Feb 04, 2020

Elevating the Work Experience

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How our new two-story indoor loft was designed, built and is redefining how and where work gets done.

In 2017 we were faced with a growing workforce and the subsequent need to expand our Santa Clara headquarters. It was the good kind of growing pains. But with sky-high real estate prices, we had to be mindful of how we grew. Every decision we made had to be thoughtfully considered. Fortunately, as a design-driven organization located in the heart of Silicon Valley, we weren’t afraid of a little change or outside-the-box thinking. But instead of outside, the solution was right above us.

The decision to look up actually began by looking inward. While our fast-growing company was adding staff driving the need for new workspaces – the way we were working had also changed. We no longer utilized our space effectively and efficiently. And while some added real estate might be beneficial, reconsidering the way in which we would employ and use that floor space became far more critical.

We began by building a new foundational way for our teams to work by relying on greater use of shared workspaces supported by a wide variety of alternate work experiences. This meant creating places to collaborate, focus, escape, and inspire. Places that provide a richer, more varied work experience than any individually owned desk, and the ability to choose when and how any team member could use them. The result would give people the freedom to work on their own terms – and productivity would follow suit. We call it “Urtonomous” working and you can read more about it here.

But where would this new suite of alternate work experiences live? Should they be integrated into the workspace, just a few steps away, or remote and distant – giving employees the feeling of journey and exploration? And where would we find the footprint to host them?

Going up.

For answers, we looked up instead of out. Because our headquarters building has a high-bay shell, we decided to take advantage of the added vertical space to create a two-story loft. To do it, we partnered with Vantis, a commercial interior construction business specializing in high-tech preconstruction design and off-site fabrication. Together, we designed a structure using a new approach to building with heavy timber construction by Calgary-based DIRTT.

With the CNC controlled fabrication method at the center of DIRTT’s technology, our design team was able to create shapes, forms, and heavy-timber joinery that ultimately led to an amazing structure. For inspiration, we looked back to history. Just as the fabrication method would reference heavy timber construction of the past – the loft echoes the agricultural past of San Jose, Santa Clara, the Silicon Valley and the many farms and orchards that once made the area famous.

Below the loft space, a suite of individual focus rooms evoke the feeling of resting and finding refuge in the shade of apricot trees while the loft above serves as a treehouse workspace.

But as always, introducing a new design, fabrication, and construction methods didn’t come without its challenges – challenges that become almost insurmountable when building in one of North America’s most active seismic zones. Together with Vantis and DIRTT, we worked with Santa Clara County to receive approval to use new structural engineering software platforms and computer controlled milling devices.

To meet strict California Building Code guidelines, we also developed new business relationships with suppliers aligned with the North American Wholesale Lumber Association. Those efforts paid off as our Timber Loft became the first multi-story structural timber system to be approved and built in California using the new technology.

Lofty work.

Today, standing atop our new Loft space, you can see everything in our workplace. While not every office provides such sweeping views, the real story behind our loft project was the new way of working it created for us. It’s a place to get away, find inspiration, focus, and a bit of privacy.

It’s a story of design, history, and technology that came together to create a more human-centered work experience at One Workplace – as well as a case study for other fast-growing organizations who need to go above and beyond when it comes to using their real estate assets to support their most important investment – their people.

Want to explore more? Come visit our Orchard Loft. We’d love to have you. Click here to schedule an appointment.