Corporate Headquarters Case Study: Just Build It

Master planning and sustainable design are the secret weapons behind Nike's successful operations.
Master planning and sustainable design are the secret weapons behind Nike's successful operations.

Corporate Headquarters Case Study: Just Build It

Corporate Headquarters Case Study: Just Build It

By Heidi Schwartz

Published in the October 2005 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

Every aspect of life has its leaders and its followers. This is particularly true of competitive business models, where certain companies break away from the pack early and continue to stay one step ahead of the competition.

For athletic footwear and apparel giant Nike, Inc., better than expected profits are delivered year after year, and the company continues to grow at a breakneck pace. And at the company’s Beaverton, OR world headquarters, this unbelievable growth is par for the course.

No Such Thing As Status Quo 

In the mid 1980s, Nike’s scattered staff was being housed in more than 20 buildings throughout the Beaverton area. A management decision was made to bring everyone together onto one campus in order to tap into the collective energy, promote chance interaction, and create a sense of home for everyone. That’s when the original campus was built.

Self admittedly in charge of “anything attached to the ground,” Jim Petsche, director of corporate facilities for Nike, came on board around this time. As project manager for a construction company charged with building Nike’s western warehouse, he was a natural fit for the job. So some of the Nike people tapped him for the job of running this new campus once completed.

Reluctant at first, Petsche was concerned about his involvement in Nike’s plan. “When I came on board, the company was already in the middle of a big building program. Things were happening and changing all the time with this site, but I thought that might be the end of the construction for a long time. However, since I came here 15 years ago, it has just been one building after another, which has been really fun for me.”

Time For A Master Plan 

Despite the efforts of the initial building program, and due to the strong growth of the company, many employees were once again dispersed by the mid 1990s. Petsche notes, “we had a lot of staff members off campus again—at one point, it was over 1,000 people.”

This prompted the company to purchase 103 acres north of the original campus and embark on a major building program. “We needed to get going quickly, so we got approval to build one million square feet on the north campus, bringing the total square footage on campus to just under two million.”

At this point, it became necessary to introduce the concept of an overall master plan to support the company’s mushrooming needs. The plan would not only make it possible to bring employees back to campus, it would also incorporate many more sustainable measures to a site which had already taken a lot of steps to be environmentally responsible before sustainable design was deemed crucial by much of the building industry.

Throughout, the new master plan would assert environmental intelligence in every aspect of design, construction, and operation. Energy conservation measures were adopted on both campuses, including participation in ongoing green power purchasing programs from local utilities. New lighting and HVAC systems were incorporated into new construction and renovation projects, raising efficiencies and justifying costs both inside and out, and often exceeding local, regional, national, and international standards.

South Campus. Situated on the south side of Cedar Mill Creek, the original portion of the campus opened its doors well before the formal introduction of the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. Still, the company developed the 74 acre “greenfield” site with a distinct sensitivity to the environment.

Since the company took over the development of the site in 1989, thousands of trees and shrubs have been planted, and over 12 acres of wetlands have been created. “Then there’s the Cedar Mill Creek, which we had to take into consideration,” Petsche says. Site plan elements were worked carefully around the existing disconnected pockets of wetlands, which were subsequently drained and repositioned to form the unified “Western Wetlands Conveyance Corridor”—a system that cleanses campus water runoff and provides habitat for wildlife. “It probably took us an extra year to develop the site, taking the sensitivity of the wetlands into consideration,” he adds.

North Campus. On the new north side campus, which would consist of over one million square feet of space for offices and research and development labs, the plan incorporated even more aggressive sustainable measures. One of the key components of the North Campus was the Ken Griffey, Jr. office building. The building (which is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Energy Star Building—along with the Pete Sampras, Nolan Ryan, and Jerry Rice buildings on campus) was originally designed outside of LEED’s boundaries. [For an anecdote on Nike’s naming convention, see “The Building Names” at the end of this article.]

Petsche was determined to set some sustainable benchmarks. “We wanted to use resources that were recyclable and renewable in order to make the building as efficient as possible within economic reason at the time.” Some of the most noteworthy efficiency efforts included Web based, real time energy monitoring, variable frequency HVAC drives, and continuous commissioning.

