Portland, Oregon is experiencing a renaissance of sorts. Construction of all types is progressing at unprecedented rates. Many neighborhoods are experiencing an explosion of residential opportunities (even though we’re still facing a missing middle housing crisis) and corporate headquarters seem to be flocking downtown.
After the recent unveiling of the new Under Armour offices in Portland, we decided to break down our own experiences in the commercial office design arena. As it turns out, we’ve learned a lot from our experience working for an organic yogurt company and the US General Services Administration.
If you know Nick Mira, it’s no surprise that his biggest takeaways from his work on the offices and shower facilities for Stonyfield Farms near Manchester, New Hampshire are mainly about high performance building systems. Completed in 2006, the building was designed to be very energy efficient. Since Manchester is a more extreme climate when it comes to summer high temperature and winter lows, a super insulated envelope was appropriate. Fast forward to 2019 and the same building envelope used on Stonyfield’s office headquarters then would contribute to a Passive House project in Portland today.
The office building is a three level, open office space that houses their corporate headquarters and it is located directly adjacent to the organic yogurt production facility. One of the unique accomplishments of the project is how it provides heat to its 30,000 square feet of space. Working closely with the mechanical engineering and energy modeling teams, we determined that there is enough waste heat from production process next door to provide the new building with “free” heat. This is one example of the many ways architects and engineers with sustainable design expertise can dig into an organization and cater a design and add a great long term value. The story of Stonyfield Farms is all about preserving the environment, farming and natural, healthy foods, so naturally their headquarters had reflect the same mission.
While similar in sustainable goals, the transformation of the Edith Green - Wendell Wyatt Federal Building in Portland started from a radically different place. As Nick and Tuan Vu recall, the Federal Building project became part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. It was designed to save both an inefficient old building and a struggling economy.
Ironically, with all the renovations and sustainable building systems designed into the project, leasable area of the 18 story Federal Building actually grew by 33,000 square feet. That’s 3,000 more than the entire area of the Stonyfield Farms project. This became one story of the federal building renovation which surprises many - not only did it transform from inefficient, underperforming, and an outdated office block to ultra-efficient - but it maximized their top tier office space.
Our collective experiences on these projects exemplify that not only must good commercial office design meet the functional needs of the business and the physical needs of the employees and protect the environmental sensitivities of its location, but it must also amplify the character and story of the organization it’s designed for.
Good commercial office design needs to reflect the DNA of its owner. It should express, even enhance the heart and soul of the company.
We love these kinds of conversations in our office because they get us fired up. We have a renewed passion for imagining great new spaces for our corporate clients.
Whether you want a brand new space or are interested in renovating and maximizing an existing space,schedule a consultation with us. We’re looking forward to helping you create a facility that’s the perfect reflection of you.