Designer Forum: Conveying a sense of energy is a key component of an office reconfiguration - July 2022
By Deborah Elliott
In 2008, George Hershman had a vision to bring better energy solutions to the world using the power of the sun. Starting as a small division within Swinerton Builders, he ultimately grew that renewable-energy dream into a company employing more than 800 people. The division recently branched out into a standalone organization, Solv Energy, encompassing design, installation, maintenance and monitoring of solar energy arrays all over the United States. Solv’s dream is to rethink the way solar works-and the way our world is powered-by installing utility-scale projects with an agile, data-driven approach.
THE PATH FORWARD
When the balance of the 24,000-square-foot building where Solv’s 5,000-square-foot operations control center (OCC) was located became available, it meant the team could finally bring together under one roof the three departments that had developed in two locations. This also meant they could build around the 24/7 brain of their company without any downtime, saving millions in costs and an equal number of headaches.
When the decision makers at Solv sat down with the interior designers at ID Studios to dream about what they could accomplish in their new office, they envisioned a place that embodied the warm, cooperative culture they had nurtured over the previous decade. They also wanted to encourage collaboration amongst their employees by providing a variety of seating and meeting options spread throughout the office. To accomplish these goals, they gathered a team of trusted experts: interior designer ID Studios, graphic designer The Engine is Red and general contractor Swinerton Builders.
By the beginning of 2020, they had a plan solidly in place, and construction started in early February 2020-just weeks before the Covid-19 lockdown. The construction complications Covid-19 wrought are now legend in the industry as just about every design and architecture firm in the world ran into similar problems. Permit delays, inspection cancellations and material delivery delays were just the beginning. Creating new health and safety protocols for the construction site was another hurdle the contractor had to overcome.
The first complication to solve was to allow for round-the-clock staffing of the OCC during construction. A small corridor from an exterior door was constructed to provide uninterrupted access to the area. Electrical and network isolation plans were implemented, along with dust suppression strategies and health and safety protocols for the critical infrastructure employees who operated the 24/7 center.
CREATING AN ENERGY-DRIVEN ENVIRONMENT
Once these critical concerns were addressed, the fun could begin. A connection to the outdoors and access to natural daylight was realized using a variety of techniques. At the front of the building, a large amount of glazing was assigned to public spaces for everyone to enjoy. At the rear of the building, a large opening originally intended as a delivery bay was utilized as a connection to a newly developed outdoor patio area, which allows employees to take advantage of the Southern California sunshine through a new glass overhead door. And to bring daylight to the rest of the building, dozens of sun-tracking skylights were strategically located throughout the 18’-tall interior ceilings.
To build on the active and vibrant environment already in effect in the bustling OCC, the dynamic design language of facets and angles was expanded upon throughout the entire office. Not only is this apparent when viewing the plan, but also in the architectural details and in the flooring, finishes and lighting. While standing in the space, the flooring patterns are apparent and interact seamlessly with the other elements.
Another goal was to infuse nature throughout the space. This was achieved in a more abstract way, like selecting Mohawk Group’s Relaxing Floors carpet, which utilizes fractals that have been scientifically proven to reduce stress and provide benefits to physical health. It was also included in more literal ways, like utilizing moss in a graphic pattern on the lobby wall and providing strategically placed greenery throughout the office and outdoor patio.
The lobby is a prime example of abstracting nature into a dynamic feature. Upon opening the door, one first notices the angled ceiling lights that zigzag overhead and meet the back wall with slim recessed channel lights and a racing stripe of moss, both angling again to meet the natural patterning of Spec Ceramics’ Flow Diamond floor tile in Matte Black. Visitors instantly feel the energy that the entire space is meant to evoke as the tile transitions to the geometric TileBar porcelain floor tile by Angela Harris Inspira in the color Steel.
In the main office, a variety of flooring materials and patterns were used to differentiate between different types of spaces and to activate the major paths of travel. The floor patterns flow through the spaces like a subtle wayfinding device, as well as accentuating the different activities throughout the office, while protecting high-traffic areas. In the break area, Shaw LVT in two colors of the Inlet pattern were used to create a dynamic design that leads one through the space and ultimately to the glass door to the outdoor patio.
To keep the atmosphere light and fun, custom graphics celebrate the culture that encapsulates the spirit at Solv Energy. One entire wall explains how solar energy works, while another highlights fun pop culture references, company culture and iconic San Diego landmarks. Bright and bold colors along with high-contrast patterns bring everything to life. A multi-point shape reminiscent of the sun graces light fixtures and window film alike.
Team building and celebrating accomplishments are of particular importance at Solv Energy, and the design team found multiple ways to accomplish this. They installed 15’-tall photographs of a particularly photogenic photovoltaic installation, highlighting the work of Solv’s in-house photographer, as well. There is also a custom map of the United States, updated regularly with pins marking Solv’s latest installs.
Part of team building is collaboration. Providing places for working together was as important as heads-down workspace, so multiple configurations are available for both formal and impromptu meetings.
A SUCCESSFUL COMPLETION
Open communication enhanced the ability to find solutions for each problem as it arose. The contractor, Swinerton Builders, is the company from which Solv Energy originated, and Swinerton’s close relationship with the interior designers made decision-making easy. ID Studios has worked with Swinerton for over ten years, not only on design projects but also as the go-to designer for Swinerton’s own San Diego office. The team’s longstanding relationship contributed to the successful completion of the project.
As the project finally came to life early in 2021, the consensus was that the final product was a complete success. For the entire team, “it’s all about making the world better, about enriching people’s lives and trying to leave it better than we found it,” says ID Studios senior designer Kelsey Held. “So, it’s really easy to be passionate about what we do.”
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