Photographs courtesy of Skyline Construction
By Jacob Bourne
CBRE Group Inc., a global commercial real estate services and investment firm, has embarked on a plan to apply the workplace strategies it offers clients to its own offices. Following its recently converted office space in San Jose, the company just finished relocating the Palo Alto location from a suburban-feeling El Camino Real business park, to a northern Downtown location at 400 Hamilton Avenue. According to Emily Neff, senior associate, global corporate services workplace strategies, the move signaled the start of a “refresh cycle” that’s transformed the office environment from the inside out.
Neff is also the project manager for CBRE’s Workplace 360 initiative, launched in 2011, that promotes flexible, mobile, high-tech workspaces that have gone completely paperless. The new 10,000 square foot Hamilton Avenue office is designed to reflect the versatile nature of the CBRE workforce and is the thirtieth of the company’s offices to be updated.[contextly_sidebar id=”wzUaUNrjVWlmWoQUMdYPsLG7KZ7abCYV”]“The key element of CBRE offices is that we don’t use the spaces 100-percent of the time, it’s closer to 50-percent of the time as our employees do frequent site visits, travel and often work from home,” said Neff. “It’s not a one-space-per-person model. We did a lot of work to get people ready for the change, which features enhancements, new technology and an emphasis on wellness.”
The office’s design is intended to maximize knowledge sharing, collaboration and connection among employees. Work areas are free-form, giving employees full control over whether they work at a traditional desk, cafe or in a shared space such as meeting rooms featuring AV solutions, plug-and-play technology and video conferencing capabilities. This structural mobility is complemented by technology enhancements including ensuring that all employees — from reception to senior management — have laptops and access to the fully wireless network. All workstations have dual monitors and wireless headsets that can be taken home or used during travel. The “heart” of the office is a non-traditional reception area that feels more akin to a hotel lobby or coffee shop, which can be used for events or evening cocktail hour. An adjacent sliding door lets in a steady stream of fresh air and invites workers to spend time out on a furnished balcony.
“We wanted an office environment that caters to our employees and our clients,” said Todd Husak, managing director of CBRE’s Palo Alto office. “We designed a layout that encourages and enables collaboration and invested in world-class technology to create an interior that connects with our clients—whether they are startups, leading professional service firms or global technology companies. Downtown Palo Alto is one of the most dynamic markets in the world and offers all the amenities our employees want, so we really have established the premier real estate office in the entire Bay Area.”
Fifty-five employees were relocated to the new office that can accommodate up to 75 staff. In addition to the internal amenities, the location provides greater access to transit, restaurants, retail, walkable intersections and local parks. Several employees serve on a health and wellness committee that has encouraged high participation in bike-to-work days and walking competitions. In terms of sustainability, one of the major changes has been the switch to a paperless office that involved an extensive digitalization process where scores of old documents were scanned and physical copies purged. With office space no longer dedicated to documents, more areas are devoted to productivity, amenities and socializing.
CBRE was represented by Damon Schor and Mina Mohamadi in the lease deal made with building owner Keenan Land Company. Similar office conversions are planned for the Oakland location in the first quarter of 2017 and the San Francisco office in early 2018.