HQ Case Study: Mastering Its New Manor

By John Parkinson
From the February 2003 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

While one of the largest credit card companies in the world continued to handle it’s millions of business transactions successfully, MasterCard’s personnel languished due to its numerous office spaces spread throughout the St. Louis metropolitan area.

Before the company moved into its new Global Technology and Operations headquarters in O’Fallon, MO, employees were taking shuttle buses between offices. Losing time and overall productivity, MasterCard officials knew they needed an upgrade.

Realizing they had a major operational problem, the company called on Ray Kelly, principal of Hellmuth, Obata, and Kassabaum (HOK), about designing one building to house all of the company’s local area employees under one roof.

“That was the primary issue (operational),”states Kelly. “The second goal when it came to design was flexibility and universal space.” MasterCard’s management wanted to be able to maintain that flexibility in addition to enhancing the infrastructure, the workstations and the office space.

What came from the eventual design and construction of the new campus was a 550,000 gross square foot building that now houses office space, a data center, a cafeteria, and approximately 2,200 local area employees. Today, Mastercard can house all of its employees and host all of the necessary company wide functions in-house.

Local Culture And The Lake

Anyone who visits the St. Louis area notices the great number of red brick buildings. Consequently, the facade of the new building is largely made of brick. Horizontally banded and multi-colored brick added an eye-pleaseing color scheme to the design.

“They wanted a masonry building for cost reasons and because the Midwest uses brick extensively,” says Rick Drucker, principal architect, HOK. “And so the building is essentially brick to the outside world but predominately glass on the lake edge where it’s a little more secure.”

The building was constructed around a lake that is approximately eight acres and maintains a scenic view for employees walking through the campus or eating at the cafeteria.

“One of the neat features for an employee is our main street design. These main aisles are situated along the lake, and offices are on the other side, so [everyone] actually has access to a wonderful view,” says Case.

To take advantage of the natural setting, employees can rent toy control boats to use on the lake. In addition, Koi fish were introduced last year. There are food dispensers for the fish, and all proceeds are donated to the employee activities committee.

Meeting And Communication Capability

The new campus benefits from increased meeting space and technology integrations. MasterCard can now have all employees attend meetings on campus and not waste company time with the commuting process.

Through the Internet, meetings can be Webcast directly to individual desktops, so employees don’t even need to leave their desks. “We will stream those meetings to the desktop, so employees will be able to watch that meeting live,” explains Mike Manchisi, senior vice president of global technology and operations, MasterCard. During the live meeting, employees can e-mail questions and get answers in real time.

“Through the video streaming, we will be able to keep the meetings on file through the Internet.”

This feature allows absent employees to go back and view the meeting at any time.

Aside from the company’s extensive Internet capabilities, the new building has incorporated other ingeniuous ways of communicating. Message boards have been installed all over the campus to keep people up-to-date on events, announcements, and company news. Paper announcements can be clipped to the message boards, as well.

“The message boards in the chat rooms are used for some corporate information, but more for local or neighborhood information for the department near that chat room,” states Linda Locke, vice president of communications, MasterCard. “For example, there might be things like birth announcements, bowling scores, and other local level events.”

Along with message boards and extensive electronic methods of communication, MasterCard has convenient areas set up where employees can hold small, informal meetings. With soft spaces, employees are given the flexibility to sit down and talk whenever the need arises.

Display Case

From the moment an employee or visitor walks into the the lobby, MasterCard’s level of commitment-not only to its business objectives but also to the local community-is clearly visible.

The company’s showcase houses both civic recognition items and awards for technology.

“It (displays) our business successes and group awards,”explains Mike Case, facility manager, MasterCard. “We’re doing great things in the community, and we’re showing employees.”

The “showcase wedge” is a 25-foot long display case in the shape of an abstract wedge. This case extends from a niche in the atrium gallery, and all the supports are hidden. The showcase gives the appearance it is suspended from the wall. HOK selected St Louis-based Adcraft-Exhibits to design and construct the project.

The Heart Of The Matter

Because this facility is responsible for every MasterCard credit card or debit card transaction in the world-there are 1.7 billion cards currently circulating-the company can afford zero downtime. As a result, several steps have been taken to protect against Mother Nature and man-made threats.

“Prior, our data center was in an office building that was retrofit to house our data center,” says Locke. “(It) wasn’t ideal when you wanted something that is highly protected against natural forces.”

Specifically, the area is susceptible to tornados and earthquakes. Consequently, the O’Fallon campus has gone so far as to exceed California’s building seismic standards.

The roof of the data center is concrete and covered with a membrane that consists of gravel and tar. In addition, no plumbing pipes or infrastructure branches out through the roof. This was done as as a preventive measure against leaks. All mechanical equipment and space are maintained on the side of the building instead.

HVAC needs are also done with caution in mind. Air is circulated through the floor. The floor is sloped to avoid flood damage. If water infiltrated this space, it would flow to the sides and out of the building. Finally, the power of the building was engineered to avoid outages entirely. The 60,000 square foot energy center includes a power plant that could support a town of 30,000 for two weeks if an emergency was to arise. The plant features a two end plus one system that allows components to be taken off line while the system continues to run.

“It gives us the full amount of redundancy, so we can do full preventive maintenance on any of the systems and still have the enduser up and running without any problems,” states Case.

So along with the company’s need to run perpetual business transactions safely, the new campus also offers the increased productivity of employees at one site and overall satisfaction with the newer surroundings. “From an employee perspective, coming in the building, there is a sense of openness…It’s very inviting,” says Manchisi.

With both management and employees in one facility, MasterCard can concentrate on its core business practices and beliefs, and at the same time enjoy the beauty of its newer environment.