of solar panelling
-Aquifer thermal energy storage to supply heating and cooling
-A 15-story atrium with natural ventilation

In addition, this building is interconnected and runs almost entirely through a smartphone app. You read that right. The app helps employees:

– Find a desk. Desks aren’t assigned so employees move around every day. 
– Direct you to a parking spot.
– Adjust the heating/cooling in your area. 
If you’re interested in learning more about sustainability/smart buildings and what it means for the future development of commercial real estate, email me.


P.S.- From a smart building to a couple of not-that-smart brokers. Unleash your inner DJ with the Sharks in this week’s video. Click here to learn all about the 1’s and 2’s of Lobby DJ’s.

Lobby DJ
If you are unable to view the video, please click here.

The Smartest Building in the World
Inside the connected future of architecture 

By Tom Randall
Sept. 23, 2015

It knows where you live. It knows what car you drive. It knows who you’re meeting with today and how much sugar you take in your coffee. (At least it will, after the next software update.) This is the Edge, and it’s quite possibly the smartest office space ever constructed.

A day at the Edge in Amsterdam starts with a smartphone app developed with the building’s main tenant, consulting firm Deloitte. From the minute you wake up, you’re connected. The app checks your schedule, and the building recognizes your car when you arrive and directs you to a parking spot.

Then the app finds you a desk. Because at the Edge, you don’t have one. No one does. Workspaces are based on your schedule: sitting desk, standing desk, work booth, meeting room, balcony seat, or “concentration room.” Wherever you go, the app knows your preferences for light and temperature, and it tweaks the environment accordingly.

Photographer: Ronald Tilleman

The Edge is also the ­greenest building in the world, according to British rating agency BREEAM, which gave it the highest sustainability score ever awarded: 98.4 percent. The Dutch have a phrase for all of this: het nieuwe werken, or roughly, the new way of working. It’s about using information technology to shape both the way we work and the spaces in which we do it. It’s about resource efficiency in the traditional sense—the solar panels create more electricity than the building uses—but it’s also about the best use of the humans.

The building of the future necessitated invention. Several stand out. The super-efficient LED panels, made by Philips specifically for the Edge, require such a trickle of electricity they can be powered using the same cables that carry data for the Internet. The panels are also packed with sensors—motion, light, temperature, humidity, infrared—creating a “digital ceiling” that wires the building like synapses in a brain.

All told, the Edge is packed with some 28,000 sensors.

“We think we can be the Uber of buildings,” says Coen van Oostrom, chief executive officer of OVG Real Estate, the building’s developer. “We connect them, we make them more efficient, and in the end we will actually need fewer buildings in the world.”

Fifteen-Story Atrium

The atrium is the gravitational center of the Edge’s solar system. Mesh panels between each floor let stale office air spill into open space, where it rises and is exhaled through the roof, creating a loop of natural ventilation. Slight heat variations and air currents make it feel like the outdoors. Even on a stormy day, the building remains opalescent with natural light and angles of glass.

Photographer: Raimond Wouda

The atrium and its iconic slanted roof, which looks from the outside as if a wedge has been sliced off the building, floods the workspaces with daylight and provides a sound buffer from the adjacent highway and train tracks. Every workspace is within 7 meters (23 feet) of a window.

“A quarter of this building is not allocated desk space, it’s a place to meet,” says Ron Bakker, architect of the Edge at London-based PLP Architecture. “We’re starting to notice that office space is not so much about the workspace itself; it’s really about making a working community, and for people to have a place that they want to come to, where ideas are nurtured and the future is determined.”

New Way of Working

About 2,500 Deloitte workers share 1,000 desks. The concept is called hot desking, and it’s supposed to encourage new relationships, chance interactions, and, just as important, efficient use of space. Desks are only used when they’re needed. Some tiny rooms at the Edge contain just a lounge chair and a lamp (no desk)—perfect for a phone call. There are also game rooms and coffee bars with espresso machines that remember how you like your coffee. Massive flatscreens around every corner can be synced wirelessly with any phone or laptop.

Photographer: Raimond Wouda

Since workers at the Edge don’t have assigned desks, lockers serve as home base for the day. Find a locker with a green light, flash your badge, and it’s yours. Employees are discouraged from keeping a single locker for days or weeks, because part of thehet nieuwe werken philosophy is to break people away from their fixed locations and rigid ways of thinking.

A Dashboard to Rule Them All

Deloitte is collecting gigabytes of data on how the Edge and its employees interact. Central dashboards track everything from energy use to when the coffee machines need to be refilled. On days when fewer employees are expected, an entire section might even be shut down, cutting the costs of heating, cooling, lighting, and cleaning.

Source: Deloitte

Deloitte’s general philosophy with the Edge was that anything with a return on ­investment of less than 10 years is worth a try. The digital ceiling was one of the most expensive innovations; Deloitte wouldn’t disclose the cost, but Erik Ubels, chief information officer for Deloitte in the Netherlands, says it will take 8.3 years to earn it back.

There’s no doubt, says Ubels, that in the future all buildings will be connected, both internally and to other buildings. “The multi-billion-dollar question is who is going to do it. Whoever is successful is going to be one of the most successful companies in the world.”

An Evolving App

The smartphone is your passport to the Edge. Use it to find your colleagues, adjust the heating, or manage your gym routine. You can even order up a dinner recipe, and a bag of fresh ingredients will await you when the workday is over. All desks are equipped with built-in wireless chargers so your phone can keep itself charged.

Electric Car and Bike Parking

When you arrive at the Edge, garage entry is automated. A camera snaps a photo of your license plate, matches it with your employment record, and raises the gate. Even the garage uses sensor-equipped LED lights, which brighten as you approach and dim as you leave. It’s the Netherlands, so a separate garage for bicycles and free chargers for electric vehicles aren’t surprising. In Amsterdam, even the airport taxis are Teslas.

Photographer: Raimond Wouda

Don’t worry, your boss can’t access personal data from the Edge’s sensors and has no idea how many meetings you’ve missed this year. To be sensitive of privacy concerns, Deloitte surveyed employees before it installed the license plate scanner. The vast majority of respondents thought it was fine, as long as it made work life easier.

Long Blue Tubes

The Edge is wired with a vast network of two different kinds of tubes: one that holds data (ethernet cables) and another that holds water. Behind each ceiling tile is a massive coil of thin blue piping that delivers water to and from the building’s subterranean water storage for radiant heating and cooling.

Photographer: Raimond Wouda

During summer months, the building pumps warm water more than 400 feet deep in the aquifer beneath the building, where it sits, insulated, until winter, when it’s sucked back out for heating. The system developed for the Edge is the most efficient aquifer thermal energy storage in the world, according to Robert van Alphen, OVG’s project manager for the Edge.

Powered by the Sun

The southern wall is a checkerboard of solar panels and windows. Thick load-bearing concrete helps regulate heat, and deeply recessed windows reduce the need for shades, despite direct exposure to the sun. The roof is also covered with panels. The ​Edge uses ​7​0 percent less electricity than ​the typical office building​, but it wasn’t until OVG installed panels on the rooftops of some neighboring university buildings that the Edge was able to boast that it produces more energy than it consumes.

Watch the video

Is It Hot, or Just Me?

Sensors in the LED light panels report detailed temperature and humidity readings across a floor (above). A Deloitte survey found that while fewer than a quarter of employees actively use the app’s thermostat features, three-quarters say they love it. Maybe that’s because precision controls eliminate the problem of natural hot and cold spots, often found near windows.

Source: Deloitte

A coming app upgrade will boost efficiency further by suggesting desk locations to employees based on their temperature preferences and meeting locations throughout the day.

Trickle-Down Toilet Water

A massive concrete tub in the back of the parking garage gathers the rainwater used to flush the building’s toilets and water the gardens. It’s a loud room on a rainy day. The water rushes down from collection systems on the roof and outdoor balcony.

RoboCop and the Vacuum

This little robot (bottom left) comes out at night to patrol the grounds. If an alarm goes off, the camera-­equipped automaton can identify the culprit or let security know it was a false alarm. It cruises around automatically like a Roomba or can be commandeered by remote control. Deloitte’s Erik Ubels says he noticed similar robots in shipyards, tracked down the manufacturer, and asked if they could be modified for office security.

Photographer: Raimond Wouda

For smarter cleaning, activity is tracked by sensors built into light panels, so at the end of the day, the people and robots (above right) responsible for cleaning can focus on the areas that have been used most heavily that day.

Human Power

The on-site gym encourages employees to break for a midday workout. Flash your phone at the check-in station and the gym’s app automatically tracks your progress. Some of the ­exercise stations here will actually harness the energy from your workout, sending hard-earned watts back to the grid—as if you didn’t already feel like a hamster in a wheel.

Not Just a Towel Dispenser

The Edge watches you in the bathroom, too (but not in a creepy way). A normal-looking towel dispenser provides a spool of cloth for hand-drying. Unlike a typical hand dryer, though, this one is connected to the Internet. It lets the cleaning staff know when a busy bathroom is probably ready for a cleanup.

Ecological Corridor

Birds, bats, bees, and bugs. These are the building’s neighbors on the north-facing terrace. OVG worked with Amsterdam officials to establish a continuous path of vegetation that supports beneficial insects throughout the city. Birdhouses and bat boxes are tucked discreetly into the landscaping. These pockmarked towers support various species of solitary bees, which buzz about the flowers on the public terrace.

Photographer: Raimond Wouda

Editors: Bryant Urstadt, Katie Drummond
Photo Editor: Donna Cohen
Producer: Bernadette Walker




Categories Design, Narrative

Boosting Productivity in the Office

Workspace design continues to be a hot topic. Last week, I talked about the huge issues that come with open design that we are now discussing with all of our clients. Below my comments is an infographic on a survey that Cort Furniture compiled on workplace trends. I follow it up with a bonus article on how designers are trying to increase productivity as 81% of clients now use their offices as a workplace recruitment tool and 70% of offices now offer some type of flexible work hours for employees.

Here is a quick summary of all of my comments from the past two weeks:

  • The idea of “productivity” is evolving; collaboration techniques between employees and a more cohesive work environment seem to be the key to modern efficiency.
  • The need for privacy is not lost; it is still an integral part of today’s workplace. The idea is to have an alliance between quality group-work and necessary private time. Designers need to continue to work on this and noise disruptions in all environments.
  • In our health-conscious society, office trends now include variations of desks, conference rooms and meeting areas that accommodate both sitting and standing.

If you have any questions or concerns, we are here to navigate you though all the rapid changes occurring in our world. Give us a call.


P.S. We were proud to represent Ober & Pekas in their recent relocation to CopperPoint Tower at 3030 N. 3rd Street. 

For our one minute case studies, please click here.

CRTCOR15056_Workplace_Infographic_R22 (1)



Jul 9, 2014

[Image: Flickr user 準建築人手札網站 Forgemind ArchiMedia]

Creating paths for chance meetings, including nooks, and designing agile, unique workspaces are solutions that designers say promote collaboration, creativity, and productivity in the modern office.

“In the last four to five years, we’ve all been focusing on sustainability and the impact technology has in an office,” says Kay Sargent, director of workplace strategies at infrastructure solutions provider Lend Lease. “During this time, we’ve forgotten that we’re designing for people. Now there’s a real focus on trying to maximize human potential, performance, and productivity.”

But what is productivity? It’s no longer about sitting at your desk with your head down working all day.

“I think of [productivity] as effectively creating ideas and solving problems and a lot of that has to do with being collaborative,” says Miguel McKelvey, cofounder and chief creative officer of coworking office space WeWork.

To help employees come up with their next great idea, McKelvey and Sargent provide the most current trends in workspace designs:

In the past, people used to have to sit at their desks if they needed to answer emails, but today, anyone can do that—or any other work—from anywhere. This means that, from a creative perspective, it’s no longer necessary to make sure people are at their desks at all time.

“It’s more crucial to make sure people are connecting and brainstorming with each other,” says McKelvey, who leads design and architecture at WeWork.

“We’re very specific when we’re drawing work plans. We think about the chances of when a person gets off the elevator where they will go,” he says. “We think about how people get to a coffee machine, when they go and get their lunch, when they go to the bathroom.”

The chance encounters are necessary to increase familiarity and to hopefully create conversations that lead to solutions.

Sargent, former vice president of architecture and design at furniture manufacturer Teknion, says there is a popularity now for designs that help people move.

“There’s a huge movement now to design for human potential … for intellectual and emotional intelligence,” she says. “We see staircases are now designed to be in the center of offices and not in the back as exits.” This is because designers have realized that there are several chance encounters that could happen as people pass one another on stairs, simply going to and from their desks.

The best-case scenario when people run into each other is that brilliant conversations spark, resulting in innovative solutions. This is exactly why you should include nooks—areas where people can go and maintain some privacy—around these common areas and paths.

“When you start a conversation when you’re at the coffee machine, you can quickly sit down after and have a 20-minute meeting,” says McKelvey. “If you have to reserve a conference room to finish that conversation, then you lose time. It’s not efficient.”

McKelvey advises to put these nooks adjacent to social places, such as areas for eating, coffee, or printing.

Instead of the boring walls that usually put people to sleep, glass walls in the middle of a busy area can help keep the mind awake.

“Your mind is being spiked by the activity that’s swirling around,” says McKelvey. The downside is that this could be a problem for people who have issues concentrating.

With the popularity of open floor plans, “it’s certainly important for people to have a sense of privacy,” says McKelvey. “People need a space that they can go to make a conference or Skype call.”

“It’s important to create those spaces and create a company culture that supports those spaces.” In other words, you don’t want to have a culture where the boss is always asking why someone isn’t at their desk.

People need to feel like they can go to a private area for a phone call or simply to work uninterrupted if they need to.

“We’re designing spaces today where every employee doesn’t have to sit in a specific spot,” says Sargent. “Rather than going to sit in one desk all day, it could be that I’ll start working at a bench, then I’ll go to a more quiet space for head-down concentration, then I’ll go to the social hub because I want to connect with my co-workers. We’ve moved beyond traditional offices to agile design.”

Sargent says agile designs make more sense because it feels more comfortable for employees. If you have a house, you go to the space designed for the task at hand instead of having to sit in one spot all day. This increases your movement, and creates an agile environment where people have choices, more control, and power.

“We still need to conquer how to control distractions. You can’t control all distractions, but you can get up and move.”

Research shows that sitting too much is harmful to our health and employers should be concerned about the health of their biggest asset: their employees.

The solution to this problem is the adjustable desk, which is said to be a healthier alternative and can help people feel more alert throughout the day.

“Desks need to be in sync with our natural movements,” says Sargent. “If I want to stand, I should be able to stand and if I want to sit, I should be able to sit.”

Sargent says desks today should be able to adjust to any height and conference tables should do the same since research also shows that standing meetings keep groups more engaged and less territorial than sitting meetings.


Categories Design, Narrative

The Open Office Trap

Yes, open office is all the rage. But there is fallout (as I get older, I can now see there is good and bad in literally everything). Below is a contrarian view on the whole open office collaborative space perspective. Around 70% of all offices are now building open office environments. And with all this openness comes some pretty serious problems. We have already talked about noise and interruptions, but how about these:

–Increased sick days
–Shortened attention spans creating less-than-quality work
–Longer periods to get back to the priority work
–More stress

There are even more below. I highlighted all the issues in green (you’ll notice there’s lots of green).

What does this mean? Instead of just designing space to keep up with the cool crowd, how about designing it to fit your actual requirements? Novel concept.

Next week, I am going back to the mainstream and will be sending some thoughts on office productivity. Stick with our narrative, and you will see all the sides of the debate. Or call us, we live it daily.



P.S.- Do your young guys grind 80 hours a week? In this week’s preview, we give you a taste of what it means to be a runner in commercial real estate. Click here to see the full video on our website.

Runner Pt. 1
If you are unable to view the video, please click here.

The Open-Office Trap

The New Yorker
JANUARY 7, 2014


In 1973, my high school, Acton-Boxborough Regional, in Acton, Massachusetts, moved to a sprawling brick building at the foot of a hill. Inspired by architectural trends of the preceding decade, the classrooms in one of its wings didn’t have doors. The rooms opened up directly onto the hallway, and tidbits about the French Revolution, say, or Benjamin Franklin’s breakfast, would drift from one classroom to another. Distracting at best and frustrating at worst, wide-open classrooms went, for the most part, the way of other ill-considered architectural fads of the time, like concrete domes. (Following an eighty-million-dollar renovation and expansion, in 2005, none of the new wings at A.B.R.H.S. have open classrooms.) Yet the workplace counterpart of the open classroom, the open office, flourishes: some seventy per cent of all offices now have an open floor plan.

