Google's educational work environment stimulates staff to 'execute the impossible'
Faced with a daunting expansion curve, Google undertook a strategic re-evaluation of its workplace processes in early 2004. It assembled a large project team including workplace strategists and a cradle-to-cradle environmental visionary, to set goals for the design of its 500,000 sq ft campus in Silicon Valley. The invited design competition was won based on a proposal for creating a diversified campus environment, which integrated highly focused software engineering workspace with learning, meeting, recreational and food facilities into the existing inner courtyards and building shell.
In parallel with this, workplace strategists conducted research work, which established performance criteria for the design solution. The Masterplan follows a simple distribution of work ‘neighborhoods’ along a ‘Main Street’ circulation plan. All shared resources are located along this street, and range from meeting rooms, to tech talk spaces, to micro-kitchens and library lounges. We took advantage of the high ceiling areas and made penetrations through the second floor to connect the spaces, which connected the community.
A primary vision was to merge the idea of workplace with the experiences found in an educational environment into a new way of working and life. The reasoning for this was the idea that within the loosely structured university system, there are resources available to allow the individual to conceive, investigate and execute the impossible — and that is how Google was born. Continuous research and testing during the project execution was concluded with the workplace strategists conducting post occupancy research to enhance Google’s workspace learning as part of the company’s continuously experimental culture.
Continuous learning is a core Google goal to maintain its innovation culture. Specific areas along public routes are furnished as Tech Talk zones where almost continuous seminars and knowledge sharing events would take place. Spontaneous sharing of knowledge was also made possible by white boards and glass partitions located along the 'street' for the impromptu discussions on the problems of the day.
To accommodate individuals who worked long hours, several different food service cafes were provided and distributed throughout the campus. Micro-kitchens were opened up to function as social hubs with lounge facilities. Library areas and furnished open spaces were provided to encourage spontaneous meetings and gatherings.
The implementation of glass perimeter 3-person work offices, designed with absorbent tent ceilings which soften sound transmission and deflect light deep into the building, solved the need for both enclosed office spaces and visual transparency. The ‘glass tent’ office system not only satisfied privacy needs for concentrated work while retaining access to light and views, it provided a solution for rapid construction and fast-track schedule demands.
Following the participation of the environmental consultant, a sustainable energy-conserving environment was a high priority, and most building materials used were either cradle-to-cradle products or contained high-recycled content.
Doors culled from previous build-outs were used on the two story tower elements as design embellishment, and all open workstations were recycled product.
The work ‘neighborhoods’ along a ‘Main Street’ circulation path shared resources located along the street, ranging from meeting rooms to tech talk spaces, to micro-kitchens and library lounges.
The range of shared spaces for collaboration and the quality of the overall environment – day lighting, comfort and healthiness has been well received.
Teams and individuals found it easier to learn, brainstorm, collaborate, and gather for informal meetings, all while having areas to relax, re-fuel and socialize. The quality of the work produced by Googlers has produced a tenfold increase in their value since the project was completed in 2005.