There’s A New Amenity on Campus
Source: The Registry
By Dawn Jedkins
Cafes and fitness centers have long been the primary amenities at new Silicon Valley corporate campuses. With the physical workplace being perceived increasingly by tech companies as a way to attract and retain the best R&D talent, on-site amenities are more important than ever.
Developers have taken notice. Building on the natural appeal of outdoor space, developers are adding rooftop gardens in an effort to differentiate their new campuses from competitors. These spaces are ideal in the Valley thanks to the region’s mild climate and Instagram-worthy views of the Bay and Santa Cruz Mountains.
Not only eye-catching attractions to prospective tenants, for us designers, rooftop amenities can address master planning challenges including compact sites and problematic adjacencies. The beauty is it provides immediate separation for users from parking, highways or industrial neighbors. To achieve the same effect of separation on the ground plane, a much larger amount of open space would be required.
These amenities also enable campuses to provide more outdoor space—in some cases increasing the square footage by 50 percent more—than would otherwise be possible. This new and different space gives people more options for where and how they choose to work.
As an example, DES Architects + Engineers and Jay Paul Company are currently collaborating on Moffett Place, a new Sunnyvale corporate campus that features a two-acre rooftop deck. To provide this new amenity space, we transformed what would ordinarily be an underutilized parking deck into a two-acre green oasis known as the High Garden. It is designed as a multi-functional environment where employees can walk with a co-worker, meet outside among the trees or play an afternoon basketball game.
Indicating the appeal of Moffett Place and its amenities, Google leased the entire 1.9 million square foot campus in a record-shattering deal. “If you want Google to leave Mountain View, you have to provide a special campus,” said Phil Mahoney, executive managing director at Newmark Cornish & Carey and long-time broker for Jay Paul Company. “The High Garden elevates the amenity space; people like views and fresh air.”
Project teams like ourselves must address a number of complexities—many of which require a significant investment—to bring this new type of space to market. The sizable efforts include strengthening the structural framing due to the added weight and the integration of intricate waterproofing systems. In addition, the increased occupant load could trigger the need for additional stairs to meet exiting requirements.
To maximize developer’s investment, we are programming rooftop amenities as high-impact spaces with a mix of destination activities and convenient access. Located near Moffett Place, Moffett Gateway, a 613,000-square-foot development, also has a new rooftop garden. The space takes cues from the hospitality industry by providing a resort-inspired setting with fire pits, a full kitchen and bocce ball courts. It is positioned on the parking structure’s third level with direct access to the adjacent fitness center. This concentrates all the amenities into an activity hub for the campus.
“It’s definitely helping Moffett Gateway stand out to prospective tenants,” says Janette D’Elia, COO/senior vice president of Jay Paul Company. “It’s not just elevating the ground plane, it’s creating a new destination on campus.”
Lifted above the adjacent suburban office parks and their plethora of surface parking, Gateway’s users will enjoy much improved views of tree-tops and mountain ranges off in the distance. The background landscape provides a layered experience where tech employees are separated from the workplace, but connected to the surrounding natural environment. Integrating the viewshed into the rooftop experience and physical design is critical to this new amenity.
With views of Moffett Field’s Hangar One, Gateway’s rooftop incorporates a series of planter boxes made with reclaimed redwood from this Silicon Valley landmark. The redwood creates a sense of place and brings warmth to the material palette. Similar to any project’s success, the success of each rooftop garden depends on how well it provides value to its users and responds to its site.
Both projects in Sunnyvale’s Moffett Park provide new campus destinations with strong on-site adjacencies, improved views and place-making features. Across the Valley, there’s great potential for the growth and advancement of rooftop amenities. On future projects, we’re excited by its ability to further separate people from unsightly surroundings such as nearby industrial facilities or heavily-trafficked roads. And, by locating the rooftops on taller structures, we could provide even better views of the region’s natural beauty.
Long seen as hallmark amenities, cafes and fitness centers will continue to be the most-commonly provided spaces. But, this is in part what makes the addition of rooftop gardens so special, and the campuses that provide them so attractive. Supported by positive feedback from tech companies and growing interest in new social settings, rooftop gardens have a bright and sunny future in Silicon Valley.
Dawn Jedkins, LEED AP, is a Senior Associate and Designer at DES Architects + Engineers, a Bay Area design and engineering firm with offices in Redwood City and San Francisco.
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