The open office was originally conceived by a team from Hamburg, Germany, in the nineteen-fifties, to facilitate communication and idea flow. But a growing body of evidence suggests that the open office undermines the very things that it was designed to achieve. In June, 1997, a large oil and gas company in western Canada asked a group of psychologists at the University of Calgary to monitor workers as they transitioned from a traditional office arrangement to an open one. The psychologists assessed the employees’ satisfaction with their surroundings, as well as their stress level, job performance, and interpersonal relationships before the transition, four weeks after the transition, and, finally, six months afterward. The employees suffered according to every measure: the new space was disruptive, stressful, and cumbersome, and, instead of feeling closer, coworkers felt distant, dissatisfied, and resentful. Productivity fell.

In 2011, the organizational psychologist Matthew Davis reviewed more than a hundred studies about office environments. He found that, though open offices often fostered a symbolic sense of organizational mission, making employees feel like part of a more laid-back, innovative enterprisethey were damaging to the workers’ attention spans, productivity, creative thinking, and satisfaction. Compared with standard offices, employees experienced more uncontrolled interactions, higher levels of stress, and lower levels of concentration and motivation. When David Craig surveyed some thirty-eight thousand workers, he found that interruptions by colleagues were detrimental to productivity, and that the more senior the employee, the worse she fared

Psychologically, the repercussions of open offices are relatively straightforward. Physical barriers have been closely linked to psychological privacy, and a sense of privacy boosts job performance. Open offices also remove an element of control, which can lead to feelings of helplessness. In a 2005 study that looked at organizations ranging from a Midwest auto supplier to a Southwest telecom firm, researchers found that the ability to control the environment had a significant effect on team cohesion and satisfaction. When workers couldn’t change the way that things looked, adjust the lighting and temperature, or choose how to conduct meetings, spirits plummeted.

An open environment may even have a negative impact on our health. In a recent study of more than twenty-four hundred employees in Denmark, Jan Pejtersen and his colleagues found that as the number of people working in a single room went up, the number of employees who took sick leave increased apace. Workers in two-person offices took an average of fifty per cent more sick leave than those in single offices, while those who worked in fully open offices were out an average of sixty-two per cent more.

But the most problematic aspect of the open office may be physical rather than psychological: simple noise. In laboratory settings, noise has been repeatedly tied to reduced cognitive performance. The psychologist Nick Perham, who studies the effect of sound on how we think, has found that office commotion impairs workers’ ability to recall information, and even to do basic arithmetic. Listening to music to block out the office intrusion doesn’t help: even that, Perham found, impairs our mental acuity. Exposure to noise in an office may also take a toll on the health of employees. In a study by the Cornell University psychologists Gary Evans and Dana Johnson, clerical workers who were exposed to open-office noise for three hours had increased levels of epinephrine—a hormone that we often call adrenaline, associated with the so-called fight-or-flight response. What’s more, Evans and Johnson discovered that people in noisy environments made fewer ergonomic adjustments than they would in private, causing increased physical strain. The subjects subsequently attempted to solve fewer puzzles than they had after working in a quiet environment; in other words, they became less motivated and less creative.

Open offices may seem better suited to younger workers, many of whom have been multitasking for the majority of their short careers. When, in 2012, Heidi Rasila and Peggie Rothe looked at how employees of a Finnish telecommunications company born after 1982 reacted to the negative effects of open-office plans, they noted that young employees found certain types of noises, such as conversations and laughter, just as distracting as their older counterparts did. The younger workers also disparaged their lack of privacy and an inability to control their environment. But they believed that the trade-offs were ultimately worth it, because the open space resulted in a sense of camaraderie; they valued the time spent socializing with coworkers, whom they often saw as friends.

That increased satisfaction, however, may merely mask the fact that younger workers also suffer in open offices. In a 2005 study, the psychologists Alena Maher and Courtney von Hippel found that the better you are at screening out distractions, the more effectively you work in an open office. Unfortunately, it seems that the more frantically you multitask, the worse you become at blocking out distractions. Moreover, according to the Stanford University cognitive neuroscientist Anthony Wagner, heavy multitaskers are not only “more susceptible to interference from irrelevant environmental stimuli” but also worse at switching between unrelated tasks. In other words, if habitual multitaskers are interrupted by a colleague, it takes them longer to settle back into what they were doing. Regardless of age, when we’re exposed to too many inputs at once—a computer screen, music, a colleague’s conversation, the ping of an instant message—our senses become overloaded, and it requires more work to achieve a given result.

Though multitasking millennials seem to be more open to distraction as a workplace norm, the wholehearted embrace of open offices may be ingraining a cycle of underperformance in their generation: they enjoy, build, and proselytize for open offices, but may also suffer the most from them in the long run.

Maria Konnikova is the author of “Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes.”



Categories Design, Narrative

Nesting in Office Space Design

OK, so I am not sure if this is pure genius or complete BS. Then again, I know nothing about anthropological research. Below is a short article that discusses the cultural norm of approximately seven people being the ideal group size. Your teams should be seven (plus or minus two), and your office space groups should be the same. Why?
–The team can build trust faster.
–No one team member can hide.
–Positive and negative behaviors stand out.
–Optimum size of groups are 6-8, extended families of 24 and tribes of 150 (See, is this genius?? Or BS?)

One other thought below is that your physical environment is one of five fundamental planks of your culture. Picking a great advocate, like our team of 6, to help you get into the right office space, designed for your culture at the right price is paramount to your team’s success. Give me a call to find out how.
Like the article below states, “Culture is the only sustainable competitive advantage.”


Why You Should Adopt Google’s Nested Approach To Office Layouts


By: George Bradt
June 17, 2014

Google's Nested Approach to Offices
Español: Oficina del Googleplex español. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s all about trust, cultural norms and territoriality. The average family size around the world is seven people, plus or minus two. The optimal team size is seven people, plus or minus two. Google’s new facilities in Switzerland and Ireland are filled not only with wide-open spaces, but with rooms with eight desks in them. Coincidence? Not likely. The anthropological research across cultures indicates that groups of seven people, plus or minus two, create the strongest trust bonds and best reinforce cultural norms.

Woolsey Studios’ Kristine Woolsey took me through her research. She explained that “Google is not very forthcoming about their workplace research,” but you can look at what they are doing – like she did with their new office plans for Switzerland and Ireland. She explained the importance of considering trust bonds, cultural norms and territoriality in designing office spaces:
Trust Bonds
Groups of 6-8 people don’t really need a leader or a manager. Group members can operate on equal footings and guide each other. With a group that size, no one can hide. Positive and negative behaviors stand out. As previously discussed in Why You Must Lead Differently As Your Team Grows, teams of this size function like start-ups – or families. These are bonds you’ll want to strengthen by emphasizing environment and values. Physical proximity helps.
Cultural Norms
Culture is a group’s collective behavioral, relationships, attitude, values and environmental preferences and norms. These norms are driven by formal and informal reactions to stimuli like “organization charts, programs and amenities and facilities” and “will stick if groups are nested.” Any one person can hide in an organization of 1000 people. Individuals can’t in a group of 6-8. So nest groups of 6-8 in extended families of 24 in tribes of 150. This matters because culture is the only sustainable competitive advantage.
We humans are programmed to defend our territory when under threat. This is true for geography, homes – and offices. Woolsey related how Intel sent half their engineers in Arizona “out into the world.” The logic was that they should be spending so much time with clients and customers that they wouldn’t need permanent offices, but rather just flexible stations that they could use when they were in the office.
This works when people are comfortable that their jobs are secure. In Intel’s case, offices became a signal of job safety. Those in offices felt most safe. Those in cubicles felt somewhat safe. Those with flexible stations felt uncomfortable and stopped coming into the office at all.

Enjoyable, Collaborative and Fun
iOffice’s Elizabeth Dukes is adamant that work space should be designed to attract and inspire people. As she told me, “Change is going on. Leaders have to embrace that change whether it’s driven by Millennials and technology or the need to optimize the footprint or the need to drive innovation and collaboration…(Organizations) need to define their space to meet their goals.”
Dukes does not think there is one right solution for every organization. Like Steelcase CEO Jim Hackett, she knows that office layout impacts corporate culture. Her bias tends towards open offices with no or low cube walls and lots of light. But even in her own open workspace she notes that “people group together in groups of about (6-8).”
There are conflicting forces at work here. On the one hand, more closed offices enable more private conversations. On the other hand, more open offices encourage collaboration, let in light and save money through more flexible space utilization. A more open, but nested approach may be the right blend for you.

Capitalize on these insights:

1. Pay attention to your team’s physical environment. It’s one of the five fundamental planks of your culture.

2. Be careful of the unintended consequences of completely open plan, flexible offices. You’ll certainly save money. But at what cost in terms of trust, reinforcement of cultural norms and feelings of security?

3. Physically nest teams of 6-8 in extended families of 24 in tribes of 150.

Categories Design, Narrative

Buildings That Move???

Dynamic Architecture is designing a whole new way to build buildings AND each floor moves independently while rotating. Pretty cool, huh? 
Here are some highlights:
1—Each floor rotates 360 degrees, independently or in a concerted manner. Much like the fancy restaurant at the top of a building we have all been to, but in these buildings every floor rotates.
2—In between floors, there are wind turbines that collect energy creating a building that is green.
3—Other than the core, the building is built off-site at a warehouse and modules are brought in.
The first of these buildings is a planned 68-story tower in Dubai. The building will be constantly changing shape with each floor able to rotate in 90 minutes. Here is the link to the video:
If you want more, here is the link to the architect’s website: This could be a game changer in design and construction.  



Moving Building 3

Categories Design, Narrative

Functional Office Space Basics

While we represent office tenants and landlords each and every day, we are always looking to give our clients basic, simple advice. Below is an article that does this for creating functional office space.

When we work with our tenant clients, we focus on the basics like:
1—Determine how much space the company will need (I told you this was basic).
2—Analyze the company’s work style. This is a big discussion. All sides of this conversation have been discussed at length in this narrative. There is a nice pro and con summary below of open office space.
3—Consider what is driving workplace change. Now more than ever before, change is happening at a lightning pace. Planning the future is paramount.
4—Design for flexibility—different than just change, this looks at different directions in which the business could travel.
Here is a suggestion: If you are not thinking about office space at this time, file this email for future reference. I send myself emails in the future by using the “Options”, “Delayed Delivery” feature. OR you can just hire us now and we will take care of the rest.



Eight Steps Toward More Functional Office Space_Page_1

Eight Steps Toward More Functional Office Space_Page_2 2

Eight Steps Toward More Functional Office Space_Page_3 6

Categories Design, Narrative

Pressed Suits in Your Office?

Leave it to The Economist to call squeezing office space “pressed suits.” Not only is office space becoming more open, it is becoming less personal. Mobile workers and the fact that 50% of all workers are not in the office at any given time, have led to no personal desk environments. In many offices, you show up and get assigned a desk for the day or morning. In at least one office in BBC London, there is a morning scramble to get a good desk. Like covered parking close to the building on an Arizona summer day, these spots are worth fighting for.  
I think this trend is starting to swing too far in that direction along the pendulum and Google might agree. In their new office, each person gets their own space.
If you would like our team to help evaluate your dry cleaning requirements, give me a call. Press on.


Pressed suits

Feeling a bit cramped? Blame management theory

The Economist

April 5, 2014

Pressed Suits

“PROJECT gold” and “Project Nexus” sound like plans for bank heists or military assaults. In reality, they are the names for KPMG’s ongoing attempt to squeeze its 6,700 London employees into ever smaller spaces. Since 2006 the professional-services firm has reduced the number of offices it uses in London from seven to two. By the spring of 2015 everybody will be crammed into one building in Canary Wharf.

According to data from the British Council for Offices (BCO), an industry club, the average office tenant now uses around 11 square metres per worker, 35% less than in 1997. A new building in Ludgate Hill, in London’s financial district, will allocate just eight square metres to each employee. In many offices, rows of “hot” desks have replaced individual offices and even cubicles. “Nowadays it’s almost frowned on to have your own office,” claims Nick Wentworth Stanley, of i2 Offices, a big serviced property firm.

Firms have long known that only about half of all desks are in use at any moment, as employees work odd hours or disappear to meetings, but it was difficult to fill the spares. Better IT systems now mean that people need not be tied to a particular desk. They need not even be in the office at all: as cloud computing and virtual offices take off, more people are working from home or from other places, further reducing the need for desks.

Aside from cheapness, there is a motive behind this squashing. Inspired by Silicon Valley, firms are trying to make their offices into “collaborative spaces”, where people bump into each other and chat usefully. KPMG’s redesigned Canary Wharf offices will include lots of “breakout spaces” where employees can relax, and quiet rooms where people can get away from hubbub, says Alastair Young, who is planning the move. He thinks this will both improve productivity and save money.

In this happy new world, offices are not just places to work but also a way of expressing corporate identity and a means of attracting and retaining staff. At the offices of Bain & Company, a management consultancy, inspirational quotes on walls help workers to identify with Bain’s brand, explains Sam Axtell, the company’s operations director. Games rooms and relaxing spaces help them “release alpha waves”.

This flummery has a practical consequence: it means more workers can be crammed into the middles of cities. Fewer firms now require suburban back offices, says Sandra Jones of Ramidus, a property consultancy. Between 2001 and 2012 the number of workers employed by large firms in Croydon, on the edge of London, declined by almost a quarter, to around 34,000. In Manchester and Birmingham, too, new office jobs have been created in rejuvenated city centres at the expense of suburbs. This may be one reason commutes are lengthening.

Not everyone is delighted by the rise of cramped hot desks. At Broadcasting House, the BBC’s new offices in London, a shortage of good desks has led to frantic morning scrambles. A manager at a financial firm in the City complains that since his firm redesigned its office, there are only enough phones for one between two. KPMG has seen crushes at lifts and in the canteen; the crowds have also put pressure on the air-conditioning system.

A modest backlash is under way, in an unexpected quarter. Google’s new offices in King’s Cross will have all sorts of collaborative space. But workers will still get their own private desks. Where that company leads, others tend to follow.

Categories Design, Narrative

World’s Coolest Offices 2014

Once a year I send out the coolest office spaces in the world. Below is the 2014 version. Take a look at some really off the wall, crazy and cool spaces. The article is so big, we had to put just a few of the photos below, but a link to the entire article is just a click away highlighted in yellow below.


This year I am adding some of the coolest spaces we closed as well…Here you go:

Forward Tilt:
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Patrick Hayes Architecture:
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 Click here for the entire article.

World’s Coolest Offices 2014
Meet the workplaces of your dreams. Sun-splashed atriums, sprawling outdoor verandas, and cozy, color-saturated nooks are some of the hallmarks of the most remarkable offices in the world.
By: Christine Lagorio-Chafkin
Welcome to the fourth annual Inc. World’s Coolest Offices. These are some of the most awe-inspiring, spectacular, and just straight-up useful office spaces in the world–and they’ve all been completed within the past three years.

While you’ll notice that a couple of the winners are massive company headquarters, with brilliantly–and subtly–integrated branding, elaborate fixtures, and sweeping views, you’ll also notice that several of the winners built out their stunning offices on a much more constrained budget. 

These are not the childlike offices (scooters, ball pits) of the early aughts. These are thoroughly sophisticated, thoughtfully designed spaces that glance toward the future. For more, you can check out this year’s runners up here and here. Now, without further ado, the coolest offices in the world…

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Red Brand, Green Heart

While not glaring, Coke’s branding is evident throughout its offices. Not only is fire-engine red at play on every floor, but a custom-built, double-sided display wall has also been installed over three floors to showcase the brand’s heritage. Sustainability has been at the heart of the new office’s build-out. The building includes extensive LED lighting throughout and photovoltaic cells on the roof.
Location: London
Designed by: MoreySmith
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Fresh Look for Old Bones

Throughout the sprawling headquarters, bridges and added mezzanines connect different work zones and open-meeting areas. Hallways branch out from a central cafe era, leading to open, benched workstations and shared work spaces. While the brickwork is original to the building, Bestor Architecture strategically added wood accents to draw focus, provide texture, and warm up the concrete surroundings.
Location: Los Angeles
Designed by: Bestor ArchitecturePHOTO: NASTY GAL

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A Majestic New Headquarters for Wieden+Kennedy

When advertising firm Wieden+Kennedy was expanding from one floor to three, it wanted to ensure it wouldn’t fragment its workplace. So it sought design elements that would unite the entire company, and allow for both spontaneous interactions and informal meetings. This sweeping “coin” combines a staircase and stadium seating, visually connecting the floors.
Location: New York City
Architect: WorkAC
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Open Air, for Relaxation or Celebration

At first glance, this space looks like a simple patio. Not so much. Open up those massive garage doors to merge the outdoors with the interior area–which contains coordinating decor and a bar–and it’s an instant party. “We’ve been able to have big events, up to 700 people with live music,” McKelvey says. “We always have the beer kegs flowing in our bars, so it can be an informal get-together on a Thursday, or a serious party.”
Location: Washington, D.C., Wonder Bread location
Designed by: WeWork
Categories Design, Narrative

Top 10 Emerging Trends in Real Estate for 2015

The Urban Land Institute is a thoughtful group of committed real estate practitioners who are global in their membership and thoughts. They have recently produced their emerging trends for 2015. You can click here for the complete document. Below I have included a few pages of Chapter 1 for a quick review, the entire document is lengthy. 
Here are my personal highlights—most of which have nothing to do with their trends:

–“Jobs will chase people” is becoming the primary rule in the market. BUT, you need talent, skill, and knowledge. Without these, you will not be recruited.
–Technology—both incremental and disruptive, is changing space use, location, and demand levels. This is one of the reasons why I spend a bunch of time in this narrative discussing new technology. Fast and Furious.
–Aging—A huge new concern for America, although this is the first time I have discussed it in this narrative. Aging refers to crumbling and decrepit infrastructure. We rely upon roads, bridges, transit, water systems, and even electrical grids to live our lives. These were put in place 50 to 100 years ago and we rarely think about them—until they stop working. We have a D+ grade in the US given to us by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Very early each morning, I drive down Camelback Road on my way to the preserve for my hike/run. Camelback road is one of our most visible and high end roads. At least five times a year there is water pooled in the street. After about a week, the street crews come, temporarily fix the leak and repave. Within a couple months, the water is leaking again, not always in the same place. Instead of fixing the problem permanently, they Band-Aid it. Take that one small story and run it across America—
you’ll see that we have a big problem coming.

