Haworth's strategy made manifest

October 24, 2008
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“At the end of the day, if we build a building and put it in place, so what? You can argue that anyone with a nice checkbook could do that,” said Ken Brandsen, manager of Haworth’s facilities design and management. “For us, it was more about how do we build for the future?”

The building Brandsen was referring to is Haworth’s new global headquarters, One Haworth Center. The inspiration was simply to capture the essence of the company in the building.

One Haworth Center takes conventional office layouts and throws them out one of its many windows. Instead of using the traditional hierarchy of designing and assigning office space by title, the designers looked at how departments interact with each other.

“There was a survey tool we used called a Social Network Survey to determine who should sit next to who. This was at a high level, so, large departments,” said Brandsen.

“That social network is a little counterintuitive from how you think it would be. When we started the process, we thought, ‘Okay, customer service. That’s the core of who we are. They have to be at the center of the building. In reality, the Social Network Survey told us they could be off in another country. Most of the connection they have with the building is electronic in nature.”

On paper, the results of the survey look somewhat like a brainstorming mind map, with circles representing various groups or departments and lines connecting the circles. The weight of the line determines the strength of connection between the groups, so a thick dark line represents regular interaction and a higher dependency between those groups.

A strong part of what led to organizational changes in the building’s design was how employees most often answered a question about the goals they had for their new workspaces in the building. The two top answers were “daylight” and “views.”

“We could not manage the building like we did in the past in a way that says ‘Your office size and application depends upon what your position is within the company,’” said Brandsen. “We started to take a more standardized approach to that.”

That approach included dividing the open floor space into zones. Brandsen said the zone of open office space was called the dynamic zone. Another zone, used for conference space, was called the temporal zone. Toward the back of the building is a more conventional zone given to electrical needs, storage space, bathrooms and other essentials. The open layout of the building allows for more views and draws daylight deeper into the building.

The framework was built from what Brandsen described as a “chassis,” which creates a plan for use of the space that addresses both the company’s current needs and possible future needs. With the framework in place and with the input from the surveys, department needs and then, on a smaller level, individual needs were tackled.

“It really started with those four primary objectives: the Haworth strategy manifested in the building, the client experience, the sustainability goals, as well as the future,” said Brandsen.

“Those four overarching objectives led to further input, and the next notch down to that survey tool highlighting daylight and view. That then led the interiors team and the architecture team to put a solution in place that built upon those, and then more down to the individual level … to accommodate a person and an individual’s needs.”

Currently, only Phase 1 of One Haworth Center is complete and does not yet house all the company’s employees. Haworth plans to complete Phase 2 of the project and move the remaining employees from a leased space nearby into the completed building by the end of the year.

The second phase totals 75,000 square feet, approximately 30 percent of the overall project, which will be just over 300,000 square feet. The construction of the second phase is almost complete, said John Scott, facilities project manager.

“We’ve got one floor that will have furniture installed both this week and next, and the other floor, the general contractor is simply cleaning up and cleaning out,” said Scott. “It’s at the tail end of the construction process.”

The size of the project as a whole was too large to address all at once, Scott said, and was to broken into two phases to save money by implementing methods such as not moving the entire work force at once.

Brandsen said that many people only use their offices 30 to 50 percent of the time, and when creating the building, they wanted to find a way to best utilize the areas outside of an individual’s office. He said in the previous building, 90 percent of the space was devoted to individual offices and 10 percent to collaborative space. The new building contains 60 percent closed offices and 40 percent collaborative space, which is divided up further into closed and open collaborative space.

“The building and the space has as much impact on how you get your job done as your individual space,” Brandsen said.

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