The cable and media giant expands its Sunnyvale center and prepares for the next chapter of innovation.
THIS ARTICLE WAS PUBLISHED IN THE ‘Q’ – THE REGISTRY’S PRINT PUBLICATION – IN APRIL 2014
Wild with creativity, that is.
It helps that their workplace environment at Comcast Cable’s recently expanded Silicon Valley Innovation Center in Sunnyvale is particularly conducive to that goal, from the carpet’s quirky circuit-board pattern to conference rooms playfully named after songs and from the magnetic, writable walls to the cool exposed ceiling.
“Part of having an innovation center is to go crazy and free,” said Miller, general manager of Comcast Silicon Valley. The Innovation Center was launched in 2011 in 40,000 square feet at the Moffett Towers, 1050 Enterprise Way. It now has been expanded to 70,000 square feet on two floors.
Everywhere, the center’s design works to stimulate employees’ innovative technological juices, inspiring them to conceive, develop and deploy cutting-edge products that improve how people connect to entertainment, information and their communities. Here is where 250 engineers, product designers and other employees brainstorm to come up with next-generation cable boxes, fresh features in home automation and new mobile applications.[quote]“Part of having an innovation center is to go crazy and free.” Justin Miller, general manager of Comcast Silicon Valley[/quote]
While the center is tech-centric, it also incorporates plenty of green elements, earning Gold certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program of the U.S. Green Building Council.
Increasingly, companies in the Bay Area—especially in Silicon Valley—are going for such a workplace design that caters to employees’ creative and health-conscious sensibilities as a way to draw highly skilled talent in a competitive recruiting region and raise worker performance.
“It is one of the key things that differentiates the tech sector here from other places in the country,” said Randy Howder, a principal and workplace strategist at global design firm Gensler. “It’s something Bay Area companies continue to do whether it be environmentally sustainable projects or mixed services they provide employees or a variety of spaces to meet and collaborate.”
Recruiting and retaining talent in the Bay Area market is highly competitive, said Melissa Wallin, principal and CEO of Blitz, a San Francisco-based architecture and interior design firm that worked on the Innovation Center. “So it’s best to have a definite tool to get talent,” she said. Workplace design is a creative way to attract those top prospects.
One of the first design elements that a visitor notices upon walking into the center is a ceiling exposing structural beams, utility pipes and ventilation ducts. They crisscross one another above the30,000-square-foot first floor of the Moffett Towers office building.
“We wanted people’s ideas to soar,” Miller said of the open ceiling. “You need space for that” whereas a closed ceiling “feels corporate and rigid. It’s a grid. It’s not inspiring. You feel you have to conform.”
Just as open is the center’s floor plan, fostering a sense of collaboration as workers can see and talk with each other from their desks obstructed only by their large-screen Apple computers. The floor plan also allows employees at any desk to enjoy a window view and natural outside light.
The space features a bright color scheme with pockets of glossy red on the walls. “We went for vibrancy,” Miller said.
The lines of the circuit-patterned carpet are also red, serving as a kind of directional guide to different work or break rooms and nooks.
The work nooks are where teams of employees can meet on a specific project and feature glass walls on which they can write information, draw technical diagrams or post notes adhesively or magnetically. These nooks also have big-screen televisions that employees can use for project presentations and product demonstrations. “We have ‘pull-downs’ from the walls to access equipment to control what’s on the TVs,” Miller said.
Bay Area-based builder BCCI served as the general contractor for the expansion effort, whose cost was not disclosed, while the Urban Field Group, a San Francisco-based construction management company, was the project manager.
Being in Sunnyvale keeps the center close to the employees who live in the area and the high-caliber talent pool in Silicon Valley, Miller said. The center’s location is also near a Caltrain station and other amenities that benefit employees.
Preston Smalley, executive director of product at Comcast Silicon Valley, praised the expanded center. “This space fosters a lot of collaboration because you have a lot of open areas,” Smalley said. “Engineers sit next to designers, who sit next to product managers. It allows you to come together and together build a product. You don’t have the traditional silos where people sit behind walls.”
Photography by Jasper Sanidad