–Finally, there has been no real rebound year so investors are requiring deep market knowledge and hands on local skills. That is where we come in. If you need information on Arizona or Metro Phoenix, let me know.
There is lots more in the report along with my standard highlights. Enjoy.




For the entire Chapter 1, with highlights, please click here.
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Categories Design, Narrative

Cozy in Your Cubicle? An Office Design Alternative May Improve Efficiency

Open office design, benching, and cool space layout have been topics we have discussed over the past few years. Below is a very interesting article on the start of the open office space movement and why it failed miserably. Today, we are seeing open office layouts in over 70 percent of new space designs. That does not mean the C-Suite officers have given up their offices. Not yet. But some are trying—see below. Also, I wanted to add two takeaways for you from the article:

1—The newest buzzword—you heard it here first: “activity-based working” or ABW. This basically means people are more productive when they get to choose where they work.
2—Changing to a complete open office is not easy nor fully vetted. People start picking the same spot each day or they take over the quiet room and make it their office. The trend is still in its infancy stages.

You can read the complete article below or just my yellow highlights. Stay tuned as we monitor the office space trends for you. Better yet, hire us to represent you on your next lease.


Cozy in Your Cubicle? An Office Design Alternative May Improve Efficiency


By: Belinda Lanks

September 18, 2014

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Photograph by Adam Friedberg for Bloomberg Businessweek

In 1993, Jay Chiat had an epiphany while skiing in Telluride, Colo. The adman who created Apple’s (AAPL) memorable “1984” TV commercial thought it was time to “think different” about his own office: Chiat believed the workplace had become as static as an elementary school, with people only leaving their desks for lunch and for trips to the bathroom. He wanted his office to be more like a university campus.
When he returned to his agency, Chiat/Day, in Los Angeles, Chiat announced he was banishing job titles, workstations, landlines, and desktop computers. Employees could work from home, visiting the office anytime for client and team meetings. But when they did come, they’d have to store their personal items in a locker and sign out company-owned laptops and cell phones.

The experiment was an unequivocal failure. For starters, there weren’t enough computers and cell phones to go around. “You had people coming to work to get on line just to get their supplies to do their job,” recalls Bob Kuperman, then president and chief executive officer at Chiat/Day’s Los Angeles office. Because the lockers were too small to hold much paper, some staffers resorted to using the trunks of their cars as filing cabinets. Others started playing hooky. Chiat, who passed away in 2002, “was way ahead of his time,” says Clive Wilkinson, the architect who designed a new office for the agency after it was sold to Omnicom Group (OMC) in 1995. Too far ahead, he says, noting that the upheaval “placed an appalling burden” on the staff.
Chiat’s vision of the workplace may finally be having its moment. Wilkinson, who also designed Google’s (GOOG)headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., recently completed a 65,000-square-foot office in Midtown Manhattan that has a lot in common with the advertising legend’s folly. At Gerson Lehrman Group, all 250 employees are equipped with office-issued laptops and telephone headsets and can choose from a variety of workspaces instead of assigned offices or cubicles. At the end of the day, they store gear in personal lockers.
GLG’s Headquarters
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Employees at 15-year-old GLG, which pairs up people from different fields for professional development, begin their day by walking into a sun-splashed atrium furnished with comfy chairs. A barista is on duty at a polished brass coffee bar from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Staff can choose to work wherever they like: the cafe, a traditional or standing desk, a semi-enclosed carrel, or a closed-door booth.
The guiding philosophy behind this game of musical chairs is “activity-based working” (ABW), a term coined by Erik Veldhoen, a Dutch consultant and author of the book The Demise of the Office. The consulting firm Veldhoen founded argues that when people are able to choose where to sit, they structure their days more productively. “They are more conscious of what they’re going into the office to do and why they’re going to do it,” says Louis Lhoest, a partner at Veldhoen + Co.
Starting in the mid-1990s, ABW began making inroads through Europe and elsewhere. In 2009, Wilkinson—who became acquainted with ABW in 2006 while touring offices in the Netherlands—completed his first ABW project in Australia for theMacquarie Group (MQG:AU), a global financial company based in Sydney. GLG’s office is the largest implementation of the concept in the U.S. Proponents argue that ABW isn’t a space-saving solution like “hoteling,” where workers can reserve workstations in advance, or like “hot desking,” where they’re free to sit at any available desk. “We have room for 350, but we only have 250 people working for us,” says Richard Socarides, GLG’s head of public affairs.
(Click here for a video from the article online)
ABW can be a hard sell. Managers “have to learn to cope with not having people within their line of sight,” Lhoest says. Workers may also find it tough to give up a desk of their own. One of the few liberties workers are afforded in Dilbert-style cubicle farms is the freedom to festoon pin boards with images of pets, loved ones, and, yes, Dilbert comic strips. In ABW setups, laptops fill the void; users can summon to their desktop thousands of dog pictures at will. In fact, Wilkinson sees the tendency toward personalizing workstations as a response to bad design. “If you have an exciting work space,” he says, “you really don’t need to decorate it further.” Luc Kamperman, another Veldhoen partner, likens a traditional office to a used Toyota and a well-executed ABW workplace to a Porsche, only “you have to share the keys.”
To get employees to buy in, GLG allowed each department to appoint representatives to an architectural committee and held town hall meetings. Veldhoen + Co. conducted workshops in preparation for the transition. “You’re really asking for trouble if you don’t carry your staff along with you,” Wilkinson says.

Yves Béhar, the designer responsible for the look of the Jawbone fitness tracker and the SodaStream (SODA) carbonated water dispenser, likes the ABW concept but says his firm, Fuseproject, couldn’t function without designated workstations: “We work with mockups and project-based tools, and those have to remain in place overnight.” In ABW offices, desks are wiped clean at the end of the day.
After a couple of months in the office, a few people at GLG have begun to nest, returning to the same desk each day, and some have co-opted the booths as all-day private offices. Department leaders have tried to set an example by moving around, and management is considering a policy to encourage holdouts to sit in different places. GLG is making a concession for the intensely introverted: a quiet zone where they can retreat from ambient chatter—like the quiet car on Amtrak’s Acela commuter train.

Categories Design, Narrative

Downsizing and Space Utilization

Increasing space utilization is a goal almost all of the tenants we represent have. Below is an article that discusses the inherent difficulties of attaining the perfect space and layout. At the end of 2013, tenants were space planning to 180 SF per person. As described in this narrative previously, this brings a large number of issues to the forefront, including, parking ratios, power limitations, hvac capacity, floor loads, and tenant improvements. 
The topic today discusses what companies are planning and actually achieving. For decades, companies have been leasing space based on projected growth. Today, we encourage our clients to really understand what they need AND how their business will likely change based on technology in the future. This includes designing for:
–Mobile workers
–Third place workers (a new term for people who work from coffee shops or other out-of-office places)
–Home based workers

A few large companies, like Accenture and P&G, have been able to increase their space utilization from 50% to 85%.  This is a huge increase indeed. Smaller companies are usually just focused on survival or growth, so utilization is less important. They look at monthly rent. How do these big companies do it? They utilize space standardization, using the cloud for data storage, and non-dedicated spaces for almost everyone.
Other methods for cramming people into space (ha— a technical term for space utilization) include:
–Getting natural light into the space. The more people, the more light you need to not feel claustrophobic.
–Good temperature controls. Every time I walk through an office space, I see foot heaters, fans etc. Including my own. 
–Good air quality—this is becoming more of an issue. I hope to cover this more in depth in a future narrative.
–Lots of collaborative spaces for meetings and amenities—I have covered this a ton over the past few years. 
Here are some interesting stats to end this discussion:
–Tenants over 75,000/SF represent only 1.8% of all tenants in the US, BUT they account for 27.9% of all space leased.
–Tenants with 2,500/SF or less account for over 50% of all transactions, but only account for 10% of all space leased.
I’ve included more info below with my highlights within the article.



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Categories Design, Narrative

Floating Office for Startups? Let’s Get Outside of the Box Today

I love entrepreneurs. I have no idea if this will work, but I saw this company and looked over the website and thought what a creative mind. AND of course, what creative office space. Blueseed ( is a group trying to raise money to build a ship that will sit 12 miles off the coast of California to house startup companies and their visionaries. For a couple grand a month, you can have a room and a place to work. No financial services are permitted (can you say, “tax evasion?”). This was announced in 2012 and it looks like there are no major investors today.

Plans call for:
–1,000 startup companies
–With a H-1B visa (mandatory), you can visit the U.S. 180 days per year
–“Enhancers” like accountants, attorneys and other consultants will be on board
–Blueseed will take an equity position in the startup companies in addition to the rent

I have pulled a number of the renderings from the website, take a look along with a summary article highlighted for ease of perusal. I just thought I would get you outside the box for a few minutes this week.

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Blueseed Builds Floating Office For Tech Startups
Blueseed plans to turn a cruise ship into a floating office park anchored in international waters 12 miles from Silicon Valley, providing a home for technology startups and other entrepreneurs who can’t qualify for U.S. work visas.

Government Information Week

By: Kevin Casey
June 6, 2012

Blueseed Modern Hull
At quick glance, it’s the stuff of real estate gold: 360-degree ocean views! Amazing amenities! Catered meals! A 30-minute commute to the heart of Silicon Valley! The location isn’t quite ready for occupancy, but it has a select group of residents in mind: High-growth entrepreneurs who want to be close to the technology capital of the world–and the financial capital that funds it.

The address? That’s a bit trickier. It’s a boat anchored 12 miles off the California coast. Blueseed, the startup behind this marine utopia, hopes to build a community there comprised of the boldest and brightest entrepreneurs from around the globe. But why would the next generation of bright technology minds choose the Pacific Ocean over a, well, normal address?

“There is no work visa for entrepreneurs,” said Max Marty, Blueseed’s CEO, in an interview. “There is no way for someone who wants to come [to the U.S.] and start their own company to do so legally.” H-1B visas must be sponsored by an established U.S. employer; there is no equivalent for a non-U.S. citizen who wants to found the next Google or Intel on American shores. “We’re sort of in this ridiculous situation where people want to come here to create companies and technologies and [jobs], but we’re not allowing them to do this,” Marty said, himself the son of Cuban immigrants.

Blueseed believes it has a solution: A commercial and residential compound that floats just beyond the invisible line that marks international waters, a dozen miles from the harbor in Half Moon Bay, Calif. “Things like visa regulations do not apply to individuals who are out there,” Marty said. “You can legally work on [starting] a company, you can earn a paycheck, you can do all of those wonderful things as long as you are at least 12 miles from shore.”

This is no free-for-all–among the basic prerequisites for any prospective tenant is a valid B-1 business visa. This allows its holder to spend up to 180 days a year in the United States. While it prohibits employment, it does allow entrepreneurs to meet with potential investors, go to networking events, and conduct other types of business in a perfectly legal manner. A 30-minute ship-to-shore ferry commute will put Blueseed’s residents on the road to places like Palo Alto, Mountain View, and San Francisco.

If all goes to plan, though, Marty and his fellow executives believe the real action will occur on board. The flagship has room for some 1,000 entrepreneurs, plus crew members and a host of “enhancers” such as accountants, intellectual-property attorneys, and other consultancies–much like a land-based business incubator might offer. The ship will feature just about every service and amenity you can imagine: Onboard medical services, a concierge, 24-7 security, full-service gym, dining, shopping, and a variety of entertainment options. A certain number of rooms will be set aside as a hotel of sorts for overnight visits from investors, media, musicians and other artists, and similar guests.

Marty envisions Blueseed’s own, oceanic version of the famed Google Talks series. He has also met with administrators at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business to discuss opening a satellite campus on board. In its ideal incarnation, Blueseed will become its own micro-version of Silicon Valley itself, flush with intellectual and financial capital. “The environment on board will be such that people won’t want to leave,” Marty said.

Blueseed’s first critical challenge in achieving that ideal: Like any community, the boat’s success will depend on the quality of its resident businesses. Blueseed will have a direct interest in who comes aboard; it’s not simply a landlord, but an angel investor at sea. In addition to collecting roughly $1,600 average monthly rent per person–not bad for an oceanfront apartment in the Bay Area–the company will get an equity stake in each of the startups on board.

“It’s up to us to help these companies succeed and create an environment that’s actually fostering their growth,” Marty said. “It makes us want them to grow to the point where, at some later stage in the future, they can have a liquidity event.” As a result, the application process will be competitive and may require a referral from a reputable venture capitalist or other investor. Roughly 260 startups have expressed an interest in moving onto the Blueseed boat, which plans to drop anchor in late 2013 or early 2014.

Some types of businesses need not apply–they’re not necessarily bad ideas, but they clash with Blueseed’s second fundamental challenge, what Marty calls the “managing the entire political apparatus” that comes with their venture.

Blueseed Map
Blueseed’s principals are well aware that the concept of a boat that drops anchor 12 miles offshore so its residents remain exempt from certain laws could ruffle the wrong feathers. Just the word “offshore” generates all sorts of thorny political, economic, and legal connotations.

As a result, transparency is tantamount to Blueseed’s success. The company has already turned away some potential tenants simply based on what they do. Anything in the broad industry bucket of “financial services,” for example, is a no-go; the mere whiff of tax evasion or other improprieties sends the Blueseed team sprinting in the opposite direction.

“It’s very important for us to have a proactive stance in talking to constituencies, policymakers, and everyone who will be affected, so that everybody is very clear about what we’re doing,” Marty said. “This is for entrepreneurs. This is not for existing companies to go and outsource their employees.”

Marty added that Blueseed will be a stopping point rather than an end point. The goal, he said, is to foster the startups until they’re large enough that U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services “takes them seriously” and an organization is better equipped to go through the process of becoming a land-based employer. “That is our goal and it’s very important to be open and upfront about that because it’s such a novel project,” Marty said, adding that the early feedback from lawmakers and their staffers has been generally positive.

Marty’s right: It’s a novel idea, but not one without precedent. The gaming industry took to water, too, from casinos on major cruise lines, to local party boats, to riverboats that don’t actually ever leave the dock. All share a common trait: They’re able to operate gambling businesses just beyond the jurisdiction of local and federal law. The parallel’s not lost on Marty, though he notes many of those businesses do their best to operate in relative secrecy because blackjack and dice, simply put, have an image problem. Blueseed has no interest in a similar PR strategy.

“Because we’re doing something that’s so novel and in-your-face, we need to be as clean and as free of issues and problems in every other sphere as possible,” Marty said. Blueseed is steering clear of anything and everything that might put it in murky legal waters or otherwise raise a regulator’s eyebrow. (Prospective tenants should certainly not expect a casino among the onboard attractions.)

Blueseed’s stated mission taps into the collective hair-pulling over the American economy. It cites, for example, a variety of stats on how startups create millions of jobs–a smart strategy as the U.S. continues to fret over high unemployment and its place in the world of technology and innovation. On its website, Blueseed points out that the boat itself will become its own economic engine: “We’ll create an entirely new supply chain, which will result in new jobs in the area around Blueseed’s supply lines and ferry port (Half Moon Bay, California). All these goods are going to come from [the] mainland, not from abroad.” The company notes, too, that residents will frequent Bay Area businesses and pay California sales taxes while on land.

And, like any viable startup, Blueseed seeks to fill a market need: Lots of entrepreneurs want to hang their shingle in Silicon Valley but can’t simply because of their passport. To be sure, there are plenty of other technology and startup hotbeds, around the U.S. and worldwide. None have quite the same allure.

