Just do it

Wednesday 31 Aug 2011

Resource management, aesthetic appeal, and long-term flexibility make Nike European Headquarters an exemplary 21st-century workplace

Nike’s business revolves around world-class athletic performance, and the design for their European Headquarters aspires to equivalent levels of building and human performance by creating an active habitat that promotes physical, social, and cultural health. Combining eco-effective resource management, aesthetic appeal, and long-term flexibility, this facility, completed in 1999, is a model 21st-century workplace.

The 375,000-sf campus is decidedly not a suburban development, despite its location on the edge of Hilversum, southeast of Amsterdam. Five Phase I buildings (4 office wings and a commons building) fit within community patterns of geography and mobility. The design seeks to protect the long-term interests of the client, developer, and community through a "long-life, loose-fit" approach. The campus lies alongside a historic sports park designed by acclaimed architect (and Hilversum town architect) Willem Marinus Dudok in 1919 and used for 1928 Olympic events.Campus buildings encircle a central green: an open, yet secure, setting that encourages formal and informal meetings.

A focus on healthy materials, abundant daylight, and human comfort provides (1,300) employees a vibrant environment that includes health and athletic amenities. The stakeholders agreed to pursue effective energy strategies, leading to a combination of measures that serve to make the campus the most energy-efficient office complex of its size in the Netherlands in the late 1990s.Renewable energy sources provide 35% of the total supply, due to one of northern Europe’s largest geothermal heating and cooling systems.

The design process for Nike European Headquarters was characterised by a high level of collaboration between the stakeholders. The developer and the proprietor involved the prospective tenant, Nike, in their earliest discussions, seeking to develop highly functional and durable assets of long-term value while meeting Nike’s desire for environmentally and fiscally responsible facilities that nurtured the health and productivity of workers. With energy effectiveness as a primary project goal, the team approached The Netherlands Energy Research Foundation to provide the project with support.Because of the site’s importance to the town, the design team also worked closely with the planning commission to integrate their objectives with those of other stakeholders.

Because time constraints did not permit elaborate feasibility studies, preliminary discussions quickly led to “quickscan” reference calculations to establish baseline building performance standards against which to judge the energy- and cost-effectiveness of various architectural and technical strategies. Nike’s willingness to invest in energy enhancements led to a unique arrangement in which they own the geothermal system, repaying their investment in just over five years while benefiting directly from the design’s 35% energy savings.

The site design for Nike EHQ seeks to evoke the broader regional landscape through landscaping features and native palettes of plants and materials. These strategies respond to the place, restore native habitat for songbirds, and help to make effective use of Europe’s largest rainwater collection system. Four garden courtyards anchor the office buildings, each set in a palette of plants derived from native plant communities. Three courtyards focus on sporting activities, while a “canal and dike” garden balances these active landscapes by offering a place of quiet contemplation and renewal. The central lawn, which sits atop the underground parking facility and provides a winter skating rink when flooded, retains stormwater on-site. In addition, cisterns capture 3.9 million litres of stormwater annually for use in non-potable purposes. Buildings do not exceed the height of existing trees.Transparent lobbies connect green space and the adjacent sports park, blurring the distinction between indoors and out. The design creates an urbane and secure campus environment that feels open and connected.

The design for the campus relies on the local vernacular, encouraging a strong sense of place while referring to the site’s historic and architectural context. The campus master plan creates numerous opportunities for social interaction: outdoor basketball, volleyball, tennis, running, and ice-skating (in season) as well as an indoor gymnasium, weight rooms, and other multipurpose fitness spaces. Bicycle accommodations, showers, and changing facilities encourage employee use of these facilities, while nearby public transportation provides easy access. Other on-site amenities include a full-service bistro, a staff retail store, a large commons area, and public green space.

The layout of the buildings supports a variety of future programs: open-office suites, enclosed perimeter offices, even residential studios and flats. The commons building also hosts numerous multipurpose spaces. The under-floor delivery system for electrical and telecommunication services reduces churn costs of reconfiguring office floor plans, and a standard 7.2m structural module makes replacement componentry straightforward. Narrow floor plates, operable windows, and the fact that daylight and air easily reach the centre of the buildings are features that make the buildings suitable for conversion to housing.Overhangs protect the exterior and ensure its longevity. Solar orientation and south-facing curved roof profiles promote even greater energy effectiveness, anticipating the time when photovoltaic panels when they become cost-effective and facilitating an optimal installation.

As regards to water conservation, Nike EHQ boasts Europe’s largest rainwater collection system. Cisterns collect an annual harvest of 3.9 million litres of rainwater from the campus's 10, 000m2 roof area, making it available for toilet systems and for landscape irrigation. When the rain collecting tanks are empty, they are automatically filled by groundwater.

Permeable surfaces predominate throughout the site. The commons building features a multi-leveled terrace planted with an extensive green roof, and the central lawn functions as a green roof for the underground parking facility. These, as well as the landscaped swales and native plantings that occupy the smaller exterior courtyard gardens, absorb virtually all the site's storm water.

Nike's emphasis on human performance and corporate commitment to social responsibility required that strict attention be given to creating an environment composed of healthy materials. The building is designed to be as free of polyvinyl chloride as possible. PVC is present in only in equipment for which there are no PVC-free alternatives, such as copiers and coffee machines. Polyethylene piping replaced PVC throughout the campus. Demountable partition walls were specified with melamine instead of PVC veneer. All wood used in the buildings is certified as sustainably harvested by the Forest Stewardship Council. Recycled aluminum window frames require less maintenance than wooden alternatives. The surfaces of sports courts utilise one of Nike's existing recycling programs, Reuse-A-Shoe.

The campus offers employees a comfortable and healthy environment. Healthy, ecologically intelligent materials were employed throughout. Furthermore, the commons building and garden courtyards offer a great diversity of athletic and health facilities: outdoor basketball, tennis, and volleyball courts; indoor gymnasium, weight room, and aerobic and yoga facilities; and a running track that follows the course of the harness-racing track that once occupied the site. From the outset, a primary goal of the project was to blur the distinction between indoors and out. Narrow floor plates and large expanses of glass provide access to views and a strong sense of connection to the outdoors. Four-story daylit atria organise each building, and each workstation is within 18 feet of an operable window. Since occupying the campus, the client has seen reductions in absenteeism and per-capita energy use. The HVAC saving by the underground hot-cold storage system is 35% at the moment, the other 65% is coming from the Hilversum City Heating system.

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