Microsoft’s Silicon Valley Expansion to Add “Smartest, Greenest” Office

By Vladimir Bosanac

Big changes are afoot in Redmond, Washington and the impact of those will be felt all the way to Silicon Valley, as well. Just a week ago, Redmond-based Microsoft announced plans to expand its sprawling 500-acre suburban campus east of Seattle and invest billions in tearing down 12 buildings and replacing them with 18 taller ones, adding around 2.5 million square feet in the process to the roughly 15-million square foot campus. The way work is done today has changed since the original buildings were erected, and the younger employees demand a setting that does not include traditional private offices with closing doors. In Silicon Valley, where the company’s 32-acre campus sits, the challenges are even starker. The company needs to make a real statement in order to stand out.

The company’s Silicon Valley office was established in 1981, and today Microsoft’s teams in the region work on Xbox, PowerPoint and, among other projects. According to a blog post by Kevin Scott, the company’s Chief Technology Officer, the efforts in the Bay Area will look to create the company’s “smartest, greenest office yet.” The company recently broke ground on its 643,000-square-foot modernization effort in Mountain View where more than 2,000 employees work. The project represents a commitment by the company to create the best employee experience in the industry, and it should be completed and ready for occupancy by December of 2019.

The modern workspaces throughout the campus will promote collaboration and productivity, providing areas that help generate creativity and allow for focused concentration

“Our goal is to design a campus that benefits and restores the natural area. California continues to face increased demand for limited water and energy resources. We took these challenges into account when we began our design plans. We started with the biggest challenge for the region — water,” said Scott. The campus is attempting to achieve a net zero non-potable water certification under the Living Building Challenge, making it the first technology company to receive this certification.

This effort will include creating a robust water management system that will harvest rain water and have an onsite wastewater treatment plant. In all, the effort will reduce potable water consumption by over 5 percent. “One hundred percent of the buildings’ non‑drinking water will come from rainfall or on-site recycled water. This will be a first in Silicon Valley, and it shows a commitment to innovation and sustainability,” said Pauline Souza, San Francisco partner at WRNS Studio Architecture & Planning in a statement.

The new buildings will also be designed to meet LEED Platinum certification, will include solar panels for some energy generation, the extent of which was not described, and a 4-acre living roof. The living roof addition is hoping to add to the Stevens Creek habitat, which is adjacent to the campus.

“Many buildings start with a design concept and work backwards to mitigate harm to the local ecosystem and natural resources. Our design started with a different goal in mind – could we design a building that was actually beneficial and restorative to the local ecosystem? We think we’ve achieved just that,” said Darren Lombardi, design and construction manager, Microsoft Silicon Valley.

Yet, the most important aspect of this evolution of the company’s Silicon Valley presence is what will happen on the inside of the building. “The modern workspaces throughout the campus will promote collaboration and productivity, providing areas that help generate creativity and allow for focused concentration,” Scott wrote. “The neighborhood and courtyard concept makes it easy for our employees to move from outdoor to indoor spaces. Employees will have access to natural light through a glass exterior from anywhere on campus.”

The property is also taking cues from the WELL Building standard and in line with that will offer food choices that conform to healthy living standards that go beyond just the physical space.

Finally, the company plans to add a new conference center theater and a Microsoft Technology Center that will display and demonstrate technology that the company creates. It’s goal is to showcase its innovation and provide a touch point for its services.

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