“Silicon Valley is known as the most fertile ground in which to plant the seeds of a startup,” Marty said. “Perhaps not the only one, but certainly the best.”

Categories Design, Narrative

NAIOP’s ‘Office of the Future’ Competition

Last year NAIOP held another office of the future competition. Below are the four finalists and their concepts. Here is a summary:

–Hickok Cole out of Washington DC suggested a building with a second “skin” that could help filter sunlight and change as heat and light change.

–Miller Hull from Seattle talked about adaptability where contemplation and collaboration are designed into the building. If you recall, in 2013 I sent one of my narratives on the world’s most sustainable structure: the Bullitt Center. Miller Hull was the architect.

–Gensler presented “hackable buildings” where redesign of existing buildings would make them reusable and completely unrecognizable. Even their own LA headquarters had sections of the second floor jettisoned to create an open mezzanine level. I send a portion of Genlser’s annual Meta Trends a while back in an email.

–Pickard Chilton from New Haven, Connecticut presented a concept to precast materials that will cut project construction times by months. This would include premade floor modules that would allow mechanical, electrical and lighting systems to be integrated quicker and easier.

If you want to see the actual presentations given, here is the link:  Scroll down for each presentation. Otherwise, below is a summary article and some renderings.


P.S. Andrew was quoted in the March/April issue of Commercial Investment Real Estate, the magazine of the Certified Commercial Investment Member Institute. Read his comments about corporate real estate trends here.


‘Office of the Future’ Competition Finalists Present Concepts
Finance and Commerce

By: Frank Jossi
May 17, 2013

New office buildings will consist of shape-changing materials that allow them to produce as much energy as they consume. They likely will be made of precast materials, saving on time and costs, and have floor plates with fewer square feet devoted to workers because many of them will spend less time there.

Older structures will be retrofitted into more attractive spaces with corners transformed into atriums, retail at street level, and offices where walls and floors have been reworked into more creative spaces.

These are just some of the ideas offered Tuesday at the “Office of the Future” presentation sponsored by the NAIOP Commercial Real Estate Development Association and several other real estate-related organizations. The event, held at the Hopkins Center for the Arts in Hopkins, drew more than 350 people to hear the four finalists in NAIOP’s Office of the Future competition. (Minneapolis-based RSP Architects received an honorable mention.)

Minneapolis-based Ryan Cos. US vice president of development Rick Collins, a judge in the national NAIOP contest, invited the finalists to the Twin Cities for another round of presentations. Collins has been in the news this week in announcing Ryan’s $400 million redevelopment plan that will include two 20-story office towers near the Vikings stadium in downtown Minneapolis.

Though architects represented four different firms on the East and West coasts, they generally agreed that future offices will have speak to a millennial generation of “digital natives” who want access to green space, public transit and to work in open, casual environments in sustainable buildings.

One structural approach that arose in the presentations was the idea of a second skin on new buildings that could help filter sunlight.

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A second skin on new buildings could help filter sunlight, according to Michael Hickok, founder and principal of Washington, D.C.-based Hickok Cole, who offered the concept of “a skin more like a plant that would change shape as heat and light change.” Hickok Cole is a finalist in NAIOP’s Office of the Future competition. (Submitted image: Hickok Cole)

Michael Hickok, founder and principal of Washington, D.C.-based Hickok Cole, offered the concept of “a skin more like a plant that would change shape as heat and light change,” he said.

The second skin would contract as the intensity of the sun’s heat increased and open them as natural light dims. Floors will be free of columns and elevators and staircases will be “pushed” to the exterior sides of buildings rather than the more common placement in the middle of a building, said Hickok, echoing an idea suggested by the panel’s other architects. A typical floor size could be 60 to 65 feet wide and 200 to 300 feet long, he said.

A building could have two electrical systems — direct and alternate currents — to allow for renewables such as wind and solar to plug directly into higher voltage systems. “Most of what we showed today could be built today,” he said.

The Miller Hull Partnership in Seattle offered the concept of more raw open space that could be customized by employees, said Craig Curtis, partner and lead designer. “The à la carte space embraces contemplation and collaboration,” he said.

The Miller Hull firm designed such a building in Seattle, the recently opened Bullitt Center that bills itself the world’s most sustainable structure. Among its many efficiency features are composting toilets, a rainwater capture and reuse system and a solar array largest enough to power the building’s electric needs, he said.

The future offices will be in neighborhoods with plenty of services and restaurants, Curtis argues, so the buildings themselves may not have to have cafeterias, fitness centers or other accoutrements.

Office of the Future 2
New Haven, Conn.-based Pickard Chilton’s concept includes precast materials, which the firm says have proved to reduce construction costs and time. Pickard Chilton is a finalist in NAIOP’s Office of the Future competition. (Submitted image: Pickard Chilton)

With architects serving as “building curators,” a new structure will likely have retail, art galleries, supermarkets and other services in addition to offices above the ground floor, he adds.

A different spin on the panel came from of Shawn Gehle, design director of Los Angeles-based Gensler, who promoted the “hacking” of older buildings to adapt them to modern workers. He pointed out that the actual need for new buildings in the United States isn’t large, which means that the challenge will be in renovating existing properties into more appealing spaces.

Buildings constructed after World War II could be revived in novel and radical ways. Taking as his example the FBI’s much loathed fortress-like headquarters in Washington, D.C., Gehle added a retail mall on the roof and topped its flat roof with a soccer field.

Corners sliced open to become atriums. Pop-out bays added visual appeal. Part of the building would become a hotel, or apartments, making for a mixed-use neighborhood, he suggested. The building is for sale, as it turns out, but Gensler’s plan was more of a creative exercise rather than a potential reality.

Even so, Gensler’s own office in Los Angeles’ Bunker Hill business district was partly “hacked,” with sections of a second floor jettisoned to create an open mezzanine level.

Office of the Future 3
Los Angeles-based Gensler suggested “hacking” the top off the FBI’s fortress-like headquarters in Washington, D.C., and putting a retail mall on the roof with a soccer field atop the mall. Gensler is one of four finalists in NAIOP’s Office of the Future competition. (Submitted image: Gensler)

Reusing older buildings makes sense. “As office space per employee drops there will be an abundance of vacancy,” he said. “Reusing buildings is the most sustainable thing you can do.”

New offices will also employ precast materials that can reduce project lengths by as much as four months, according to Brett Spearman, a designer at New Haven, Conn.-based Pickard Chilton. Premade floor modules will allow for mechanical, electrical and lighting systems to be integrated into them much more quickly and easily, he said.

By having so many prefabricated pieces available, a building owner could realize a 6.3 percent reduction in construction costs and a 20 percent reduction in construction time, he said. Data will be used to continually monitor energy use in new buildings, Spearman added, allowing owners to tweak systems for cost savings.

Office of the Future 4
The Seattle-based Miller Hull Partnership’s concept represents “a building that becomes a part of an agile, adaptable business machine, somewhere between a hands-on community and the raw edge of technology,” according to NAIOP, which named Miller Hull one of four finalists in the Office of the Future Competition. (Submitted image: Miller Hull Partnership)

Panelists agreed that many of the challenges of creating future offices come in dealing with government regulation that don’t allow for some innovations and from the way commercial real estate leases are written today.

Collins wondered if developers and builders in the future might charge a “cost per occupant” as opposed to a cost per square foot.

Hickok suggested businesses might pay more if they could see greater productivity. Better design, he said, makes “employees more efficient.”


Categories Design, Narrative

Colors and Productivity — 5 Big Trends in Office Design and Colors and What They Mean

Below are the five big trends in office design for 2014. Guess what? I have been ALL OVER these trends for the past two years. Talk about getting cutting edge info before it is cutting edge—read it right here and be ahead of the game. Seriously, the five trends are things I have spent a lot of time talking about (open spaces, mobility) and other pretty obvious ones (more light from the outside and nicer kitchen break rooms). But the last trend is about colors and productivity.

I remember when I first started brokerage. Companies painted their walls crazy colors to designate areas, and to “spice” up the office. Then, five years later, the colors changed and you could tell the era of the space by the colors much like you can on a home with the carpet colors. As it turns out, colors do make a difference on productivity. Below is a cool article sent to me by Roberta Thomas of Evolution Design that talks about the different colors. I can attest to the color red. When I bought my house 15 years ago, the master bedroom was painted red and the carpet was red. We kept it for a year and the intensity of the color was just too much. We had to go neutral on both on the walls and carpet.

Based on reading this, I am now thinking of painting my kids’ rooms blue. Think they will do their chores more constantly? I have highlighted the best comments in yellow below because yellow is considered optimistic and enhances concentration.




5 Big Trends that Will Dominate Office Designs in 2014

Design and Trend

By: Meredith Lepore
January 25, 2014

Office Design Trends
Office space trends (Photo: Thinkstock)

Offices have clearly changed over the last 50 years (watch any episode of Mad Men and this will be quite clear). But even in the last 10 years we have seen a major evolution for office spaces as companies migrate toward a more open and communicative workspace. “From integrating the latest technology to increased collaboration among coworkers, work environments are changing and so must the way offices are furnished,” said Ann Sennewald, vice president of merchandising at CORT, provider of transition services and furniture rental for businesses. “Offices designed in 2014 must reflect the needs of modern-day employees and invoke collaboration, flexibility, mobility and more.”

Here are the big office design trends we will see in 2014.

1. Open spaces
Cubicles are a thing of the past now. Not it is all about “hot desking” which gives employees the space to move around and work where they want, according to Bris Aluminum.

According to CORT, lounge seating areas are a key furnishing and office design trend that enable collaboration. Lower walls and cubicles foster a team environment. Unassigned tables put between work spaces are also enabling employees to meet and collaborate spontaneously.

2. Mobility
Offices are more mobile in general and so should work spaces. CORT finds that most chairs have wheels, but stools and standing height tables are also becoming popular. Seating that can move with employees is fostering the collaboration and flexibility mentioned above. Today’s employee is also increasingly aware of the health effects of prolonged sitting, hence the focus on ergonomic chairs for employees at all levels and stand up desks.

3. Bringing the outdoors in
People work better when they don’t feel like they are couped up inside all day. Bris Aluminum says greenery and plants will be in a lot more offices as well as access to roof decks.

4. More kitchen and eating rooms
Everyone knows that people commune around food so why not make more spaces that accommodate that? Plus, eating together can bring about more collaboration.

5. Bright colors and designs
No more boring gray or blunt white. Get ready for some colors and fun patterns in offices! So many studies show that certain colors like red and orange stimulate productivity.

…More on colors…


Best 5 Colors That Increase Productivity


Source here

Try to think about a color that has the most positive impact on you. If you are responsible for choosing the most suitable color for office environments or your home, you should be aware of the effect of each color on people’s behavior. Which colors increase concentration and productivity? On the other hand which colors cause that you do not want to spend long time in a certain environment?

This article is about Color Psychology and it will explain effects of different colors on human behavior.

The basic division of colors is into warm and cool colors. Colors in the red area of the color spectrum are known as warm colors and include red, orange and yellow. If you want a room that conveys energy and cheerfulness, and encourages social interaction, warm colours are the right choice of the interior paint. However, these colours also evoke feelings of anger and hostility. For example red clothing might not help people in negotiations or confrontations. Furthermore, when considering use of warm colors in your office or house, you should know that warm colors also increase alertness and to some extent they could be overwhelming. Therefore, people tend to spend less time in a room that is red than in one that is blue. Warm colors are therefore suitable for non-production areas like entrances, corridors and locker rooms.

Colors on the blue side of the spectrum are known as cool colors and include blue, purple and green. They are psychologically soothing and tend to create calm and quiet mood and encourage concentration. That is the reason why cool colors are mostly picked as the interior paint for production areas, maintenance shops and can make a reception appear spacious and welcoming.

  • 1. Blue color – people are more productive in blue rooms. Blue stimulates workers to a higher performance. What is interesting is that blue clothing is recommended to job interviews because it symbolizes loyalty.
  • 2. Green color – green symbolizes nature and it helps to evoke relaxed mood. It is currently the most popular decorating color. Thus the backstage rooms where actors are waiting to appear on TV or on stage are painted with green color, as it calms the nerves and people are more relaxed.
  • 3. White color – white is popular in decorating because it is light, neutral, and matches with everything. White areas seem more spacious, reflect more light and usually give people optimistic mood. Therefore white and other light colors are used in production areas, small rooms and hallways. White is the symbol of cleanliness and sterility, thus it is used in hospitals and various medical centres.
  • 4. Red color – the most emotionally intense color that stimulates a faster heartbeat and breathing. Red is recommended by decorators as the ideal color of furniture since it attracts attention.
  • 5. Yellow color – yellow is considered as optimistic color that enhances concentration, however it is too bright for the eye to be taken in. People lose their temper more often in yellow rooms.
Categories Design, Narrative

Design Forecast for 2014–Six Meta-Trends

Each year Gensler puts out a very informative marketing and informational piece that I find fascinating. I copied a couple of the key pages from this year’s piece and they are below. Get your reading glasses out or just see my highlights.

They talk about Six Meta-Trends:
–Mobility and performance—I have spent a lot of time on the mobility issue in these narratives. Adding performance to the picture is key. Companies like Yahoo are bringing some employees back to the office. Mobility only works when there is performance.

–Health inside the workplace—lots of hi-tech companies are focused on this. Bringing health to multi-tenant office buildings, now that is a different story. Today, nobody is really focused on it. In fact, in the 90’s almost every new building had a small workout room with showers. However, these saw very little use by tenants. Maybe the time has come to rethink this issue.

–Integrating Tech with the office—everybody is working on this. Technology in the office is a topic for today and the foreseeable future.

–Urbanization—In the next month or two you will see the actual graphing of this trend. I am doing an email on urbanization with some comparison to Metro Phoenix. The bottom line is that the big urban centers will continue to grow and create issues within their cites and for markets like Phoenix as we continue to compete.

–Globalization—Since Thomas Friedman’s foundational work “The World is Flat,” globalization is something we are all acutely aware of. Grabbing a Coke in a Wati in the middle of the Sahara desert while I was running the Marathon Des Sable (Okay, a little bit of bragging here. Check out the toughest footrace in the world told me this was an amazing trend here to push us all into new markets.

–Urban development. Phoenix has been interesting. Over three billion in investment in our downtown and it remains an Monday through Friday environment. Housing is the answer. People must live, work and play there. We have the work and play. Need more housing but the cycles keep messing with that ingredient.

Below the Meta-Trends is the page on office development. Here are a couple key points:
–Parking—we continue to see greater need for parking.
–Floor plates—they suggest bigger and bigger. I think there is a need for that but not for every submarket.
–Higher ceilings—cost be damned. I agree.

Thanks for taking a look.






Categories Design, Narrative

Week 5: The Best for Last or at Least the Most Expensive–Apple’s New HQ

Eighteen months ago, I sent out the initial renderings of Apple’s new campus. Now you get an insider’s view. “Apple Campus 2,” as it is called, looks like a spaceship that has landed and the price tag is out of this world as well. Five billion dollars. This was Steve Job’s last big project he worked on before his passing. Today the site is 80% asphalt. When completed, the site will be 80% open space and park.

–There is not a straight piece of glass in the building (one of the reasons why the $3 billion budget is now over $5 billion)
–172 acres of land
–They will demolish 2.6 million SF of office and add 3.2 million SF
–When completed, 12,000 workers will house here which means that they will have a pretty normal density of one employee per every 266 SF

There are a number of renderings below AND additional highlighted text below the renderings.

On a side note (with more information at the bottom of this narrative), Apple is moving a group to Mesa, AZ. Seven hundred workers will be housed there. Seems like small potatoes but we are excited to have anything from a world class company like Apple and hope they grow like weeds. In a news announcement that came out three weeks ago, it looks like their next move will be making sapphire iPhone displays. Rock on Apple.

I hope you have enjoyed the last five weeks. If so, you can like our Facebook page here. Follow us on Twitter here or join our Google+ community here. More exciting and informational narratives arriving next week.

Thanks for reading,



Apple Spaceship Campus:
25 Photos of the New Campus Planned for Cupertino

Int'l Business Times

By: Dave Smith
October 13, 2013

One of the first renderings of the new Apple spaceship campus, which was unveiled by the Cupertino City Council in late 2011. The Apple spaceship campus should be completed by 2015 or 2016. Courtesy / Apple

Update (Oct. 16, 2013 – 2:10 p.m.): The Cupertino City Council has unanimously approved “Apple Campus 2.” Barring any last minute petitions, Apple’s building permits will go into effect on Nov. 20.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) on Thursday revealed a scale model of its planned “spaceship” campus, which, if approved by the Cupertino, Calif., City Council on Tuesday, is slated for completion in either 2015 or 2016.

