Hardware-Prototype Designer Opens this Fall in San Francisco

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“We are looking for skills across a variety of roles, including product design, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, firmware design, operations and business development,” Casey said. PCH employees on average are in their early 30s. “We pay competitive salaries to hire the best people,” Casey said.

[contextly_sidebar id=”63ee0dd3861973ad3754f8a46cdb3210″]The Potrero Hill headquarters will be home to PCH’s recently acquired Lime Lab Inc., which was founded in Silicon Valley and works with industrial-design firms to develop products from concept to manufacturing. Lime Lab will have 3D printers, automated milling machines to make industrial components and other advanced equipment, Casey said.

The building will also feature PCH’s newly launched Highway1 incubator program, which provides up to $20,000 in seed capital to hardware startups in exchange for an equity interest of 3 percent to 6 percent. The program includes training in innovation and entrepreneurship as well as a two-week course in Shenzhen, which is near Hong Kong, where participants will delve into the vast consumer-electronics supply chain in the Pearl River Delta, the main hub of China’s manufacturing industry.

Although PCH’s new building speaks to the future, it pays homage to Potrero Hill’s industrial legacy involving such companies as U.S. Steel, the Western Sugar Refinery and Bethlehem Shipbuilding Co. All the upgrades are incorporated well into the existing structure, Berling said, “so you should have a nice combination of the new and old.”

The design respects the past when workers did heavy lifting, said Christian Dauer, the project’s San Francisco-based architect. Now “It’s a new era,” he said. “They are still making things in the building, but they are product engineers. They are not in coveralls.”

The industrial concrete warehouse was built in the 1920s. “We have to conform to regulations of maintaining the existing structure,” Berling said. “Working within those confines was challenging, but we procured all the permits and did extensive upgrades.”

The 30,000-square-foot building has three floors. The first is the presentation space to entertain potential clients and showcase PCH offerings a la Steve Jobs’ product unveilings at Apple, Berling said. The second floor is where much of the prototyping work is to happen, while the third is for administration and hosting small startup companies.

A grand staircase encased in glass will allow workers, clients and visitors to see the building’s entire operations as they go up or down the steps. “You won’t lose contact with what’s going on,” Dauer said.

Also, the majority of the workspaces are open so “no one has a private office,” Dauer said. However, there are rooms for more private conversations, small groups or large meetings.

That’s all part of the openness and flexibility in the building’s design that lend themselves to the brainstorming and free flow of ideas inside, Dauer said. “The design is reflecting what the company does.”

Other building features include a wood-panel mezzanine with tiered seating, a high-end audio-visual system and large glass garage doors that open up to an outdoor deck for company festivities.

The building is also seeking Gold certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program of the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council. Among the structure’s environmentally conscious elements are the use of sustainable wood and recycled construction material, occupant-sensing lighting and bike parking.

Casey declined to reveal the overall cost of the project but said, “It’s a significant investment.”

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