With the support of 2,000 pages of documentation, the Ken Griffey, Jr. building was awarded LEED-EB Gold and has served as an educational tool for sustainable measures on the rest of the campus. In fact, much of the infrastructure throughout the campus had to be environmentally reviewed (and documented, when necessary) before the Griffey building could achieve its LEED-EB Gold certification.

Consequently, the entire campus satisfies the infrastructure requirements of LEED-EB certification, and all the buildings on the north side of the campus essentially meet the same standard as the Griffey building. Logistically, it would have been practically impossible to deal with certain campus wide energy and environmental issues for one building alone; still, certification was only pursued for the Griffey building. [For a list of all sustainable measures, see “Sustainable Highlights” at the end of this article.]

Petsche explains, “We could have done the rest of the campus, including all the buildings on the north side of the campus, but the LEED process is really time consuming. It took us over one year—almost 18 months—to complete the whole process. It’s good in the end, because it makes sure the building is really doing what it’s supposed to do.”

Training For A Marathon 

Continued growth at Nike is no surprise. In fact, the company just recently announced a better than expected 32% increase in profits and shows no signs of slowing down.

Nike is still hiring as well, according to Petsche, but there are no serious construction projects planned for the immediate future—aside from those directed at the company’s mind-blowing churn rate of more than 70% a year. Unfortunately, more than 1,000 employees are once again being housed off campus, despite ongoing efforts to keep everyone together.

For those who have been through the off campus experience, there is an appreciation of the company’s attempt to bring everyone back. One employee comments, “There was one period when I was off campus, and our department really missed the sense of community during that time. We were very excited to get back on the main campus.”

The master plan appropriates enough space for the next 20 years, but Petsche feels long-term master plans are difficult to follow rigorously these days. “Things change rapidly in a global environment, and you have to be able to react. I’m not going to say 10 years from now I’ll know what this place will look like or what buildings should be built. We can only plan for a three to five year period; it’s too tough to do beyond that,” he explains.

While Petsche anxiously anticipates the next phase of construction, the overall look and feel of the campus is cohesive, impressive, and successful at conveying the company’s primary goals. “We do a really good job of making this place look top notch all the time,” he says, “because we use it to attract and retain employees; we use it for advertising; and we use it to attract good sports icons to our stable of athletes. We want a place that looks like we know what we’re doing.”

When Petsche recently took a group of facility managers around the campus, many were impressed by both the aesthetics and the operations. Disbelief was a common reaction, especially when they compared benchmark and maintenance costs. (Nike came in near the mean for most all categories.) “They’d ask, ‘How do you achieve the mean and maintain the facilities like they’re brand new?’ It’s pretty neat when you can pull that off,” says Petsche.

Clearly, Nike has been successful in almost every venture it has touched. And despite growth at breakneck speed, the company has created a winning approach to its operations through the use of a master plan that incorporates environmental sensitivity. This is a company that uses big picture strategies down to the smallest detail.

Online Exclusive Bonus: The Building Names

At Nike World Headquarters, each named facility is branded. When a building nears its completion, Nike determines which athlete will get the distinction of having a building named in his or her honor. These places are unsurpassed in the way they reflect the athlete’s passions and ambitions.

Building branding includes several things, most notably themed graphics that revolve around the athlete or that particular sport. Then there are the “Hero Cases” that include memorabilia from the athlete’s career.

For instance, in the Nolan Ryan building, artist Leo Sewell took bits and pieces of memorabilia from the pitcher’s garage—a shotgun, flashlight, and other items “donated” by Ryan’s wife—and created a 15′ high statue for the building. After the building was completed, Ryan came out to the campus for a tour—and a surprise. Petsche, who conducted the tour, says, “He had no idea these things had been taken. When he started looking at the finished statue, he said, ‘I was looking for that flashlight!’ It was great.”

This article was based on interviews with Petsche ([email protected]) and Zanger ([email protected]). Assistance was also provided by Lonny Knabe, sustainable projects coordinator for corporate facilities with Nike, Inc. He prepared the document entitled, “Nike World Headquarters Sustainability Notes,” which was used as reference material for this article and served to support the LEED-EB Gold certification of the Ken Griffey, Jr. Building. He can be contacted at [email protected].


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