“The concept of the building is collaboration and fluidity,” Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer told the San Jose Mercury News in an exclusive interview, echoing sentiments from Apple executives Sir Jony Ive and Craig Federighi from their interview late last month. “It’ll provide a very open-spaced system, so that at one point in the day you may be in offices on one side of the circle and find yourself on the other side later in the day.”

For its new spaceship campus, which the company calls “Apple Campus 2,” Apple essentially plans to flip its current 175-acre site, which Oppenheimer calls a “sea of asphalt” as the former Hewlett Packard campus is composed of 80 percent asphalt, transform it into 80 percent open space and parkland, and drop a giant ring of polished glass right in the middle of it.

Renderings and drawings of the new Apple spaceship campus first appeared in late 2011, describing a “distinctive and inspiring 21st century workplace” that consisted of 2.8 million square feet over four stories to accommodate up to 13,000 Apple employees, with a mostly subterranean parking lot to help preserve the beauty of the site’s natural surroundings.

Prior to his death in October 2011, Apple founder Steve Jobs had a chance to present the new Spaceship campus “2” to the Cupertino City Council. The renderings and full-scale model were built by renowned architect Sir Norman Foster and his team at Foster + Partners.

“It’s a pretty amazing building,” Jobs said. “It’s a little like a spaceship landed. It’s got this gorgeous courtyard in the middle. It’s a circle. It’s curved all the way around. If you build things, this is not the cheapest way to build something. There is not a straight piece of glass in this building. It’s all curved. We’ve used our experience making retail buildings all over the world now, and we know how to make the biggest pieces of glass in the world for architectural use. And, we want to make the glass specifically for this building here. We can make it curve all the way around the building. … It’s pretty cool.”

Oppenheimer was present at a two hours-plus meeting with the Cupertino City Council — we’ve embedded the full video at the bottom of the page — but there’s no better way to understand how the new Apple spaceship campus will work than to see it in action. Thanks to Apple and the San Jose Mercury News, we’ve accumulated a set of 25 photos and renderings of the Apple spaceship campus. Enjoy.

Another early rendering of the Apple spaceship campus, which is slated for completion in either 2015 or 2016. Courtesy / Apple

The full scale model of the new Apple spaceship campus. Courtesy / Dai Sugano, Bay Area News Group

A close-up of the full scale model for the new Apple spaceship campus shows tables, chairs, and plenty of space. The roof is also adorned with black solar panels. Courtesy / Dai Sugano, Bay Area News Group

Apple’s proposed new spaceship campus shows a road leading to an underground parking space, which would help preserve the area’s natural beauty. Courtesy / Dai Sugano, Bay Area News Group

Late Apple founder Steve Jobs said the new Apple spaceship campus would not include a single straight piece of glass. Courtesy / Dai Sugano, Bay Area News Group

A look inside the full scale model of the new Apple spaceship campus. Courtesy / Dai Sugano, Bay Area News Group

The full scale model of the new Apple spaceship campus included a parking structure, which is mostly underground, with moss growing on the sides and solar panels on the roof. Courtesy / Dai Sugano, Bay Area News Group

A look inside the full scale model of the new Apple spaceship campus. Courtesy / Dai Sugano, Bay Area News Group

Apple’s Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer, left, and Dan Whisenhunt, Senior Director of Real Estate and Facilities at Apple. Courtesy / Dai Sugano, Bay Area News Group

A close-up of the wellness and fitness center proposed for the new Apple spaceship campus, which is slated for completion in 2015 or 2016. Courtesy / Dai Sugano, Bay Area News Group

A close-up of the full scale model of the new Apple spaceship campus shows how the parking lot would be mostly subterranean. Courtesy / Dai Sugano, Bay Area News Group

A close-up of the full scale model of the new Apple spaceship campus shows a new theatre for meetings and presentations. Apple has only held a handful of product presentations at its Cupertino headquarters. Courtesy / Dai Sugano, Bay Area News Group

The full scale model of the new Apple spaceship campus. Courtesy / Dai Sugano, Bay Area News Group

The full scale model of the new Apple spaceship campus shows how parts of the underground parking structures would overlook Interstate 280 in California. Courtesy / Dai Sugano, Bay Area News Group

This close-up of the full scale model of the new spaceship campus proposed by Apple shows the road leading into the subterranean parking structure. Courtesy / Dai Sugano, Bay Area News Group

For its new spaceship campus, Apple plans to install trees and greenery into the center of the all-glass ring for better air flow. Courtesy / Dai Sugano, Bay Area News Group

The full scale model of the new Apple spaceship campus also shows a few different buildings on the perimeter of the campus designated for research and development. Courtesy / Dai Sugano, Bay Area News Group

Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer, left, and Dan Whisenhunt, the senior director of real estate and facilities at Apple, reveal the full scale model of the new spaceship campus for Apple, slated for completion in 2015 or 2016. Courtesy / Dai Sugano, Bay Area News Group

The full scale model of the new Apple spaceship campus shows off the all-glass enclosure. Courtesy / Dai Sugano, Bay Area News Group

Another look inside the full scale model of the new Apple spaceship campus. Courtesy / Dai Sugano, Bay Area News Group

The full scale model of the new Apple spaceship campus shows off a new transit center. Courtesy / Dai Sugano, Bay Area News Group

The full scale model of the new Apple spaceship campus shows off four floors and 2.8 million square feet of space, with a roof adorned with solar panels. Courtesy / Dai Sugano, Bay Area News Group

Another look at the parking structure planned for the new spaceship campus at Apple in Cupertino, Calif. Courtesy / Dai Sugano, Bay Area News Group

The full scale model of the new Apple spaceship campus. Courtesy / Dai Sugano, Bay Area News Group

Apple this weekend also updated its project plan for its new spaceship campus, which includes solar roofing to help power the building. We’ve included the new proposal directly below the video of Oppenheimer’s presentation at the Cupertino City Council.

PROPOSED PROJECT The proposed project is the redevelopment of the approximately 176-acre project site into a new campus for Apple, Inc. (Apple). Apple is a corporation, established in Cupertino in 1976, that designs and markets consumer electronics, consumer software, and personal computers.

The project site currently comprises buildings with office and research and development uses1 which would be replaced as part of the proposed project. The campus would be self-contained and would include office, research and development space, parking, employee amenities, and a central utility plant. In addition, a segment of Pruneridge Avenue would be vacated by the City to allow for the development of a unified and secure campus. The Glendenning Barn, currently located north of Pruneridge Avenue, would be relocated to an on- or off-site location. As part of the project, Apple would also undertake changes to local roadways in the vicinity of the site. The project designer is the architectural and planning firm Foster + Partners, headed by Norman Foster. The landscape designer is OLIN, a landscape architecture and planning firm, headed by Laurie Olin.

The project would result in the demolition of all structures within the project site (consisting of approximately 2,657,000 square feet of building space) and the ultimate construction of 3,420,000 square feet of office, research, and development uses; 245,000 square feet of auditorium, fitness center, and Valet Parking Reception uses; 92,000 square feet of utility plants; and parking and ancillary buildings (such as security receptions and landscape maintenance buildings). Proposed buildings are designed to be energy efficient and to use renewable energy, much of which would be produced on-site (via photovoltaic infrastructure and fuel cells). Please refer to Chapter III, Project Description, for additional detail.

Apple’s ‘Spaceship’ Campus Budget Balloons from $3 Billion to $5 Billion

Portraying Apple’s new corporate campus as an “investor relations nightmare,” a new report reveals that the project’s budget has increased by $2 billion, causing it to become a year behind schedule as the architect looks to cut costs.

Apple Insider

By: Neil Hughes
April 04, 2013

Apple Insider1

Citing five people close to the project, Bloomberg reported on Thursday that the cost of Apple’s so-called “spaceship” circular campus could now exceed the $3.9 billion cost of New York City’s new World Trade Center complex. The increase in costs has reportedly led to a delay in the project, as architect Foster + Partners seeks to cut $1 billion from the budget.

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook already revealed in February that his company plans to move to its new “Campus 2” by 2016. That’s a year later than the company had originally projected.

Late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs had a hands-on role in designing the facility. He personally revealed the project at a Cupertino City Council meeting in June 2011, just months before his death, where he noted that the project would be costly due in part to its use of curved glass.

“There’s not a straight piece of glass in this building,” Jobs said. “We’ve used our experience in building retail buildings all over the world. We know how to make the biggest pieces of glass for architectural use.”

With the project now apparently over budget, Bloomberg questioned how investors would react to the cost of the project. At the end of its last quarter, Apple had $137 billion in cash reserves.

“Investors didn’t squawk much when Apple was dominating the smartphone and tablet market, but shares have fallen 38 percent since September amid rising competition from Samsung Electronics and concerns about Apple’s product pipeline,” author Peter Burrows wrote, adding that critics would ask whether “curved glass is the best use of funds.”

Most of the cost of the project lies in materials and “fit and finish.” Under the plans overseen by Jobs, there will be “no seam, gap, or paintbrush stroke showing; every wall, floor and ceiling is to be polished to a supernatural smoothness,” the report said. Even the interior wood must “heartwood” from the center of trees from a specific series of maple.

Apple Insider2

The report speculated that some of the $1 billion in cuts that have been made to the project will come from some of those “fit and finish” aspects pushed for by Jobs. For example, the former CEO originally wanted polished concrete ceilings that will be cast in molds on the floor and lifted into place.

Apple’s new corporate headquarters will be located about a mile east of its current location in Cupertino, Calif. The company plans to migrate about 12,000 workers to the site, but also plans to retain its existing office space at 1 Infinite Loop.

The circular four-story main facility will be one of the largest buildings in the world at 2.8 million square feet. The project earned its “spaceship” moniker from Jobs himself, who said at the Cupertino City Council meeting that the project would look like one had landed in the city.

Apple’s Mesa Facility to Create 2,000 Jobs


By: Mike Sunnucks and Kristena Hansen
November 6, 2013

PHXBIZJOU_new Apple purchase

Apple Inc. confirmed today that is locating a domestic manufacturing plant in Mesa at the former First Solar facility.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and the Arizona Commerce Authority announced the site selection today. The site selection is a huge coup for Brewer, the ACA and the East Valley.

Apple will bring in 700 permanent jobs and create another 1,300 construction jobs to finish the build-out of the empty First Solar plant. Construction costs were not immediately available.

Apple officials also issued a statement noting they are partnering with the Salt River Project to power the plant with solar and renewable sources.

“We are proud to expand our domestic manufacturing initiative with a new facility in Arizona, creating more than 2,000 jobs in engineering, manufacturing and construction,” the Apple statement reads. “This new plant will make components for Apple products and it will run on 100 percent renewable energy from day one, as a result of the work we are doing with SRP to create green energy sources to power the facility.”

The plant will be located at the Eastmark development. That is Scottsdale-based DMB Associates redevelopment of the former GM Proving Ground in the East Valley.

“We’re obviously excited that Apple has chosen Mesa to have a manufacturing facility,” Mesa Mayor Scott Smith said. “This has been a great win for Arizona, the region and Mesa.”

Smith said there were no city incentives for Apple to locate in Mesa.

Greater Phoenix Economic Council President and CEO Barry Broome said the Apple plant will help the Valley attract other technology companies.

“Apple’s presence in the region will be a game-changer for the Greater Phoenix’s area, its innovation landscape and future ability to attract other high-tech companies,” Broome said.

The announcement also is a huge win for DMB’s Eastmark. The Mesa development has been stymied by the recession, a stalled resort and the First Solar plant that never was put into production despite incentive help.

Rumor: Apple could produce 100-200M sapphire iPhone displays with new equipment

Apple Insider 2
By: Mikey Campbell
February 06, 2014

A report on Thursday claims Apple partner GT Advanced has taken receipt of sapphire manufacturing and testing equipment at its plant in Arizona, with the new machines estimated to output between some 100 and 200 million 5-inch iPhone displays per year.

iPhone_SapphireiPhone_Sapphire 2

GT Advanced Technologies’ ASF sapphire furnace.
Source: GT Advanced

In a supposed effort to get a sapphire facility up and running in Mesa, Arizona, Apple and manufacturing partner GT Advanced Technologies are assembling machinery that will reportedly be used for bulk sapphire production. Among the machines said to be on-site are furnaces and advanced testing equipment.

While the source of the information has not been fully disclosed — listed only as “import/export records” — analyst Matt Margolis (via 9to5Mac) claims GT has taken receipt of 518 fully assembled furnaces that he estimates can churn out enough sapphire for between 103 million and 116 million 5-inch iPhone displays. An additional 420 machines wait unassembled and could boost yearly production numbers to about 200 million units.

According to GT, “ASF” sapphire furnaces produce high-quality, large-area substrates for demanding applications like high brightness LEDs, consumer electronics and industrial applications.

As for the sapphire inspection tools, GT is using a piece of hardware from Intego called the SIRIUS Slab. The automated system will increase the yield of high quality sapphire in a repeatable manner, says a GT Advanced press release detailing the Intego partnership. In the document from March 2013, GT’s president and CEO Tom Gutierrez said the implementation would offer lower costs and increased sapphire production for mobile device industries.

“Automating the sapphire material inspection process will deliver more repeatable and consistent results that drive greater throughput,” Gutierrez said. “This will help to lower the cost of sapphire for high volume applications such as cover material for mobile and touch screen devices.”

Intego’s SIRIUS Slab sapphire inspection tool. Source: Intego

Apple inked a $578 million deal with GT Advanced in November 2013 for the supply of sapphire materials, though the specifics of the multi-year contract are largely unknown. The money is said to be a prepayment for the build of the Mesa, Arizona sapphire plane, GT Advanced will reimburse in full starting from 2015.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer offered a bit more clarity as to the size of the Apple-GT Advanced plant, saying in November that the facility will create some 700 new jobs in the first year alone, not counting the 1,300 construction jobs for building out the area.

In an interview with ABC News in January, Apple CEO Tim Cook confirmed the Mesa, Arizona facility is a sapphire glass plant, but declined to reveal how the material would be used.

Apple holds a number of patents regarding the production and use of sapphire in products like the iPhone, including a recently-discovered property for a sapphire iPhone display. The company first experimented with sapphire on the iPhone 5’s rear camera cover glass and expanded the material’s role as a protective cover for the new Touch ID fingerprint sensor.

It was reported in late January that Apple was looking to ramp production of “critical” sapphire subcomponent by the end of February, which will then be exported for outside of the U.S. for assembly. The part will supposedly be “new,” suggesting either a replacement for existing hardware, like an iPhone display, or something completely novel.

Categories Design, Narrative

Week 4: Some Normalcy–Samsung’s North American HQ

We have spent the last three weeks looking at billion dollar spending binges by some of the most well-known companies in the tech industry. I am taking this week to get back to the real world, but just for a week. Next week, we will take a trip to somewhere out of this world in cost and design with Apple’s new headquarters.

Samsung is building a cool-looking project with a center courtyard that is open to the environment. With a budget of $300 million, they are spending just a third more than Facebook spent on design alone. When completed, this building will hold 2,000 people, a relative bargain given what we have been reviewing.

The project is innovative but still looks normal. Inside the look becomes indicative of Silicon Valley. Quoting from below, “The vibe is supposed to be casual on the outside, but serious and competitive on the inside: sharks in flip-flops, vampires in jeans, eggheads in t-shirts. Samsung inverts this norm, playing off the besuited Asian business stereotype, while not quite pretending to the affable, work-life balance hang-looseism of a Facebook. This is a work space, even as it concedes that it must look Silicon Valley — which is to say, “innovative” — enough. Maybe call it Minimum-Viable Valley Architecture.”

One of the architects below called this design “post-Panopticon.” I had to look that up. Here you go:
The Panopticon is a type of institutional building designed by the English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century. The concept of the design is to allow a single watchman to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) inmates of an institution without them being able to tell whether they are being watched or not. Although it is physically impossible for the single watchman to observe all cells at once, the fact that the inmates cannot know when they are being watched means that all inmates must act as though they are watched at all times, effectively controlling their own behavior constantly.

How about the value proposition of reading this narrative: You get to see some cool renderings and learn a great word to use at your next cocktail party. We have a similar value proposition when we represent tenants: Best in class service, tons more experience than any other broker and good guys you want to work with—or like the author says below–sharks in flip flops.



What Samsung’s New American HQ Says About the Korean Giant
The architecture of fitting in in Silicon Valley


By: Alexis C. Madrigal
July 10, 2013


Samsung breaks ground on a new $300 million North American headquarters building in San Jose today. The building will house more than 2,000 employees in R&D and sales. As you’d expect, it’s a green (LEED Gold) building that’s designed to foster fickle innovation by making it easy for people to bump into each other in courtyards and facilities. The heart of the development is a ten-story tower that the company’s architect, NBBJ, says “will create a powerful brand image for Samsung.”

I got curious, though. What, precisely, did the building say about Samsung, a company that can compete with Intel with one hand and Apple with the other? So, I sent six renderings of the new building to some architecture critics to see what they had to say. I did not tell them the name of the company or architect; they were flying/critiquing blind. (And while I waited for them to respond, I brushed up on my Samsung history; you can skip ahead if you’re familiar with the company’s rise.)

