Nuclear Energy Institute: Video and Case Study

See how workspace is supporting creativity, innovation, and community at NEI‘s new HQ in this video and case study sponsored by FOX Architects.

In January of 2013, Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), a policy organization of the nuclear energy and technologies industry, moved into their new headquarters on F Street in Washington, D.C. For the past 20 years, NEI occupied a closed office space on I Street; the new 50,000 square foot space is located in the heart of D.C.’s Central Business District, near the Metro’s Red Line, and several NEI members’ offices.

FOX Architects was selected in conjunction with Wingate Hughes as a strategic design consultant to refresh the brand and create a space that embodied a vision of “Clean Air Energy”. The central challenge was to create an entirely closed office environment that still allows for collaboration and community integration.

The reception desk at Nuclear Energy Institute’s new Washington, DC office.  All photos by Ron Blunt, courtesy of FOX Architects.
The reception desk at Nuclear Energy Institute’s new Washington, DC office.
Photo by Blunt, courtesy of FOX Architects.

On top of that, NEI wanted to create a space that was member-facing and accommodating of their needs, so they were highly involved in the decision-making process. FOX and NEI developed a 25-person project team to review and approve all design decisions.

With the new location, NEI:

  • Designed an innovative space that supports and promotes “community”
  • Refreshed the brand to reflect the design concept “Clean Air Energy”
  • Future-proofed the space so that it can continue to support NEI’s work at least 15 years into the future
Photo by Ron Blunt, courtesy of FOX Architects.
Photo by Ron Blunt, courtesy of FOX Architects.

Early in the conceptualization process, the design team visited the Calvert Cliffs nuclear reactor facility in Md. as part of a team building activity. Jim Allegro, a founding principal at FOX, recalls that “there was a real sense of a community within a community; the plant facility and the people who work there and the picturesque rural Maryland surroundings were harmonious.” Thus inspired, the team set out to:

  • Capture the clean precision of nuclear power
  • Foster the same strong sense of community at NEI that the design team observed at the Calvert Cliffs facility
  • Unify the space with blue LED lighting inspired by the Cherenkov Effect
  • Create a sustainable space

The design concept was centered on the balance between nature and technology, and the manifestation of “energy” in the physical space. On all floors, natural woods and stone were thoughtfully juxtaposed with metal mesh, glass, and LED lighting to reinforce this relationship.

Photo by Ron Blunt, courtesy of FOX Architects.
Photo by Ron Blunt, courtesy of FOX Architects.

NEI’s previous building featured variety of office sizes but no public gathering space. The new space sacrifices office size (10×10) to shift square footage to larger collaborative spaces, encouraging interaction without undercutting privacy. DIRTT glass wall systems helped to open and illuminate the office area.

The design concept was centered on the balance between nature and technology, and the manifestation of ‘energy’ in the physical space.

To foster a sense of connectedness, FOX utilized the eleventh (middle) floor as the central hub of activity. The linear, clean café area provides a multi-purpose, flexible space for employees to meet, socialize, and collaborate. Designers positioned the cafe along a win­dow line to allow for light. For these reasons, Daniel Jimenez with IIDA’s Mid-Atlantic Chapter said that this space is his favorite: “It’s very fun and casual. You can cater to post conference events and play music in this space.”

Photo by Ron Blunt, courtesy of FOX Architects.
Photo by Ron Blunt, courtesy of FOX Architects.

Another unique element is a collection of winding LED light fixtures, located at the center of the terrazzo monumental stair that connects all three floors. The stair accentuates a metal mesh backdrop with various shapes and textures. Clear glass guardrails increase the open, connected feel of the space. A blue LED glow complements the feature stair, and is considered the nucleus of the space.

Parallel with the office design, FOX’s graphic studio worked with NEI to create a brand refresh of NEI’s logo and the application of multimedia forms throughout the space, including typography, transparent film, and photographs. “This is NEI’s home and we wanted you to see its brand and personality everywhere,” said Allegro. Elsewhere, they branded the space with:

  • Photographs selected for branding walls are images of the U.S Capitol and Calvert Cliffs nuclear reactor facility
  • Vivid “energy” lines conceptually link each graphic wall to the rest of the space
  • Elements of color palettes from paint and carpet selections influence the new logo and multimedia
  • Use of bold red and NEI’s signature blue accents unify and invigorate the space
Photo by Ron Blunt, courtesy of FOX Architects.
Photo by Ron Blunt, courtesy of FOX Architects.

John McIntire, NEI’s executive director and CIO, said that the organization’s vision for the use of technology in the new space was focused on the future. Tritech Communications configured the space with iPads docked in every meeting room wall, and a customized Creston application that controls all lighting, projectors, laptops, IPTV, and blue ray technology. The main conference room also doubles as NEI’s 24/7 Emergency Response Center for a natural disaster.

NEI saw this move as an opportunity to transform their space for their members, and their new office space represents who they are and how they think about themselves. “We put everything into this project,” said McIntire, “and got everything we wanted out of it.”

 

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