The most striking feature of Interface’s new Midtown Atlanta headquarters, which opened in December 2018, is its skin: 307 panels of glass wrapped in a semi-transparent, recyclable polyester sheath on which a life-size forest is depicted. Enveloping nearly every square inch of the building, the sheath’s pixelated pattern draws an unequivocal connection to the site’s natural history, which was once part of the Piedmont Forests. But it also makes a bold statement about Interface’s love of nature and commitment to sustainability, health, and environmental performance. Indeed, it’s what’s underneath the building’s skin that is the most striking of all.
Base Camp: Factory as a Forest
Known to Interface employees as “Base Camp,” the new headquarters represents the company’s “Factory as a Forest” philosophy. When companies take their cues from natural ecosystems, Interface believes, they can create holistically healthy, positive, and productive workplaces that benefit everyone in and around them. Thus, everything about the new headquarters—a dramatically renovated 1960s office building—was designed with this philosophy in mind.
“Early on in the design process, we studied the site of the building and really tried to imagine it in its pristine original condition. We sought inspiration from the soil, water, and carbon conditions as they were long ago, back when the site was still an untouched deciduous forest, and wanted that inspiration to guide our design approach,” says Bruce McEvoy, principal at Perkins+Will.
Energy efficiency and wellness are key features of the building. New HVAC and lighting systems help reduce the building’s total energy use by almost 50 percent compared to typical office buildings. An expansive cistern collects and treats rainwater, eliminating the need for municipal water for restrooms or landscape irrigation. Wellness and “restoration rooms” are available for employee relaxation and meditation. And ample natural light illuminates every floor.
Biophilic design, which ensures that users of a space have a clear connection to plants and nature, is also a key focus. In fact, biophilic design elements organize the new headquarters into three “ecologies”: the Cave, the Forest, and the Bluff. The “Cave” is the refurbished parking garage, now serving as a welcoming point for visitors, as well as bicycle and rainwater storage. The “Forest” includes three floors of the original structure: a centralized work café optimized for employee collaboration and interaction; a quiet floor for rest, relaxation, and inspiration; and a room for executive leadership. The “Bluff” comprises a new penthouse and green roof terrace where employees can enjoy a natural respite amid views of Midtown.
The building is on track to earn LEED Platinum certification and WELL Gold certification.
A Modern-Day Workplace
One of the challenges with renovating a small, outdated office building is ensuring it meet the needs of a modern-day workforce. In this case, the design team needed to create enough space on a constrained site to allow Interface employees from multiple regional offices to work productively—all under one roof.
To ensure the best possible outcome, the team started by collecting data. Micro-polling through a smartphone app enabled on-the-spot surveying of Interface employees at random times throughout the day. This provided designers with valuable information about how staff spent their time, what they needed when, and which small changes could lead to big differences. Ultimately, the design of the workplace decreased the total square footage per person while increasing amenity and collaborative spaces. And it works: Interface encourages employees to use the whole building as their office, in whatever ways make them most successful—from researching at a sit-stand desk to convening in a conference room to brainstorming on the roof deck.
“Really, the company’s own culture decided the building’s design for us,” says Joe Connell, principal at Perkins+Will. “We just helped them bring it to life.”
A Customer-Ready Experience
As the world’s leading modular flooring company for commercial and residential environments, Interface wanted to be certain that every square foot of its new headquarters would be “customer-ready.” That meant the prominent use of Interface products throughout the space. As a result, much of the interior design allows the floor to take center stage—the eye is naturally drawn to it—and the modular floor systems can be changed seasonally to showcase new styles. Additionally, a continuous walking path throughout the building introduces visitors to a host of work environments along the way—lounge areas, café-style seating, living room-like spaces, and more. This design decision decentralizes and deconstructs the traditional showroom.
“Our goal for Base Camp was to create a space that allowed us to better engage with our employees, global associates, and customers while reflecting the core values we live every day,” says Chip DeGrace, VP Workplace Applications at Interface. “Each of these groups is responding beyond our expectations to the new workplace. Every day we get to see how they are better able to connect, collaborate, and discover design inspiration.”