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« "Me" Space Versus "We" Space | Main | Distractions, distractions, distractions! Part 2 »

Leveraging Design as a Change Agent

Set back by about half a mile from the road, behind a soybean farm, on a tract of land that used to hold an RV park, rises a sleek black box surrounded by native grasses swaying in the wind. It is Panduit’s new five-story, 280,000-square-foot world headquarters, a whole new take on the suburban office park. For Panduit, a developer and provider of comprehensive physical infrastructure solutions, this campus marks a new chapter in their company culture, and a distinct change from their previous offices in a 1950s industrial warehouse.

The new headquarters building is the first phase of a 30-year master plan Gensler developed for the company. Their goal was development of a completely new space, infused with Panduit’s unique brand, and leveraging design as a change agent for the culture of the company. A fusion of futuristic and earthy, the language of the granite and glass building—the blackness and tautness of it—was inspired by the look of the high-tech products that Panduit makes.

The project boasts a LEED Gold rating. About two percent of its construction budget was spent on costs associated with the LEED/sustainable criteria and Panduit expects to show a payback on that investment in less than five years. Early performance metrics (they moved into the building in April 2010) show that the building is using 30 percent less energy than a typical office.

Among the new campus’ highlights:

  • No big stretch of manicured lawn. Virtually the entire site is covered with native grasses and wildflowers, which are drought resistant and low maintenance. The landscape is defined by long hedgerows not unlike those used in rural areas to provide shelter from the wind.
  • Walking trail and restored wetlands. Panduit developed only half of the 52-acre site. The rest was restored to a more indigenous state and will be donated to the Village of Tinley Park when the landscaping is mature.
  • Bioswales in the parking lot. These landscaped trenches filter and reduce impurities of storm water runoff before the water flows into rain gardens.
  • A rainwater harvesting system. It collects water from the building’s multiple roofs (one of them a green roof with nearly 10,000 plants) and is used to flush toilets. The system is expected to save 910,000 gallons of water a year.
  • A light harvesting system along the window walls. A light shelf directs sunlight deep into the building and reduces the amount of powered light needed by employees.
  • Smart window shades, smart lights. The shades adjust automatically throughout the day; overhead lights likewise dim or brighten according to the amount of sunlight coming in.
  • Personal comfort. Employees can control both the task lighting and air volume in their individual workstations.
  • Employee health. A wellness center for fitness and nutrition is part of the building and will be built out in the future. There is a registered dietician on the cafeteria staff.
  •  “Smart” HVAC. Heat and air conditioning are delivered through the floor instead of through the more typical ceiling diffusers. Under floor air displacement ventilation reduces energy demand by delivering air where people are.
  • Vegetable pizza with goat cheese. There’s a wood-fired oven in the employee cafeteria—and a chef, no mere cook. Milk, produce and bread are locally sourced.

And how does Panduit feel about their new digs? In the words of Panduit’s CEO, John Caveney, “Panduit’s new world headquarters brings to life our vision for creating environmentally sustainable and healthy places to work. We set out with a mission to create the ‘building of the future,’ and we feel we’ve set a new precedent by combining state-of-the-art visibility and control for all critical building systems, sustainable energy, operational cost savings and intelligent design features—all aligned under a single unified infrastructure.”

The project recently won an Interior Architecture Award from AIA Chicago.  

Jay Longo is a principal in Gensler’s Chicago office and a leader of the firm’s global Headquarters practice. A sustainable design director, Jay has led green headquarters projects for corporations including Amcol and Panduit and community organizations including the Center on Halsted. Contact him at jason_longo@gensler.com.

Reader Comments (3)

I wish this was titled "veggie pizza with goat cheese" since I think that kind of detailed thinking about employee comfort and connection to the community is a big part of what makes a headquarters different from some other office space. This sounds like a great place to work and a great company to work for - those are probably inseparable distinctions, though.
11.5.2010 | Unregistered CommenterKEK
Great design work and article. Thanks for always sharing your knowledge Jay!
12.3.2010 | Unregistered Commenteralex fernandez
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