The Rise of Amenities Floors in Workplace Design

Project Location

Chicago, IL

Architect

Wright Heerema Architects

Product

SL70

Case Study: The Rise of Amenities Floors in Workplace Design

It’s a battleground out there, a land of concrete and steel soldiers in our city centers. Potential tenants seeking new office space review blurs of similar vacant spaces while looking to house their companies for years to come. What do they look for? Most importantly, how do building owners differentiate their offerings from others in the commercial real estate marketplace? Savvy owners have turned to collaborative efforts with architects and interiors experts for advice and knowhow on what is needed to attract tenants and fill the void on empty floors.

Accommodating Changing Workplace Norms

Workplace design has morphed and transformed to accommodate what drives today’s younger workforce. Undeniably, the way we work has changed. Not only how we work but also the space used in which to do it. Gone are the days of executive offices and solid walls….in with the collaborative working style with employees no longer being tethered to a desk. People are interacting more. Meeting more. Collaborating more. With this comes a unique combination of workstations, breakout rooms, flexible conference rooms, and the increased use of glass to provide great connectivity and the healthy benefit of natural daylighting.

A Need for Flexible Solutions in High-Rise Office Buildings

Following along with these evolved workplace design requirements, the buildings that house the companies have seen the need to rethink what the building offers its tenants. Turning to the successes found in hospitality design, owners are beginning to realize the benefit of investing in more experiential design features that keep the tenants and their employees happy and turn them into long-term lease holders.

Lobbies are offering more than a sterile route to the elevators. Services like grab-and-go cafes and fitness centers, even dry-cleaning services are being included. Water features and interior landscaping are being implemented into renovations to provides physical and mental health benefits to the occupants. But one key distinguishing addition is the standout—an amenities floor, a space reminiscent of what the hospitality industry offers its elite guests, the “club level”. Let’s face it, everyone needs a break, a place to unwind and reenergize for the balance of the workday. When buildings are in high-rise city centers, getting out is not always easily achieved. Moreover, stepping out onto a crowded sidewalk within the urban sprawl does not provide what employees seek.

Creating Long-Term Tenancy with Hospitality Elements

The buildings with the best amenities are typically leasing faster and getting higher rents. Two outstanding examples of successful high-rise renovations have the Chicago firm of Wright Heerema Architects at the helm. To create the competitive edge their clients were seeking, the firm draws on the biophilic design principles found to be so successful in hotel resorts. Increasingly dense urban environments, coupled with the fact that the average worker spends close to 90% of their time indoors, heightens the importance of workplace wellbeing. To combat environmental stressors, biophilic design incorporates nature into the built environment to create restorative spaces through direct experience by connecting with light, air, water, and views and through indirect experience through colors, textures, and form in design.

Wright Heerema Architects' Design Approach

At both 123 N Wacker and 200 West Jackson in Chicago, Wright Heerema Architects designed amenities floors incorporating community gathering spaces, or modern tenant lounges, allowing employees to gather and socialize, boosting existing tenant satisfaction and attracting new ones alike. To maximize the lure of these spaces, the amenities floors have been placed on elevated levels at or near the top of the structures to incorporate as much natural daylight and views as possible into these much sought-after spaces.

“The new design for the 123 N Wacker redevelopment re-defines the boundaries of office tenant amenities, bringing ideas from the hospitality industry into the workplace,” says the architecture firm.

123 N Wacker, Chicago

The property owners at 123 N Wacker wanted to create a space to “to cater to the needs of today’s office tenants seeking unique workplace experiences for their employees” says Wright Heerema. The recently completed room, located on the 30th floor features wood paneled walls, stone accents, fireplaces, a coffee bar and is infused with warm and rich colors and textures. The most spectacular focal point is the skyline view out of the walls of operable glass.

The Flexible Design Product for High Rise Applications

The tenants relax and enjoy “open air” views with floor to ceiling glass walls that flood the interior with fresh air and daylight. Meant to be a four-season room, the architects specified three NanaWall SL70 folding glass wall systems that are each 10-feet tall and over 26-feet wide to fill the east facing side of the building. The thermally broken SL70 folding glass wall system is engineered for heavy duty performance in larger sizes for virtually all environments, such as this 30th floor in the “Windy City”. The folding system incorporates a running post design that provide high structural performance and weather resistance, suitable for high-rise structures and buildings.

When the glass walls are open, tenants step right up to a glass railing effectively blurring the boundary between the building’s edge and the view beyond. Smartly, the building owner also offers this exceptional space for private event rentals which adds additional value to this investment.

“A four-seasons room on the east side of the 30th floor features operable NanaWalls that open from the floor up, allowing tenants to step right up to a glass railing on the perimeter of the building,” describes Wright Heereman Architects.

200 West Jackson, Chicago

At 200 West Jackson, the owners sought to provide the amenities that appealed to tenants that would be attracted to a space that fosters employee engagement. With the design concept from Wright Heerema Architects, the building now boasts The Notch on the 28th floor. This amenity space quite literally is a “notch above the rest”.

The Weather Performing Solution for a High-Rise Outdoor Retreat

This floor is made up of an interior lounge and an outdoor terrace which is all about the view. The innovatively designed space pays homage to a hotel’s indoor/outdoor lounge and transforms the floor into an outdoor retreat, even without access to a roof. Situated at the corner of the 28th floor, the architects created a terrace lounge with floor to ceiling windows that gives the tenants air, light, and a refreshing outdoor getaway. Operable folding glass windows open the space to the outside on two sides, providing panoramic views of downtown. In colder months, the space transforms into a breathtaking winter garden.

Thermal Barriers and Structural Strength Above the City Skyline

To achieve this, 8 three-panel NanaWall SL70 window systems at five-feet five-inches tall were specified. The NanaWall SL70 features an all aluminum design that incorporates a thermal barrier built-in. The thermal barrier provides increased strength, superior humidity control, improved acoustics, and energy savings. The folding glass wall system provides exceptional protection from exterior elements and delivers a comfortable and quiet indoor experience when closed.

Design elements draw on indoor/outdoor appeal with lots of wood elements and greenery, not to mention loads of fresh air and daylight. The space is also available for private parties.

A High-Rise Amenities Floor Attracts Tenants and Employees Alike

To stand out from the crowd, these office buildings are successfully utilizing biophilic design principles influenced by the achievements found in the hospitality segment. These amenities floors foster connections between people and their environment, enhancing feelings of wellbeing and a sense of meaningful community. This in turn provides the differentiation, modernization, and upgrades needed to increase occupancy and retain satisfied loyal tenants.

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