architecture · behavior · community · culture · design · environment · Nature

The office for people who hate offices

This is a great idea! So many people have told me how they hate being inside the office all day, especially on nice summer days like this. We NEED exposure to the outdoors and nature in order to stay productive, mentally healthy, and physically fit. Just a 20-minute walk in the woods can have the same productivity benefits as an hour-long nap.

What’s your dream office? If you fantasize about bouldering on your lunch break–and appreciate being in a zero-waste, net zero-energy environment–you might want to take a look at the soon-to-be-completed space in the slideshow above: the new Alameda, Calif. headquarters of VF Corporation‘s outdoor and action sports coalition brands, which include The North Face, Lucy, and Jansport.

Now that VF’s outdoor brands are on good financial footing (especially The North Face), the corporation is working on a headquarters–set to be completed this summer–that was built with employee wish lists in mind. It shows.Below, some of the amenities available at the new 160,000-square-foot complex (many of them suggested by an employee task force).

  • A large onsite garden that will grow things like kale, tomatoes, and basil. VF expects to grow so much that employees won’t even be able to consume all of it. Leftover will be donated to a local food bank. Employees will be encouraged to help out with the garden, but local volunteers will also pitch in. A side note: Originally, VF toyed with the idea of installing a volleyball court, but employees elected to grow a garden instead.
  • Lots of natural light. 90% of employees will have access to direct sunlight, and in many areas of the complex, the overhead lights can often be kept off. Bonus: All the windows in the complex open (this should be a given, but it isn’t always).
  • Opportunities for onsite fitness, including an indoor fitness area and yoga room, an outside training area for bootcamp, an outside bouldering space, and an outdoor gear rental and repair shop.
  • A cafe serving the vegetables grown in the garden, among other things.
  • Eventually, if employees are really lucky, the ability to kayak out into the water just outside the complex (VF would need to make sure this is feasible and legal first, but employees have been asking for it).
  • A convenient location for almost everyone. When VF first started thinking about the new complex, it “took employee addresses and mapped out where they were” to figure out an ideal spot, according to Steve Rendle, group president of VF’s Outdoor & Action Sports Americas.
  • The office space is inside out: executive offices are in the middle of the room, and other employees sit by the windows.

VF is far from the only corporation to have an environmentally and outdoors-friendly campus. New Belgium Brewing Company, for example, buys clean energy, powers itself partially with methane from an on-site water treatment plant–and it offers perks like free bicycles and volleyball.

But the idea of a company keeping employees active, innovating, and considering the environment shouldn’t be a novel one. We hope, in other words, that this becomes a trend well outside the outdoor apparel industry.

Find out more here.

The only thing I’m bummed about is that they didn’t use one of the hangars on the old Alameda Air Base, that closed down just over 12 years ago and hasn’t had much development done with it since. It would have been very “green” to recycle those old structures, but I also understand the price and space limitations. Still, very exciting overall, and I hope this trend continues with new office buildings.

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