A Brief History of Samsung
The company was founded in 1938 by Lee-Byung Chull as a trading firm, and by 1950 was one of the ten largest in Korea. A few years later, Samsung started manufacturing sugars and then textiles. The company’s entrance into electronics came in 1969 with the formation of Samsung Electronics Co. As summarized by Youngsoo Kim in a Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy report, “Samsung’s entry into the electronics industry had four important features which continued to characterize Samsung’s electronics activities into the 1980s: an emphasis on mass production, reliance on foreign technology, a follow-the-leader strategy, and government support.”

Through a variety of joint ventures with Japanese companies like NEC and Sanyo, Samsung began to build its technological capabilities, largely focusing on assembling black-and-white televisions through the late 1970s, primarily for export to the United States as an original-equipment manufacturer, or OEM, for American brands.

It was around this time that Samsung entered the semiconductor and telecommunications hardware businesses. The company built technical know-how throughout the 1980s across the world, including a massive facility in Austin, Texas. Samsung’s founder, Lee, chose DRAM, memory chips, as the area where the company would compete. By the late 1980s, that choice had paid off. As Japanese and American memory chip companies fought, Samsung swooped in to capture more and more business. By 1993, it had the largest DRAM market share in the world. That success started to bubble over into adjacent businesses. The company became a leading maker of flash memory and LCD TVs, the latter of which became wildly profitable in the late 1990s. All three fields required Samsung to value speed as they could only make money on a particular generation of products for a short time before commodification caught up with them.

That trait served them well in the small but growing mobile phone market of the early 2000s. “Even expensive fish becomes cheap in a day or two,” Jong-Yong Yun, CEO of Samsung Electronics, told Newsweek in 2004. “For both sashimi shops and the digital industry, inventory is detrimental. Speed is everything.”

Aided by South Korea’s early deployment of both broadband and wireless broadband, Samsung got the jump on some other companies in realizing the importance mobile phones would come to assume. Thanks to a massive (and still growing) global marketing and advertising campaign begun by Eric Kim in 1999, their phones became the consumer product that transformed Samsung’s image from a manufacturer of cheap electronics into an elite global brand.

Now, Samsung finds itself as a vertically integrated monster electronics company with a top 10 global brand. And they’re one of only a handful of corporations that have figured out how to make money off smartphones.

And yet, the original knock, summed up by Sea-Jin Chang in his 2008 book, Samsung Vs. Sony, on which I’ve relied heavily in this account of the company’s fortunes, remains: “Samsung is not competitive in products for which creativity and software matter and to which Samsung’s magic formula, ‘speed and aggressive investment,’ do not apply.” But that’s not to say that Samsung has not desperately wanted to become radically innovative, like the Sony of old and Apple of late.

The Architecture of Fitting In
So… That’s the context for this new building in San Jose. A company headquarters is a monument to what it wants to be. And Samsung has been nothing if not aspirational (and successful).

Remember that (all but one of) the architecture critics I contacted did not know that we were talking about a Samsung building. They just knew it was the prospective North American HQ of a global corporation.

Christopher Hawthorne, the Los Angeles Times‘ architecture critic, delivered a perfect summation of the building’s aspirations, revealing several threads that run through the rest of the evaluations. I’m going to let him walk you through the building.


What do these renderings reveal? A building that makes sincere if modest gestures in the direction of public engagement but is more clearly designed to draw employees into a sleek, dynamic and well-appointed interior realm. On its outer facades, it is stocky, symmetrical and well-behaved, reminiscent of office buildings of the 1960s and 1970s; the decision to slice it into three horizontal bands suggests an interest in keeping it, at any cost, from looking like a vertical building.


Inside, the focus is very different: on interaction, collegiality, a chance for employees to see what their colleagues are doing, and even better to run into them on the way to or from a meeting or the gym. Many new high-tech campuses — by Facebook, Apple et al. — put an architectural and rhetorical premium on this kind of serendipitous encounter and how it can boost a company’s creativity. This was the basis of Marissa Mayer’s edict that Yahoo employees stop working so much from home; as she put it, people are “more collaborative and innovative when they’re together. Some of the best ideas come from pulling two different ideas together.”


That, of course, is a fundamentally urban notion, the same idea that has always made cities attractive and vital. Crucially, though, the companies allow it only inside, from one employee to another; outside, they prefer suburban enclaves that their staffs reach largely by car. They want city-like energy inside the building, but a ring of privacy and a suburban buffer outside.


This building seems not nearly as extreme in that regard as, say, Norman Foster’s Apple Campus 2; but the long arm of the parking garage serving the main building like plumbing serves a house, half-heartedly camouflaged behind its solar array and giant gridded metal panels, combined with the way the architecture is staid on the outside but fluid and energetic in the interior courtyard, suggests a watered-down version of the same approach here: a squared-off update of the Apple ring, feeling slightly guilty (but not *too* guilty) about sealing itself off from the world around it. You park, you experience a few yards of the public realm, maybe you buy a coffee at one of the storefronts attached to the garage; and then you make your way inside, where the architectural and corporate action is.


Mark Lamster, the architecture critic for the Dallas Morning News, saw the building’s rather practical appeal. “It looks like a pretty forward-thinking design, and I guess it will be a desirable place to work, but,” he noted, “it has a hermetic feel to it, even as it appears to be very open architecturally.”

As Hawthorne noted, the building retains the trappings of a suburban office park. “Move beyond the high-end, high-tech aesthetics and landscaping, and you find a building that is pretty insular, even though it appears to be set on a busy street grid,” Lamster wrote. “The idea: keep employees inside at all times, so they’re never away from work. (Companies also like to point out that this kind of enforced proximity promotes collaboration and innovation.)”

Samsung is, in fact, famous for requiring that employees trying to innovate spend vast amounts of time with each other. In Korea, they even have a facility called the Value Innovation Program Center to which employees repair for months at a time to literally eat and sleep at work.

Design Observer’s Alexandra Lange picked up on specific set of corporate cues. “Infinite loop. Check. Green walls. Check. Green roof. Check. Fitness feelies. Check,” she wrote. “The renderings of this headquarters exhibits many of the de rigeur elements of new corporatism, focusing on glass and greenery and casually dressed people, making the workplace seem like more of a walk in the park, or a lifestyle, than an office.”

She wondered whether the tension between the corporate subtext and casual facade could be resolved.
“The front, boxy building looks like a blandish 1970s office building newly retrofitted with a curving interior atrium,” Lange said. “It should be rethought, as the message of its front facade doesn’t match with the long, green-walled tail.

Founding editor-in-chief of Dwell Magazine and former New York magazine architecture critic Karrie Jacobs weighed in although she knew she was looking at Samsung’s building. Generally, she had much the same reaction as those who did not know it was a tech company’s new digs. “The idea is that everyone can see everyone and that this will somehow encourage human contact and collaboration. It’s post-Panopticon,” she said. “Not authoritarian but more about visual peer pressure, the built version of social media.


Where the others saw a general, bland corporate decisionmaking process at work, she had more explicit me-too reference points. “My first thought upon seeing the open core of the building was that Apple had reigned in its giant Foster donut,” Jacobs said. She also compared the building to IBM’s 1964 headquarters building in Armonk, NY. “Not for any good reason,” she noted. “But the resemblance, real or imagined, was enough that I entertained the thought that maybe IBM was trying to reinvent itself yet again with a fabulous, greenish, state of the art Silicon Valley building.”

Putting the responses together, I’m struck by the idea that this is an architecture of fitting in. When American companies look to foreign markets, they often talk about “localizing” their products for the “cultural preferences” of the target consumers. This building strikes me as what happens when a very smart company from a distant shore localizes ititself for Silicon Valley. It must have green space. It must have green walls. It must have “fitness feelies.” And there is something for everyone, as BLDGBLOG’s Geoff Manaugh (and incoming editor of Gizmodo) observes. “They are also trying to project an appeal across class lines and lifestyles by depicting different types of render ghosts in the images: dudes in shorts, women in pant suits, a lady in a tennis visor, guys in Prada-like autumn wear sporting Ray-Bans in the sun.”


Manaugh allllmost calls the building the mullet of corporate headquarters: business in the front, party in the back.

“The images also say that they’re serious and competitive on the outside (see the modern, gridded, rectilinear building envelope), but, around the corner, if you’re willing to walk out back here with us, you can check out our oddly shaped long tail where you’ll get lost in the free geometry and casual landscaping, and you can dwell for a while and have a coffee” he wrote to me. “Meanwhile, if you are lucky enough to work here — or to be invited here for a meeting — you will experience our quirky interior courtyard carved out of the floor plate, indicating that we’re more fun and less formal than the public image we first deliberately greeted you with.”

What makes the building interesting as a Samsung emblem is that this is an inversion of the stereotypical Valley attitude. The vibe is supposed to be casual on the outside, but serious and competitive on the inside: sharks in flip-flops, vampires in jeans, eggheads in t-shirts. Samsung inverts this norm, playing off the besuited Asian business stereotype, while not quite pretending to the affable, work-life balance hang-looseism of a Facebook. This is a work space, even as it concedes that it must look Silicon Valley — which is to say, “innovative” — enough. Maybe call it Minimum-Viable Valley Architecture.

NBBJ Unveils Samsung’s New Garden-Filled San Jose Campus That Could Rival Them All


By: Bridgette Meinhold
February 26, 2013

There’s a new kid on the block and its name is Samsung. Well, Samsung certainly isn’t new, but the electronics giant is building a brand new $300-million campus in San Jose that is could rival the new campuses for Facebook, Apple and Google, which are all in the works in Silicon Valley. Designed by NBBJ, the new Samsung Campus will include two office towers and new research facilities, plus lots of amenities for employees. Energy efficient design with a heavy focus on the building envelope, an open-air concept and gardens on every floor are a few of the strategies unveiled so far. The battle in our minds isn’t who makes the best technology, but who has the greenest campus. Let the battle begin!

Samsung HQ 1

Samsung HQ 2

Samsung’s new campus will expand the company’s existing US reach and set it on a more level playing field with the other tech companies with headquarters in Silicon Valley. The San Jose campus will include two 10-story towers, research facilities, a clean room, data center, basketball and sports courts, and cafes. To encourage collaboration and employee interaction, the design features many “team collaboration” zones throughout. In total, the project will cover 1.1 million square feet and provide 2,500 high-skill, high-wage jobs.

Samsung HQ 5

NBBJ’sopen-air design features outdoor walkways and corridors that lend the building a feeling of being in a vertical park. Gardens are on practically every floor and connect the office spaces to the atriums and dining facilities. Besides being infused with plants and flowers, the project will place a strong focus on energy efficiency. So far NBBJ and Samsung have revealed that the exterior will be clad in white metal and clear glass optimized to reduce solar heat gain and fill the offices with natural daylighting.

Work is expected to begin on the campus in July 2013 and completed sometime in the middle of 2015. All of the major new campuses to be built are still working out their details, so we’ll have to watch to see who tops out in terms of sustainability. Who will have the greenest campus of them all?

Samsung Semiconductor Breaks Ground on North San Jose Mega Campus

Silicon Valley Business Journal

By: Nathan Donato-Weinstein
July 10, 2013

Samsung Groundbreaking

With a bit of ceremonial dirt thrown, Samsung Semiconductor Inc. officially kicked off construction of its high-profile North San Jose campus, and the company pulled out all the stops to let the world know.

Samsung just Tuesday pulled permits to begin early pile work on the 680,000-square-foot project, whose breathtaking design from architecture firm NBBJ has garnered international attention. A two year build-out awaits with general contractor Webcor running point, but on Wednesday top executives were all smiles as they thanked city and state officials for working to smooth the company’s path. (See slideshow at right.)

“Although we’ve had a really great 30 years in Silicon Valley here, it is not enough,” Samsung executive Charlie Bae told a crowd of hundreds who gathered in a massive tent set up for the occasion. (It was held on the site of the company’s former home, a 1980s-era office park that was recently demolished.)

“I truly believe this new campus will provide the world’s best convenience and comfort for our employees…In two years, I’d like to invite all of you here when we finish the buildings,” he said.

Samsung Semiconductor is a wholly owned subsidiary of South Korea-based Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., which is the second largest semiconductor manufacturer in the world. The company’s headquarters here will house research and development and marketing, and its efforts show up in everything from Samsung phones and TVs to countless third-party products.

“This facility will play a very important role in expanding our R&D capabilities in Silicon Valley,” said OH Kwon, the vice chairman and CEO of Samsung Electronics.

The start of construction marks a major milestone for the city, which worked with the state of California to keep the tech juggernaut in San Jose when it outgrew its existing home here. San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed told me the project is “the largest single development event in North San Jose’s history.”

With Samsung also eyeing expansion in Austin, officials devised a package of incentives worth $7 million to keep its longtime hometown competitive, and approved the deal in March.

But Reed said the decision was also about the area’s talent pool.

“They could go anywhere in the world, they have the money to go anywhere in the world, and they have chosen to stay right here in this site,” Reed told attendees. “That’s a great day for the state of California.”

Carl Guardino, CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, said the swift work on the deal shows the region can be business friendly.

“(Gov. Brown) has…been able to remove the perception that California is all about this,” Guardino said, unravelling a roll of red tape. “He’s replacing that perception with a red carpet.”

San Jose says it will see about $23 million in new city revenues from the project. It has enough room for about 2,000 workers, up from a current head count of 300.

That planned growth drew a jovial warning from Cisco EVP Randy Pond, who also spoke at Wednesday’s event.

“We’re excited to have this kind of building in our neighborhood,” Pond said. He added a bit later with a laugh: “I’ll continue to be pleased if you don’t recruit up and down Tasman Drive.”

The project becomes the second massive corporate campus to break ground in recent months amid a boom in tech owner-user projects. Google is currently working on its Bayview campus on Moffett Field in Mountain View. Others are planned from Nvidia Corp. and Apple, Inc. (And a new campus is well underway for LinkedIn in Sunnyvale, but the tech company is leasing it.)


Categories Design, Narrative

Week 3–Google’s New Headquarters and a Bonus

Continuing our tour of billion dollar plus new headquarters, we turn to Google. Google is planning on building nine buildings with the now familiar pedestrian and bicycle friendly environments. When completed, this 1.1 million square foot project in Mountain View, CA, will be comprised of nine fairly traditional buildings connected by “messy” courtyards. Below is a bunch of renderings that may change, as you will see in the article. Google is rethinking the look of the buildings, probably to keep up with the Apples, Amazons, and Facebooks of the world.

Here are some highlights:
–The bike and pedestrian paths will be elevated above everything—3 stories above the courtyards.
–The site sits on 42 acres.
–The buildings are only 78 feet wide. That is very narrow and will provide a ton of light into the space (and make the buildings longer).
–Of course, they are trying to outdo all other companies with the environmental modifications.

Scrolling down you get a bonus: Google’s new UK headquarters.  Pretty cool,  AND EXPENSIVE.  Why did I include it? Well, they are spending over a billion dollars on that facility as well. Part of the reason why is because their profits would be taxed if they brought the money back to the US.

–The site is ONLY 2.5 acres.
–The buildings will be able to handle only 4,000 employees.
–It will include an open air swimming pool and an indoor football pitch (getting into the slang of Brits).

A billion here, a billion there. Pretty soon it will add up.

Next week we turn to the most reasonable of all our headquarters: Samsung North American Headquarters.



Google’s New Campus Has Light, Fresh Air, Low Power Use


By: James S. Russell
April 23, 2013

Google HQ 1

Source: NBBJ/Google via Bloomberg

An architectural rendering of the new Google headquarters campus under construction in Mountain View, California. Architect NBBJ links the nine buildings with raised pedestrian and bicycle bridges that cross landscaped courtyards and restored salt marshes.

Google HQ 2

Photographer: Tony Avelar/Bloomberg
Google Inc.’s current headquarters in Mountain View California, which was originally designed by Studios Architecture for Silicon Graphics, Inc. The company will now build a new 1.1-million square foot headquarters to be designed by NBBJ architects on a nearby site that faces San Francisco Bay.

Google Inc. (GOOG) has begun construction of a new 1.1-million-square-foot headquarters that is just minutes by bicycle from its current Googleplex in Mountain View, California.

It’s the first time the company is building offices for itself rather than occupying an existing structure, and Google has promised to break new ground in environmental sustainability.

The goal of the complex is “to provide the healthiest environment possible,” said David Bennett, head of Google’s Green Team Operations and Innovations, in an interview.

The proposed campus of boomerang-shaped structures will occupy a 42-acre site called Bay View.

The design is by NBBJ of Seattle, a prolific but not notably innovative firm.

It has produced 9 ordinary-looking, glass-clad buildings of three-to-five stories. They snuggle around a network of intimate but messily arranged courtyards.

