BNIM Connects People and Nature on a 3,600-Person Cali Campus

This redesign melds with the surrounding landscape, is suffused with natural light and achieved LEED Gold status.

Image courtesy of Assassi.

A casual observer might mistake BNIM’s Pacific Center Campus Project—complete with its new additions the Research + Design Building and Amenities Building—as more a San Diego tourist attraction than a workplace. After all, the landscape features quiet terraces, sloping rooftop prairies, gabion-shaped spaces and outdoor rooms with walls of local plants and grasses. Only the sleek buildings, which harmonize with the landscape architecture, belie the work, collaboration and community going inside the walls.

What is the address of the project?
10001 Pacific Heights Boulevard, San Diego, CA 92121

Who was the building architect and the interior architect/designer?
BNIM

When was the project completed?
The Research + Development Building was completed in November 2014, and the Amenities Building was completed in September 2015.

Image courtesy of Assassi.

What is the total square footage?
Research + Development Building: 357,000 SF
Amenities Building: 50,000 SF

What is the square footage per person?
287 GSF (Research + Development Building)

How many total employees are there and what’s the daily population?
Research + Development Building: 1,240 Employees / 1,240 Daily Population
Amenities Building: 84 Employees /1,950 Daily Population

What is the location’s proximity to public transportation and other amenities?
The new Pacific Center Campus Development, which includes the Research + Development Building (or R +D Building), Amenities Building, and an overall site design, transforms a suburban vehicle-oriented site into a pedestrian-focused innovation campus. The R+D Building, which has no public lobby, was designed to draw users into outdoor circulation to access the Amenities Building, which provides essential dining and gathering spaces for R+D and the campus-at-large. The progressive campus design connects a natural pedestrian trail to the adjacent Lopez Canyon and its extensive interconnected trail network to increase cycling and wellness opportunities, coming alive through human interaction.

The campus also promotes using public transit with its adjacency to multiple bus routes and its close proximity to a commuter train station. The campus is also part of a corporate shuttle system, which connects all 40-plus company buildings among themselves and to the main public transit. The campus design incorporates interior and exterior bike storage. Parking is consolidated into two garages; the experience of accessing these is organized as a sequence of exterior spaces, which are traversed by the campus occupants on a daily basis.

Image courtesy of Assassi.

Which furniture brands/dealers were used? Please touch upon any notable products, how they were used, and if they solved a specific problem.
Designing with the philosophy of “structure as finish” minimized the use of materials, reducing the potential for VOC contaminants. Where needed, low-emitting materials were incorporated, including zero- and low-VOC paints, Green Seal carpet systems, Cradle to Cradle furniture systems, and NAUF composite wood products. Diverting materials from the waste stream was a priority, as evidenced by the reclaimed walnut wood ceiling and wall panels that were milled to create acoustical panels for the break rooms and collaborative zones.

Steelcase, Coalesse, Sitmatic and Forms & Surfaces were prominent furniture brands utilized at the Pacific Center Campus Development.

Is there a mobile work or work-from-home policy or are most of the employees there all day every day?
The owner does provide flexible work hours for employees, which allows the teams to establish a schedule that works best for them. The campus was designed with incorporate extended and flexible work hours in mind. The design aslo reflects a desire for employees to take breaks, rewind, relax, enjoy outdoors and be safe at all times. The employees also work in other buildings that they are not assigned to and in other cities as needed.

Image courtesy of BNIM.

What percentage of the space is unassigned?
One percent of the space is unassigned.

How is the company’s brand reflected in the space?
The design team started the integration of the company brand by extracting and implementing some key some components of the company’s culture into the campus design.

The Pacific Center R + D Building was designed to be beautiful, deeply sustainable and to serve as a compelling amenity and powerful tool to support recruitment, boost productivity and enhance the client’s corporate values: innovation, execution and partnerships.

As part of the design firm’s human-purposed integrated design (HP.id) process, the team held multiple visioning sessions with the company’s most valuable asset—its people. These sessions provided feedback that produced a set of guiding principles and identified an overarching goal: create a facility to attract and retain the top talent in the industry. The team set out to accomplish this goal by upending the idea of the traditional workplace and creating an environment that appealed to essential human nature.

