You drive by dozens of them on the highway each morning and evening. And you may even work in one – the modern suburban office campus. Although some office campuses tend to look similar to one another, there are still many opportunities for architects to create innovative office parks. The design for a successful and unique complex becomes so by embracing several essential factors.

Building the prototypical site is nearing extinction. Why? Areas with abundant space for on-grade parking as well as physical dimensions supporting a traditional “quadrangle” multi-office building grouping, are a rare find today – especially in New England. Most of these sites have been developed upon already, forcing developers and architects to become more creative with use of the land and its surroundings.

What we are challenged with now are site opportunities which are, for the most part, encumbered by wetlands, odd shapes, sloping terrain, and indirect entrance sequences from major access roads. It takes special insight on an architect’s and developer’s behalf to utilize a rock ledge located right in the middle of a site. And with recent Supreme Court rulings on wetland jurisdiction becoming more ambiguous, understanding where and how a suburban office park may be built is of prime importance.

Once these terrain obstacles are dealt with, the physical aspects of the building itself must be chosen. Several modern suburban office parks prefer to implement an image or theme based on the exterior materials. By doing this, the edifice is given a unified approach to architectural detailing and quality of construction. This thematic design must still be flexible in its approach. New materials are constantly introduced to the market, and an exceptional design incorporates these materials into an appropriate theme which blends in with the local surroundings.

The environmental aspects of an office campus are of equal importance. Creative landscaping and the well-planned siting of buildings and roadways are critical elements which set the tone and image of a complex. After all, it begins with that first impression: the main campus entrance. Views are framed and architecturally enhanced, drawing the eye to special features as the seasons change. Components including seasonal flowers, flowering trees, ponds and fountains are small touches which make big differences in the look of a suburban office campus.

Along with these physical and environmental issues, the final interior and exterior result must attract prime office tenants who desire a sense of community and request the amenities a modern campus setting has to offer. This is the goal. Consideration of tenant needs and bottom-line construction economics are issues that should constantly be addressed.

Tenants First
Ultimately, the success of a suburban office campus will be measured by responsiveness to tenant needs. The balancing act is to design for multi-tenant occupancy and single-tenant occupancy for individual buildings and the complex as a whole. Flexibility and adaptability is the name of the game. Flexibility and adaptability is the name of the game.

Most tenants today are looking for reduced common area costs and increased building efficiency. In turn, a well conceived entry sequence combined with a well detailed entrance lobby consisting of a two-story atrium can provide equal impressions, and forecast a better return on investment.

Modern suburban interior building standards include:

• Perimeter open-office space,
• Interior glazed-fronted managerial offices,
• Recreation rooms, cappuccino bars, lunch rooms,
• Efficient floor planning and maximizing the number of employees per floor,
• Varied conferencing opportunities with break-out areas which include comfortable ‘living room’ style furniture,
• Cafeteria and onsite catering and
• Gym with jogging paths.

Today’s employers are more concerned about employee retention, therefore many of the amenities listed above have become staples in the suburban office campus environment. Onsite amenities such as copy centers, ATM banking, dry cleaning, and day care are added convenience attractions which have also become commonplace in recent years. Other considerations including hotel rooms, conferencing and restaurants in close proximity are important factors as well. Employee comfort and stimulation is now of primary importance in the suburban office workplace, and designers are quickly adapting to these changes.

The old saying, “Parking drives development,” is true. Parking requirements of office users in suburban locations have not reduced over the years. In fact, this is why many businesses are bypassing downtown Boston and heading for the Route 128 corridor. Add to this the physical constraints of available sites, and the result is necessity of parking structures which capably satisfy the growing parking demand.

To stay competitive, modern campus parks must build, on-average, four parking spaces per 1,000 square feet. “On-average” implies that some tenants may require as many as five to six spaces per 1,000 square feet; an example of this would be calling centers. In other instances 3.5 spaces is considered the norm.

The worst mistake for any suburban office development is not to provide adequate parking, particularly in metropolitan locations that, historically, have offered abundant space. With this in mind, shuttle buses to local transportation hubs and car pooling are necessary supplements which several employers encourage employees to explore.

Another parking factor is covered connections between parking structures and offices. This consists of skyway bridges that are considered a must for several of today’s office campus designs. The entrance to the building from the parking needs serious architectural consideration as well. The reasoning here is simple: 95 percent of the people entering the building come directly from a parking structure which is usually not located at the front door.

It’s obvious that a lot of planning goes into the design of a modern suburban office campus, and by taking note of these aspects you’ll eliminate several potential tenant issues after the campus development is complete.

Typical Office Park Designs Give Way to New Innovations

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 4 min