Though the buildings seem to wander aimlessly, their narrow ends face west and east to minimize heat and glare from the morning and afternoon sun.

Google hopes staffers will hatch new ideas while communing with elements of native habitat reintroduced by local landscape architect Cheryl Barton. She will also restore eight acres of bayside salt marshes that Google will open to the public.

The company has said it will clean all of its storm-water runoff as well as some waste water before releasing it into the bay. It’s a low-lying location. I hope they are thinking about rising sea levels.

Light Bath

Standard technology buildings are thick and square, herding engineers together in dispiriting rows far from windows. NBBJ shaped long buildings only 78 feet wide.

The narrow floor plan means that pool tables, couches, huddle rooms — even conventional desks — will be bathed in energy-saving daylight because windows will be so close for so many.

Natural light and fresh air are rare commodities in the tech workplace. Google will add these perks to the well-stocked cafeterias, game rooms and nap pods that make it a sought-after place to work.

Because the company encourages free-flowing collaboration and idea sharing, staffers will pedal or walk to gatherings across bridges that loop the campus three stories above the courtyards. The loops land at nodes that join buildings at their kinked hips.

They put almost everyone on the campus no more than one floor and 2.5 minutes’ walk from anyone else.

Project Cost

NBBJ hasn’t gracefully reconciled all of Google’s aspirations. I fear GPS will be needed to navigate this well-meaning muddle.

Google won’t disclose the project cost, but it’s not the heroic $5 billion high-tech palace Apple is building in nearby Cupertino.

So how green is Google? It’s worth comparing to the $18.5 million Bullitt Foundation, which opened its doors on Earth Day, April 22, in Seattle. The foundation, devoted to making the Pacific Northwest into a global model of environmental sustainability, got its diminutive 50,000-square-foot building off the electrical and sewer grid.

It follows the demanding ecological principals of the Living Building Challenge.

Google HQ 3

Photographer: Ben Benschneider/Bullitt Foundation

The Bullitt Foundation headquarters, a 50,000 square foot building devoted to environmental sustainability, in Seattle. Designed by architect Miller Hulll, the broad overhanging roof hosts solar panels.

Google HQ 4 2

Photographer: James S. Russell/Bloomberg
A space inside the Bullitt Foundation headquarters in Seattle. The building confers environmental benefits with heavy timber framing that sequesters carbon, triple-glazed energy-saving windows, and high ceilings that allow daylight to replace electric lights on most days.

Energy Use

Architect Miller Hull, working with PAE Consulting Engineers, achieved a startlingly low 16 for Energy Use Intensity (a common measure of efficiency). The broad overhanging roof, crammed with solar panels, doesn’t generate much power in cloudy Seattle, so energy conservation does the hard work.

Google’s headquarters plans to have solar-panel arrays but expects an EUI of 62, partly because of its heavy use of computers. That’s still half the average for its current buildings.

A low-energy heating and cooling system will allow Google to supply 100 percent fresh air economically. (Most buildings introduce only a small percentage of fresh air.)

The focus on air quality goes with Google’s ambitious Healthy Materials Program. The company seeks to eliminate potentially harmful chemicals in building materials. This is no easy feat, since product manufacturers do not like to disclose the ingredients they use.

While Bullitt also avoids questionable chemicals, Google, with its huge market power, can transform the way building-materials are made.

Composting Toilets

Bullitt uses composting toilets, which means it puts no waste into the city’s sewage system. Google wasn’t ready for that.

So which is better? Bullitt intended to pioneer, and to show what’s possible. It’s already changing the marketplace by inspiring green-innovation districts in Seattle and elsewhere.

Google’s energy performance and commitment to workplace quality are impressive if not innovative. It’s bringing to the mainstream what was thought barely achievable a few years ago.

Google Delays Construction Of Its Massive New Headquarters

Business Insider

By: Jay Yarow
July 14, 2013

Google is delaying construction of a massive new Googleplex, George Avalos at Mercury News reports.

Previously, the company was said to be starting construction this year, with hope of moving people into the offices in 2015. The new headquarters is on land leased from NASA which is adjacent to its current offices in Mountain View.

Construction is being delayed by six to twelve months because Google wants to refine its design, Mountain View city manager Dan Rich said, “Google wants to refine the architectural design … they want to get it right. I was a little surprised when they told me, but they decided to take a step back … The delay has to do with the actual design of the project, the look and the exterior of the buildings.”

The original design was comprised of a nine curved rectangular buildings. The design wasn’t particularly awe-inspiring, but Google said no employee will be more than a two and half minute walk from another employee on the new campus.

A Google spokesperson confirmed the delay, saying, “We want to make our Bay View campus a terrific and environmentally sustainable place for Googlers to work… To make sure we get it right, we’re being thoughtful in our design process.”

Here’s what the original design for the new campus looks like:

Google HQ 1 2


Inside Google’s new 1-million-square-foot London office—three years before it’s ready


By: Leo Mirani
November 1, 2013


Google Kings Cross: As much a playground as a work space. Allford Hall Monaghan Morris

Google’s new London office, scheduled to open in 2016, will have an open-air swimming pool, an indoor football pitch, a climbing wall and a roof garden from which to watch trains glide out of Kings Cross station towards Cambridge or Hogwarts. Googlers can cycle right into the building and to the cycle store room, which is equipped with showers and lockers. Somewhere in the interstices, there will also be desks to work on.


It’s rarely this lovely in London, but the view of St Pancras is spectacular any time of year. INK/Allford Hall Monaghan Morris

The 1-million-sq-ft (93,000 sq m) office will sit on 2.4 acres (1 hectare) of land between Kings Cross and St Pancras stations.  When the deal was announced in January, it was one of the biggest ever commercial property acquisitions in Britain. Reuters reports Google will spend £650 million ($1.05 billion) to buy and develop the site, with an eventual worth of £1 billion.


The 2.4 acre site sits between Kings Cross station (top), St Pancras Station (bottom) and Central Saint Martins art school (left). Rob Parrish/Allford Hall Monaghan Morris

So why is Google splashing the cash on this much space? The cynical answer is because it can: Google needs to do something with all those billions of dollars it has earned outside the US because it can’t bring them home without a whopper of a tax bill. The more philosophical answer is that the nature of work is changing—at least for those companies that can afford it.


It wouldn’t be a tech company’s office without cushions carelessly scattered about the place. INK/Allford Hall Monaghan Morris

Conventional wisdom has it that technology has made offices leaner. Manual labour has been eliminated, paper files have been replaced by digital ones, and people can work remotely. Yet that is precisely why Google needs as much space as it does—the swimming pool, the football pitch and the free lunches are meant to entice workers into the office, to keep them there, to eliminate reasons for staying away. Tech companies take as much space as old economy firms—they just use it differently.


Googlers can cycle right into the building to the 20,000-sq-ft bike shed. INK/Allford Hall Monaghan Morris

“The idea is that the people who are in the building—not the tenant but the actual staff—need to be attracted to the building. They need to like the community of the building,” says Simon Allford of Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, the London architects building Google’s HQ.


Parts of the office, such as the promenade running through the building, will be open to the public. INK/Allford Hall Monaghan Morris

That’s also why Google chose to put its building at Kings Cross. Central Saint Martins, an art school, is just over the canal. The Francis Crick Institute, a biomedical research center, is coming there in 2015. The British Library, home to one of the world’s largest collections of knowledge, is up the road. And Googlers with a decent pair of binoculars should be able to read tomorrow’s news being typed out at the Guardian’s offices on the other side of Kings Cross. When complete, the neighbourhood will have one of the highest concentrations of brilliant, creative people in London.


The canal is all that separates Google from 3,500 art students. INK/Allford Hall Monaghan Morris

“The point is if there’s 3,500 students, they [Googlers] might form a relationship with Central Saint Martins,” says Allford. ”You come to a city to meet people who aren’t like you, who are different and have different ways of seeing the world. The street life is incredibly important for why you live in a city. Taking that idea of life into the building and social space and what Google call positive friction. You want people to get to their desk and do work, you want them to get around, but you don’t want them to miss each other.”


The plan is to make an office so nice you never want to leave. INK/Allford Hall Monaghan Morris

It is also plugged into larger networks. From Kings Cross, Googlers can get to Cambridge, home to Britain’s tech hardware sector and chipmakers such as ARM—or Microsoft Research, which is just outside Cambridge station—in 45 minutes. From St Pancras station, on the other side of Google’s HQ, they can take the Eurostar to Brussels (capital of the European Union and useful for lobbying eurocrats) or to Paris (Eurodisney!) in just two hours.


Googlers could conceivably commute to work from bucolic Cambridge—or Paris. INK/Allford Hall Monaghan Morris

The building will remain inherently flexible, says Allford. “We’ve talked with Google about theatre, stage set, and props: The building is the theatre. It lasts 100 years. The stage set is the auditorium. It lasts 20 years and is a building within the building. The props are—the little meeting rooms, the furniture, all this, which ideally you could reconfigure overnight.” The idea is to have a dynamic, flexible space defined by the people who occupy it, not the other way around.


The building stretches 330 metres (1,082 ft) from end to end—as long as the Shard is tall. Allford Hall Monaghan Morris

It can hold 4,500 employees, more than twice the total number of Googlers in London. The building will be ready in 2016. Until then, London-based Googlers will continue to be split between two offices at Victoria and one off Charing Cross road.

Categories Design, Narrative

Week Two of Our Five-Week Review of the New Corporate Headquarters–Amazon

Last week started our five week review of new corporate headquarters with a review of Facebook’s billion dollar investment. Today, we move north to Seattle and Amazon. Can you believe Amazon has spent $1.4 BILLION in just the past 12 months on building a headquarters they are now calling a company town? Facebook wanted a low rise, garden feeling while Amazon is going with spheres and towers. Amazon already occupies 14 buildings in this market and is now building an additional 3 towers connected by really different looking spheres. Upon completion, the capacity will be up to 60,000 employees. This reminds me of Biosphere2 built near my birthplace of Tucson, Arizona (check it out here:

Amazon is not starting over, in fact they are building these spheres and new towers in the middle of the city. Talk about changing the look of the South Lake Union area of Seattle. My only thought was spending over a billion dollars when Amazon has yet to turn a profit….sounds pretty rich.

Next week we will look at Google’s massive plans. These tech companies keep on spending and spending.



Amazon Spent $1.4 Billion in the Past 12 Months to Build a Company Town

Quartz 2


By: Christopher Mims
October 24, 2013

Amazon’s new corporate headquarters will be an Elysian utopia where nobody ever grows old or feels sad. NBBJ

Like Facebook, Amazon is building a city within a city, a glistening, utopian corporate campus in an area of Seattle known as South Lake Union that was once just dingy warehouses. And thanks to an item in Amazon’s latest quarterly report, we now know how much the company spent on the project on property and construction (which has barely begun) in the past 12 months alone: $1.4 billion…

Amazon can afford that kind of outlay since the company is doing so well; it just beat the street’s expectations for revenue, earning $17.09 billion in the previous quarter, a 24% increase since last year. As per Amazon’s usual strategy to get big before bothering to make money, the company had a negative profit this quarter—a $41 million net loss.

Amazon has about 15,000 employees in Seattle, mostly engineers tasked with building and tending its massive IT infrastructure, which it also rents out to countless other internet companies. Amazon is apparently determined to build a campus that encourages its employees to live close to work and bike or walk as much as possible. The scale of its investments in the area suggests that, as Boeing decamps from the greater Seattle area, the city is about to become a new kind of company town.

As Amazon Stretches, Seattle’s Downtown Is Reshaped

NY Times

By: Kirk Johnson and Nick Wingfield
August 25, 2013

SEATTLE — Often a corporation with a grand dream to reshape a city wants tax breaks in return. Not Amazon.

When Amazon executives showed up last year for the first meetings about their proposal to build a new headquarters here — three towers that would draw thousands of workers downtown — city officials were taken aback. Not by the scope of the plan, but by the simplicity of the discussion. The executives said they were ready to break ground immediately on what would be one of the biggest development projects in city history.

Amazon Map 3

The New York Times

Other businesses are moving near the new Amazon offices.
“It was not a hard-boiled negotiation,” said Marshall Foster, the director of city planning. “They basically walked in and said, ‘We think this is the site.’ ” A shovel-ready company that clear and confident, and with the cash to back it up, “doesn’t happen very often,” Mr. Foster added.

Jeffrey P. Bezos, Amazon’s founder and chief executive, has a reputation for the grand gesture, a knack for seizing an opportunity that can remake a landscape. His purchase of The Washington Post this month for $250 million cash, a bet that others might have shied away from, is a case in point.

Here, in his company’s hometown, Mr. Bezos has put his chips on the idea of Seattle and urban America itself. The first headquarters tower is already under construction, and the company currently occupies 14 smaller buildings nearby.

The result in South Lake Union, previously a low-rise, low-rent warehouse district with ties to the city’s gritty maritime past, is a flood of cash, construction detours and dust. Increases to the city’s tax base aside, some people are apprehensive about whether the growth could outstrip the city’s ability to keep up.

“South Lake Union was a place that people drove through, not to,” John Schoettler, Amazon’s director of global real estate and facilities, said in an interview. “Once we started development there, everything started to spring up around us.”

The once-empty streets are flooded at lunchtime with Amazon workers, easily identified by their blue employee badges. Fleets of food trucks have arrived, offering Thai, tacos and other fare. On a nice day, workers take their lunches to a park next to the Museum of History and Industry, which was recently renovated with a $10 million contribution from Mr. Bezos.

The company already has about 15,000 employees in Seattle, mostly highly paid engineers, managers and programmers, out of a global work force of about 97,000, according to people familiar with its head count who were not authorized to discuss a figure that the company does not share publicly. The new towers have a capacity for 12,000, giving the company room for nearly 30,000 workers in Seattle, which has a population of 635,000.

“Nobody else in the downtown area has ever had this kind of impact,” said Matt Griffin, a 35-year veteran of the Seattle economic scene and the managing partner at the Pine Street Group, a real estate marketing and development company.

But the Amazon effect only starts with its own big numbers. The thousands of new employees, recently hired or anticipated, have also caught the attention of apartment developers. Last year, Seattle issued more new residential building permits than in any year since at least 1984, when the current system of record-keeping began.

Many of those new apartments are within walking or biking distance of Amazon. Service businesses and start-up technology companies, meanwhile, have sought nearby addresses. Northeastern University, based in Boston, set up a remote campus last year across the street from Amazon’s current buildings.

“I think they’ve single-handedly defined a whole region,” said Bryan Trussel, the chief executive of Glympse, an Internet start-up with offices next to Amazon. “Now everyone wants to be there.”

The setting is significant. In casting its lot in the center of a congested, bustling city, Amazon has rejected the old model of the suburban company campus that is typical of Silicon Valley and the technology ring road around Boston. The old way is perhaps most vividly exemplified by Microsoft. Its offices, and most of its 42,000 local employees, are about 18 miles from downtown Seattle, in the suburb of Redmond.

But it was, perhaps paradoxically, Microsoft money that made Amazon’s torrid growth in the neighborhood possible. In the early 1990s, Paul Allen, Microsoft’s billionaire co-founder, agreed to help finance the creation of a 61-acre public park starting in South Lake Union, a project that was eventually killed by voters. As a result, Mr. Allen’s investment firm, Vulcan, ended up being a big landowner in the area, eventually selling or leasing many of its buildings to Amazon.

Other technology companies are moving into urban spaces. Twitter and Dropbox, the social networking and online storage services, have made San Francisco home, while Tumblr and Etsy, blogging and shopping sites, are in New York. Google has huge urban spaces from Paris to Pittsburgh.

The appeal of cities to potential employees is part of the reason for the shift. An urban setting, with access to good restaurants, nightclubs and cultural attractions, has become as important a recruiting tool as salary or benefits for many companies.

But most of those urban pioneers are still small, at least in their real estate and staffing needs. Twitter, one of the largest, employs about 1,500 workers in San Francisco.

Amazon, by contrast, is both local and global. By encouraging its employees to live within walking distance, it could help Seattle meet its goals for energy efficiency and conservation, city officials said. As part of its development agreement, Amazon also plans to buy a new streetcar for the light rail line that runs past its properties and pay for a stretch of dedicated bicycle lane.

Mr. Schoettler, Amazon’s real estate director, said environmental considerations were an important factor in the company’s decision to remain in Seattle, along with the type of employee that an urban location attracts.

“The energy and excitement from employees being in an urban environment — I hear it daily,” said Mr. Schoettler, who walks to work. “A lot of people don’t even have a car. They want that urban experience right there.”

By contrast, Microsoft’s private bus line, called the Connector, is a common sight snaking through neighborhoods in Seattle and other local communities. Of the company’s 42,012 employees in the Puget Sound region, nearly half are registered to ride, a spokeswoman for the company said in an e-mail.

