A more efficient layout and a freshened identity to both attract new employees and keep the ones it had were among the goals the American Automobile Association (AAA) set for the interior design of its Northern California Nevada Utah (NCNU) headquarters, recently completed by HGA. Now accommodating 380 employees with the incorporation of the relocated Emeryville, CA office, the new 50,000-square-foot Walnut Creek facility redesign includes custom Knoll workstations to encourage collaboration, a conference center, a café area with meeting areas, and a high-impact entryway.
One of AAA’s goals in the redesign was to construct a more efficient layout to house all of the organization’s employees and to create a freshened identity for its headquarters. AAA wanted the headquarters to attract a younger clientele and workforce, while also retaining the employees it currently has.
“During the programming phase, we learned AAA has an amazing retention rate, however, many of the employees move between departments as they develop in their careers and as the company evolves,” said Melissa Pesci, principal and vice president at HGA. “Therefore, it was important for all of the workstations to be the same, but offer enough flexibility to cater to employees’ varied work styles.”
HGA designed both open and enclosed meeting spaces in a variety of sizes and heights to fit the office’s varied meeting styles. Because many of the meetings that occur in the office involve four people or less, HGA was able to save AAA substantial square footage and allot significantly more space for meetings by reducing the size of typical conference rooms which previously seated eight to 10 employees.
In addition to meeting AAA’s needs for a more efficient layout, HGA also integrated the AAA brand in the design by incorporating the theme of the “American road trip.” The new design contains specific elements that emulate the sense of camaraderie, excitement, and exploration when embarking on an adventure. For example, the boardroom features a wood treatment that resembles tire tracks and a table with vintage hubcaps; headlight light fixtures can be found in the conference room; meeting nooks are inspired by 1970s rest areas. The three “A’s” in “AAA” can be found in the design of three break rooms that incorporate the A-frame highway rest-stop design and across the hall a wall is decorated with vintage license plates from every state. Office artwork also supports the theme, with commissioned photography made into window film featuring the unique environments of the Northern California, Nevada, and Utah regions. To create the sensation of peering through a car window, the window film in the office is activated by natural light throughout the space and by the employees as they collaborate within the rooms or pass by.
HGA engaged the entire AAA staff throughout the design process. Every employee in AAA’s NCNU offices was able to vote on the palette for the new space as well as the selection of the new workstation standard that was used. The color palette selected was fresh, bright colors that match the yellow AAA trucks.
“We spent a significant amount of time upfront with AAA to find out what was working really well and what things could be improved,” said Pesci. “AAA had previously established a work environment that was incredibly supportive of focused work, but in an effort to attract a millennial workforce as well as better support and inspire the current employees, AAA wanted a space that was more balanced between offering this focused space in addition to a variety of dynamic collaboration spaces.”