By Anne Cosgrove
From the June 2013 issue of Today’s Facility Manager
As an independent research firm that provides forward thinking advice to global business and technology clients, Forrester Research seized the opportunity to provide its own employees with a creative and collaborative workplace when it decided in 2009 to move to new headquarters. Having outgrown the space it had occupied in Cambridge, MA for 10 years, the company moved into a six story, 186,000 square foot facility in August 2011.
The new headquarters, also in Cambridge, was a build to suit facility that had been LEED Gold certified. To outfit the interior, Forrester hired Boston, MA-based Margulies Perruzzi Architects (MPA) to provide interior architecture and corporate design services. The result is an open workplace that features flexible spaces, state-of-the-art audiovisual technology, and sustainability—along with interior design that reflects the company’s corporate culture. About 600 of the company’s 1,200+ employees work in the building.
Jean Baranowski, vice president of corporate services for Forrester, says, “Growth was the primary reason for the move; we needed a space that would accommodate long-term needs. Flexibility, sustainability, and reinforcing the company’s brand and supporting our company culture were also important factors.”
Forrester’s previous headquarters facility did encourage collaboration; employee teams worked in group offices that accommodated up to 10 people. But this did not provide flexibility for expansion, if people were added to a team, for instance.
Explains Baranowski, “With the new headquarters, we eliminated the group offices and went to an entirely open environment that is flexible and collaborative.” As a result, there are no private offices; employees work in areas comprised of low walled workstations. Team rooms were included in the layout as well as quiet rooms, but the overall layout is an open, flexible workplace. In addition, in the center of each floor, there is a cluster of meeting rooms (referred to as “zipper areas”).
Two kitchen/lounge areas located next to each set of glass enclosed egress stairs are key to the interactive nature of Forrester’s offices. The facility also features a larger café for employees and clients.
Baranowski shares, “Our list of ‘must haves’ included: audiovisual technology to allow employees to collaborate worldwide; a conference center large enough for worldwide, company wide meetings; an open environment, without private offices; and meeting rooms and collaboration spaces of various sizes.”
The new building also has a sound masking system—an essential feature in an open seating environment, points out Baranowski.
Community And Communication
At the heart of Forrester’s new facility is a two level conference center situated around the main lobby/atrium. This center is comprised of 17 conference rooms of varying sizes, some with videoconferencing and one with future telepresence capabilities. These audiovisual tools are necessary for the company’s internal meetings as well as for communicating with clients and colleagues around the world.
During the design process, MPA worked with the Forrester project team to conduct in-house research and solicit feedback from employees. The findings were translated into a workable architectural program. Says Janet Morra, AIA, LEED AP, principal at MPA, “The need for collaborative space and conference rooms—for both internal and client communication—was the overarching issue that everyone agreed on.”
An important part of the conference center space is a 4,275 square foot multipurpose room that accommodates 450 people. Forrester uses this room to conduct client seminars and company wide meetings (including employees throughout the world).
Morra shares, “The challenge was to make this large space useful all the time, not just for specific events. The solution was to provide the ability to divide the space into two or three rooms. Walls that retract into the ceiling make it possible to divide the space, while a moveable front wall connects the multipurpose room to an adjacent gallery area.”
Morra explains, “Because there are no fixed walls in the multipurpose room, audiovisual equipment could not be wall mounted, so all controls were located remotely. This space also features two-way videoconference feeds to communicate with other offices as well as room darkening shades for better viewing.”
She continues, “A centrally located audiovisual control room automatically adjusts the shades, lighting and audiovisual equipment for a selected room function for each room in the conference center. The entire area sits on a raised floor to provide greater flexibility to power and data, and moveable, modular tables and chairs can be configured in many ways.”
Hitting The High Notes
Reflecting a company tradition used in other locations, the large multipurpose room was dubbed “Woodstock.” Referring to the well known music festival of 1969, the room’s name is part of the naming convention used for many of the rooms throughout Forrester’s headquarters. “As an idea company, creativity and collaboration are core to the Forrester culture,” says Baranowski. “The arts—and music, specifically—were a natural fit for the naming convention.”
This practice began in 1995 when meeting rooms in a previous office were named after members of the Allman Brothers Band, a favorite of the company’s founder and CEO, George F. Colony.
“The naming started as a means of wayfinding,” explains Baranowski. The current headquarters continues this tradition. The Woodstock meeting room is one example, while the core client meeting rooms are named after classic artists: Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Elvis, Ray Charles, Rolling Stones, Beatles, and Allman Brothers.
Each of the rooms features artwork with images of the musician(s) it is named for. Meanwhile, the conference center includes original pieces of art that relate to the rock and roll theme.
The musical motif extends throughout the building, explains Baranowski, with each of the six floors assigned a theme, with related artwork. The first floor features 1950s music images, for instance; the second floor showcases the 1960s; and so on to the 2000s.
Sustainability A Focus
As mentioned earlier, the Forrester headquarters base building was certified LEED Gold, and the company sustained its pursuit of an environmentally friendly facility by earning LEED Platinum for Commercial Interiors for the space. Contributing to this achievement was the use of FSC certified wood and regional materials as well as the availability of alternative transportation.
Forrester specifically selected a site located a short walking distance from the Alewife Station in Cambridge, a hub for the Red Line into Boston as well as area buses.
Meanwhile, the building overlooks a designed landscape that can be used for recreational purposes. And the interior floorplan was designed to provide outside views all occupants. This was achieved by locating all enclosed rooms on the interior, and making windows accessible to all employees and guests.
In addition to product specification and recycling to support LEED certification, the project also achieved a 35% reduction in water use and a 35% reduction in lighting power. This performance is attributed to the use of LED lighting and daylight harvesting.
Notes Baranowski, “Contributing to these efficiencies is the fact that all lighting in the meeting rooms are on motion sensors. Meanwhile, there are automated faucets and toilets and waterless urinals in the restrooms.”
The design team chose materials thoughtfully to ensure that the project aesthetic would be maintained while achieving Forrester’s sustainability goals.
Additionally, Morra shares, “While sustainability was very important, it was equally important the space perform well over time. One of the most important materials for durability was flooring. The high traffic reception/atrium area is surfaced with porcelain tile, which is extremely durable and requires low maintenance. And high quality carpet tile was used in the work areas; it performs well and is easy to replace if necessary.”
Analysis Pays Off
Nearly two years after the move, Forrester is thriving in its new facility. Says Baranowski, “The Margulies Perruzzi Architects team brought enthusiasm and creativity to our largest design project yet, and we are excited by the distinctive design features and functionality of our new corporate headquarters. Having worked together for 10 years on multiple projects, MPA understands our collaborative culture and flexible work style, as well as the importance of sustainability. As a result, they designed a relevant, welcoming space for our clients and employees that enhances Forrester’s physical brand.”