Amazon’s transformative rush presents challenges for Seattle. Officials must manage the de facto city-within-a-city that is emerging around the company, with a surge of new restaurants, apartment complexes and commercial buildings.

The new headquarters has limited parking, putting pressure on mass transit, which was crimped this year by a financing stalemate in the State Legislature. The city wants low-cost housing in the Amazon zone, but soaring rents and real estate prices, city officials said, will make that goal difficult to achieve. The company’s business model, and tactics in avoiding state sales taxes in many states, also presents a challenge to retailers.

And the company’s mostly young work force may want to raise children here, requiring a new public school where none exist. The city has allocated $5 million for an elementary school, but planners are wrestling with a chicken-or-egg dilemma. A school built now could sit empty, they said, but waiting until the need arises might be too late if young families start moving elsewhere.

“As the city grows — and again, it’s a good problem to have, one that other cities don’t — we have to keep investing in all of our places,” Mayor Mike McGinn said. “How do we make sure we preserve the things that make the city special?”

Amazon Builds the Spheres,
While Google Opts for the Hulk

All Things Digital

By: Kara Swisher
October 26, 2013

Image of Amazon offices rendering courtesy of NBBJ

As with Apple, Facebook, Samsung and many other tech companies, Amazon and Google are in the analog building business of late.

According to the Seattle Times, the e-commerce giant had its plan for a “five-story office building formed by three intersecting spheres” unanimously thumbs-upped by that city’s design-review board.

There are still other approvals to go, as well as building permits, for the structure in downtown Seattle by architect NBBJ, part of a larger 3.3 million square-foot campus.

Noted the Times: “The spheres still would range in height from 80 feet to 95 feet and feature a mix of flex work space and an atrium of plants and trees. The area between the spheres and a 38-story office tower would still include a dog park, a walkway and an open field.”

Perhaps more intriguingly, Google is apparently working on a floating data center that CNET is describing as “hulking.”

Wrote CNET: “It’s unclear what’s inside the structure, which stands about four stories high and was made with a series of modern cargo containers … One expert who was shown pictures of the structure thinks so, especially because being on a barge provides easy access to a source of cooling, as well as an inexpensive source of power — the sea. And even more tellingly, Google was granted a patent in 2009 for a floating data center, and putting data centers inside shipping containers is already a well-established practice.”

And, of course, since it’s Google, it’s hiding in plain site in the middle of the San Francisco Bay.

Google also has a big HQ project going with NBBJ, which is also the architect behind the new Samsung North America campus in Silicon Valley and Tencent’s new digs in China.

Facebook, too, has ambitious plans to expand its campus. And, of course, Apple has already got the go-ahead for its Apple Campus 2 project, a 2.8-million-square-foot structure of curved glass, concrete and steel nicknamed the “Spaceship.”

Categories Design, Narrative

A 5-Week Review of New Corporate Headquarters – First up: Facebook

Some of the world’s biggest companies are designing and building World Headquarters. These are not just your run-of-the-mill buildings, rather they are unbelievable in scope and design. AND the companies we analyzed are taking dramatically different approaches. Enjoy the designs, thoughts behind them, and a more intimate understanding of the companies themselves.

First up is Facebook. Over the past quarter, Facebook spent over $200 million on the DESIGN ALONE.  Surprisingly though, when this headquarters is completed, you could drive by and not even know it. We have included three different articles on this $1.74 billion dollar project (yes $1,740,000,000,000 dollars). Here are some highlights:

–The campus will hold just over 9,000 employees. Spending almost two billion dollars for 9,200 employees seems excessive.
–The low-rise campus will have a rooftop park stretching the entire building.
–The buildings will be raw and unfinished (you would think you could finish a building for this amount of cash).
–The environment will be all open and collaborative.
–Scroll down for a large number of renderings and my highlights.

Over the next five weeks you will get to see some incredible buildings AND how different the visions are. This project is pretty understated…Some of the others are not. Next week I will show you Amazon’s new headquarters. A final thought and a shameless self promotion while we are on the topic of Facebook. Click here to go to our Facebook page and “Like” us. Thank you.


Facebook’s Sprawling New HQ
Designed by Frank Gehry

eWeek Logo

By: Nathan Eddy
April 5, 2013

In an age where cities hire architects to design new icons to lure tourists or boost civic pride, and corporations erect skyscrapers that top out at dizzying heights, one of the world’s most valuable technology companies known for its global influence, brash young CEO and forward-thinking attitude has settled on a new headquarters building that will remain largely hidden from passersby. Social media behemoth Facebook’s decision seems even more counterintuitive considering the architect tapped to design the HQ: Frank Gehry, arguably the world’s most famous architect and known more for his flamboyant, steel-clad structures that range from an iconic museum in Bilbao, Spain, to an 860-foot residential skyscraper towering over the Lower Manhattan skyline. CEO Mark Zuckerberg reportedly insisted on a low-key design, which will be largely hidden from the highway that passes in front of it. Parking will be consolidated underneath the new structure, and a sprawling green roof with grass and trees will help it blend into the surrounding landscape. Gehry’s flourishes can be seen in the renderings, but it’s a far cry from his band shell in Chicago or the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles—which is exactly what the world’s most ubiquitous tech company wanted, as it turns out.

Facebook1 2





For the entire article, please click here.

Facebook Recruits Master Architect
Designed Headquarters Building Cost Nearly $ 200 Million

By: Ruijie
December 2012

Mark Zuckerberg

It is reported that after the expansion…Facebook headquarters will be divided into East and West two parks…across Bayfront Expressway. East Park will accommodate 6,600 employees, West Park [will] accommodate 2,800 employees. Facebook has hired Gary Architects (Gehry Partners) to be responsible for the design of the new park…the new park will provide Facebook staff a spacious and bright working environment. It is worth mentioning that Zuckerberg has told Gehry Architects [to] design as far as possible…the wall at right angles, to ensure that the staff in the room do not feel too depressed.

Facebook official blog said the new headquarters building will be…like a warehouse from the partial perspective. [The] desk of each employee will be placed in the spacious open space…the new building will be equipped with numerous small cafes and snack-equipped kitchen…employees can walk from one side to the other side, and the whole process will not encounter a door. Additionally, every corner of the new headquarters has a whiteboard and sofa, to help employees better rest and record the inspiration…

…it is said the actual construction cost overruns 1.74 billion.

The Facebook spokesman [has] not yet made the comment.

For the entire article, please click here.

What Facebook’s New HQ
Says About the Company’s Hopes and Dreams

The social media giant is building a campus that will look more like a park than an office. Why?


By: Emily Chertoff
August 28, 2012

The design of the building can tell us a lot about how Facebook sees itself and about how it wants us to see it. They picked a superstar Pritzker-winning architect — and this starchitect in particular — to redo their campus. Looking at the plans can help us figure out what Facebook wants us to think it is. It can help us figure out what Facebook is in fact.

What does Facebook want us to believe it is?

Mark Zuckerberg 2


Let’s look at the official Facebook explanation of how the company came to pick Gehry and what they were thinking about when they worked with him on the design. The communication from the company’s “Environmental Design Manager” indicates a level of casualness that’s tough to buy when you’re talking about a major tech company that’s about to make a multi-million-dollar infrastructure purchase. On the Gehry selection:

A few months ago, I flew down to Los Angeles to meet for the first time with Frank and his team. His office is a giant warehouse overflowing with handmade, wooden models juxtaposed with state-of-the-art architecture software (some of which is designed by Frank’s in-house team). His teams are filled with people who are unbelievably talented and love what they do. The whole thing reminded me of Facebook, so that when I met Frank, I already knew he was a perfect fit for us.

Facebook wants us to know that its values are Gehry’s values. Further evidence of a creative mind-meld: Gehry works in a warehouse; later, we hear that this design that so shares Facebook’s values will be like a “warehouse.” Facebook isn’t just saying we really get along with our architect. It’s identifying the type of creativity that it takes to run and grow a successful social media company with the type of creativity it takes an artistically serious architect like Gehry to design a building. The comment about wooden models is also a gesture at the valuation of craft — a central part of the artist’s work – that puts it on par with “state-of-the-art” software. Why might Facebook want to associate itself with tactility, with craft, and with the physical world — all those things that the Internet has been accused of disappearing?

Facebook is deliberately trying to project an image — an interesting one, and a bit of a devious one. Two ideas come up repeatedly in as the communication continues. The buildings are environmentally friendly, and also integrated into the landscape:

We’ve paid just as much attention to the outside as well. The exterior takes into account the local architecture so that it fits in well with its surroundings. We’re planting a ton of trees on the grounds and more on the rooftop garden that spans the entire building. The raw, unfinished look of our buildings means we can construct them quickly and with a big emphasis on being eco-friendly.

The environmentally sound building thing is at this point practically a cliché of tech culture. Google’s campus is eco-friendly. Apple’s campus is eco-friendly. This is the Bay Area after all. But there’s a second and slightly more sophisticated thing going on here too. In the past few decades there’s been a resurgent interest in architecture in forms that blend into the environment rather than standing out. The interesting thing about this tendency in architecture is that it’s presented by its supporters as a form of ecology — but for the visual environment, not the living one.

This can mean a building that uses visual elements of a region’s vernacular architecture. The statement notes that the buildings will look “raw” and “unfinished,” and that this will make them more environmentally friendly; this recalls perhaps the most ancient kind of vernacular architecture, a temporary dwelling. But it can also be a building that blends into the natural world itself — a building wearing a sort of camouflage, as it were. It’s a little hard to tell from the images Facebook posted of the models, but Gehry designed the campus expansion to blend into the landscape. As Zuckerberg noted in a post on his Facebook wall, “From the outside,” the new building “will appear as if you’re looking at a hill in nature.” Even more so if the trees planted are local varieties (we’ll see).

Why all this emphasis on visual ecology? It seems weird for a tech company to focus on integrating its building visually into the natural environment, or to use a “primitive” seeming building style…

But Facebook’s…critics often tar it for separating us from the world around us, visual and otherwise. More and more, they say, we choose the screen — a virtual world, both flat and infinitely deep — over the physical world, including natural landscapes.

I imagine that somewhere in the minds of the Facebook executives who worked with Gehry on the plans is the idea that Facebook needs to cover up or combat this sense that it separates us from reality. A new building that presents itself as a non-invasive insertion into a pastoral landscape is a clever visual move. Facebook isn’t sucking you into the screen; no, the company’s holistically integrated with the natural and physical worlds.

Or so says the aesthetics of its headquarters.

So what is Facebook, really?

The interior layout, per what we know about the plans, will reflect the management style we’ve come to associate with start-up culture:

Just like we do now, everyone will sit out in the open with desks that can be quickly shuffled around as teams form and break apart around projects. There will be cafes and lots of micro-kitchens with snacks so that you never have to go hungry. And we’ll fill the building with break-away spaces with couches and whiteboards to make getting away from your desk easy.

This is practically a spatial representation of the startup ethos. It’s nonhierarchical — “everyone will sit out in the open,” with no spatial differentiation (e.g. separate offices) of higher-ups. It’s designed to react “quickly” based on need, a key advantage of startups over creakier, older companies. And it will of course employ the research-derived productivity best practices that have risen to prominence over the years. “Getting away from your desk” for a creativity-boosting break will be easy, for instance.

…It may also be a way of announcing Facebook as a media outlet whose cultural resonance is on par with that of institutions in the world of “high culture.” Note that the Facebook page for the redesign mentions two art-world-related commissions — the Guggenheim and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in L.A. But even as the Gehry choice positions Facebook as a cultural institution, of course, Facebook is rewriting the rules of what it means to be one. It’s radically populist and in many ways radically decentered. It does not act as arbiter, allowing the mass to perform that function instead by way of likes and recommends.

So maybe Facebook isn’t signaling its arrival as a top-tier cultural force with the use of Gehry. It already is one, at least in the sense of its scope; and it will never be one in the sense of the exclusivity of the culture it mediates. The Facebook choice of Gehry indicates not just a total collapse of the high culture-mass culture distinction, but the banality of that collapse, or maybe the fact that there’s nothing to collapse anymore. Postmodernism took pains to point out when it was mixing low and high culture; for a company like Facebook the distinction is irrelevant and uninteresting.

For the entire article, please click here.

Categories Design, Narrative

The Slow Death of the Private Office

I continue to track the development of the new, collaborative office place including the new headquarters of some of the biggest companies in the world. But, there is starting to be increasing backlash against the open office space. I came across the article below in Fortune that details some of the negatives of having an open work space. Certain companies rely on having privacy, and in fact, many employees prefer having a closed space to do their work. Noise, lack of privacy, and crammed offices are just some of the issues that these new collaborative work areas face. As you’ll read in the article, some companies take precautions against such complaints, but are they enough to eliminate private spaces for good?

I will be following these developments to see which companies have had success and which haven’t. In the meantime, consider: Is an open collaborative space right for your company?


P.S. We are beginning the year with some cool additions for you to take advantage of. On the top right, you can now click on our Facebook page (please like us). This is not an ordinary run-of-the-mill boring corporate page. We post our narratives AND other articles that do not make the cut here. I am confident you will like what you see if you are a Facebook activist. If you follow Twitter, you can now follow us. We have a cool aphorism of the week we send out on Mondays and at least two other interesting tweets per week. Google+ is now becoming more user-friendly. We have our page fully operational and easy to use. We spent the last year filling our pages with interesting, cool and informative stuff. Take a look.


The Slow Death of the Private Office

As the per-person square footage in offices continues to shrink, many workers — and managers — are beginning to wonder whether we’ve reached the limit.


By: Katherine Reynolds Lewis
September 23, 2013

Slow Death of the Private OfficeFORTUNE — So much for having your own little corner at work. For two decades, companies have been shifting to open workspace designs and eliminating dedicated offices in a twin effort to reduce real estate costs and encourage collaboration between colleagues. But as the per-person square footage of the typical workplace continues to shrink, many workers — and managers — are beginning to wonder whether we’ve reached the limit.

“In open workspaces, it’s hard for people to get their work done if it requires uninterrupted concentration and focus,” says Cali Williams Yost, a flexible workplace strategist and author of Tweak It: Make What Matters to You Happen Every Day. “People who have jobs that require private conversations or uninterrupted thinking really struggle.”

A majority of employers allocate 150 square feet or less per worker, down dramatically from 225 square feet in 2010, according to a recent survey by CoreNet Global, a professional association for corporate real estate managers. Space per person is likely to continue to shrink, with 58% of companies expecting to increase employment in the next year. A whopping 81% of companies surveyed have already adopted an open-space floor plan.

Assigned space is unused 50% of the time, says Richard Kadzis, CoreNet’s vice president for strategic communications. And cutting out that space can benefit a company’s balance sheet.

AT&T (T) eliminated offices and consolidated workspace with savings of $3,000 per office for a total of $550 million per year, according to a General Services Administration report. Nortel’s (NTL) telecommuting program saves $20 million a year in real estate, the equivalent of two 20-story office buildings with 40,000 square feet per floor.

But creating a decent workspace isn’t as simple as tearing out office doors and putting in long rows of benches where employees can connect laptops, or putting in place a hoteling system for people to reserve space on an as-needed basis. Done right, an open floor-plan office will include strategically placed quiet rooms for “heads down” work, huddle rooms for small meetings or impromptu discussions, larger conference rooms, and social areas where all that collaboration and innovation can take place. There should also be access to plants and natural light, whether through windows, skylights or creative use of atriums.

Noise is often the most ignored factor in open design, says Kadzis. Acoustical engineers can do remarkable things with white noise and noise-absorbing materials, but they must be part of the design team. That group should also include executives from technology, environmental sustainability, human resources, and facilities management.

When editor Susan R. Paisner worked for a Washington, D.C. trade association, only 10 directors had dedicated offices, and the remaining 80 staffers shared one big open space divided into cubicles. “It was difficult for me because I was frequently being told to be quieter,” Paisner recalls. “It was a very frustrating, difficult environment to work in.”

There were a few small conference rooms in the office, but they were often booked. Once, a challenging issue arose, and she wanted to immediately sit down and speak privately with her staff, but they had to check every private space on the floor before finding one that was available.

Employers also need to integrate telecommuting and flexible work programs when they open these new workspaces, so managers and employees can match the type of work that needs to happen with the spaces and times that are available. For instance, someone who needs to concentrate on a large project should be able to shift her hours to come in before the office is noisy or work from home until she’s met her deadline, Yost says. And employees need training to learn to manage where, when, and how they should work.

For anyone thinking that the challenges are greater than the benefits of open workspaces, you’ve got plenty of company. Even some real estate professionals believe that companies are over-building collaborative space at the expense of privacy and focus work — 31% agreed with that statement in CoreNet’s survey. But the cost savings are quite powerful.

“Open workspaces are not going away,” predicts Yost. “Companies are going to take this as far as they can to save the overhead.”