Ground Up: Designing a First Generation Office Space

A best practices snapshot for building form and function into a dynamic workplace environment

Ground Up- Designing a First-Generation Office Space – HEADER.jpg

As an end-to-end solution provider in experience design, Adrenaline helps our clients bring to life beautiful spaces that work well.

This time, the client on the receiving end of our services in 2018 was the most demanding we’ve encountered yet: Ourselves. For this initiative, we successfully leveraged our own internal proficiency to create an office environment – a perfect marriage of form and function – out of a first generation space that had never seen human occupancy before.

In what started out its life as essentially an empty concrete box, the 26,000 foot open and airy space would ultimately become the home to the company’s headquarters and our team of talented experience design professionals.

Here’s how we did it.

Goals: While designing a from the ground-up space that you’ll work in every day alongside your creative coworkers might intimidate some people, our Senior Designer Saray Gill boldly picked up the mantle of crafting an environment that would merge the artful and practical into an inspirational, soaring space we’re all proud to work in every day. Aside from the very real prospect of critiques from your coworkers, the project also had to overcome several major challenges in order to bring the design to life.

Audience: For the first time, we would be the recipients of our own services, so this space really needed to pack a punch. It would simultaneously be a place for collaboration and creativity, as well as a showpiece for the experience design skills we would bring to our clients’ spaces.

Execution: At the heart of all of our design is a process we are continually perfecting called journey mapping. In all of our projects, we want to understand how people will use any space and solve for those human needs through design. Gill says, “What we are doing in this space is trying to make the environment conducive for people working. That means positioning workspaces with the most natural light and the most visibility to the outside where people will be most.”

Given that this is a first generation space, it had never had any electricity fitted for office occupancy. The design touched everything from the floor to the ceiling and the design had to address how to get power to every office, workstation and conference room throughout the space. One of the first and biggest impediments was that the space had a post tension slab, which means coring would be very difficult and extremely expensive, but electrical would have to go in somewhere, but where?

The space also had very high ceilings with beautiful sightlines, so bringing in power from above would create visual clutter with poles coming down to every work station. For Gill, that option was just unacceptable. “I kept saying that we cannot do that. We simply cannot move into this glorious space and have a grid of electrical poles every eight feet. It will absolutely destroy the space.” Ultimately, the inspired solution came not from above, but from below, instead.

Results: While the original design incorporated concrete floors, the plan pivoted to incorporate a raised floor to run electrical from below, ridding us of the need to drill into concrete and rebar. According to Gill, “One of the biggest, hardest fought considerations was the raised flooring. We elevated all 26,000 square feet up four inches to run data and electrical. I would say ultimately this was one of the best decisions we made. Now, we can get power exactly where we want it and it gives us future flexibility to add more stations or change the total use of an area. So, what started as obstruction turned into one of our biggest advantages, in the end.”

The Takeaway: Anyone who is tasked with designing and developing anything new knows that design process can be a can of worms. We understood that the thing that drew us to the space in the first place – this elevated modern sensibility – had built-in challenges because of the kind of space it is. As experience designers, we find that innovation really comes as much from inspired ideas as from successfully overcoming challenges. Working in the space for five months before COVID, we now find this large open airy-space is well-positioned for social-distancing when we welcome back all of our employees to our headquarters post-COVID.

Interested in experience design and innovative ideas for people-centered environments? Contact us at

Adrenaline is an experience design agency that creates and implements end-to-end branded experiences through creative and environmental design. We enhance our clients’ customer experiences across digital and physical channels, from their branding and advertising to design and technology in their spaces. After transforming an organization’s brand, Adrenaline extends it across all touchpoints — from employees to the market to in-store environments. And, we focus on serving industries that sell human experiences including financial, healthcare, sports and entertainment.

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