Major program components were organized to provide future flexibility and social interactions along the clear circulation systems and collaborative spaces while having clearly defined focus areas for the office and research spaces. The design team incorporated the newly launched company brand to integrate it into the various spaces including furniture color palettes and biomimetic supergraphic elements inspired by San Diego’s natural environment, thereby amplifying the brand presence in this unique corporate setting enhanced by nature.

What is the most unique feature about the new space?
BNIM’s Pacific Center Campus Development project illustrates the trend toward more integrated work environments that employ landscape architecture to inspire and extend the workplace.

The design team integrated the disciplines of landscape, architecture and interiors to form a seamless environment. It’s hard to know where buildings stop and the site begins. By integrating the overall campus around public spaces, public amenities and clear circulation systems, the building and campus users have extended the usable space into vibrant gathering areas and outdoor rooms around the site perfect for group work or creative thinking.

Image courtesy of Assassi.

If the company moved out of a previous space, what was the hardest aspect of change for people?
The most difficult aspect of change for the employees was the fact that they were leaving individual private offices and were transitioning to an open office environment. To overcome this challenge the team established a three-month long iterative and inclusive programming process in which the team collected and analyzed data from more than 200 people, working closely with departmental leadership, facilities, real estate teams, and other stakeholders.

During the visioning session, the employees emphasized the importance of having an attractive place to work that is simple and flexible, with nature and natural light, enhanced communication and collaboration, and improved amenities. It was through the initial visioning session that the team and client established the “Guiding Principles,” which became the team’s compass through the entirety of the project, especially at critical decision-making points. These principles focused on people, nature, and beauty:

  • Create an INSPIRING and BEAUTIFUL campus
  • Enhance connection to NATURE
  • Create spatial patterns that are ORGANIC and inspired by nature
  • Increase quantity and quality of OPEN SPACES, including increased daylight
  • Improve CONNECTION to surrounding campus buildings
  • Enhance direct and in-direct COMMUNICATION
  • Provide effective COLLABORATION spaces
  • Provide amenities to support a good WORK/LIFE BALANCE
  • Foster a COMMUNITY that supports a HEALTHY lifestyle
  • Design a campus that makes employees HAPPY
  • Create a FLEXIBLE work environment
  • Be EFFICIENT
  • Be on TIME
  • Be on BUDGET

The participating end-user groups were engaged and informed about the project progress throughout the project duration and were able to become champions to get further buy-in from other team members.

Please talk about any other notable aspects of the project that make it unique.
This project addressed the goals of the client by providing a nurturing campus and demonstrating that community can be created within a 3,600-person campus. The design decisions were centered around the individual users’ needs, as well as the larger needs of the individuals as a group or a community.

By removing almost all surface parking and collecting vehicular access at on-site garages, the team created space for a comprehensive landscaping strategy including: gardens with native and adaptive landscape palettes; vegetable and herb gardens; orchards; walking paths; a running trail connecting to the adjacent Lopez Canyon trails; multi-purpose soccer/cricket field; bocce court; and outdoor dining and collaboration spaces. These spaces provide a beautiful and calming background for individuals to relax, contemplate or work as well as for groups of people to come together to collaborate at the highest level.

Image courtesy of Assassi.

In response to surveys indicating 23 percent of the population had interest in biking to work, the campus provides secure bike storage rooms to promote use of bikes as an alternate mode of transportation. Biking, running and walking pathways are organically woven through the campus landscape.

The occupants of buildings are continually connected to nature even when they are inside. For instance, 84 percent of the work spaces achieve adequate light levels without the use of artificial lighting, and 100 percent of the employees have access to operable windows, bringing fresh San Diego breezes into the workspace.

To maintain healthy indoor environmental quality in the R+D Building, all materials used for the interior of the buildings comply with stringent LEED v3.0 for New Construction criteria and achieved of 13 out of 15 possible indoor environmental quality credits by implementing increased ventilation, low-emitting materials, and controllable daylight systems. The buildings achieved LEED Gold.

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