Fir Tree Partners a New York City-based, private investment firm, engaged Kostow Greenwood Architects to uphold its sustainability mission through design.
Founder and now Chairman Emeritus, Jeff Tannenbaum, established Fir Tree Partners in 1994 and immediately distinguished the company by establishing a work and life culture respectful of people and their work environment. What would become known as a “sustainability mission” was at the time, an innovative approach to raise the standards on workplace design for the benefit of the employees.
Fir Tree Partners engaged Kostow Greenwood Architects for four separate office designs beginning in 1999 and through incremental and determined decisions, has proven that the relationship-focused financial industry can thrive in a people-centric office designed with the highest standards of wellness.
When was the project completed?
How much space (SF)?
31,100 RSF [29th floor = 22,500; 28th floor = 8,600]
Was this new or renovated space?
SF per person?
29th floor = 281 RSF/person; 28th floor = 330 RSF/person
Describe workspace types.
Double loaded ring corridor provides department sections between open plan and enclosed offices.
What kind of meeting spaces are provided?
29th floor: Conference rooms with tables for 8-10 people seated and a board room table for 20 people plus side seating for 6-8 people
What other kinds of support space or amenity spaces are provided?
29th floor: Phone booths / individual work rooms, open break-out areas, and café
Has the project achieved any special certifications (i.e. LEED, WELL, Living Building Challenge)?
Abiding by an “eco scorecard” while identifying construction and design components that meet industry code and serve the function and purpose of the workplace environment.
Defying the industry assumption that incorporating sustainable elements into a corporate design is costly, Fir Tree Partners’ directive to Kostow Greenwood Architects was to identify sustainable solutions within an established budget and to raise the awareness level among employees as to the reasoning behind the design elements.
Repurposing of existing and in good condition furniture, as well as other notable elements from the previous NYC office location was a driving principle to reducing waste. The client’s now famous directive that “Not one thing goes into a landfill” guided several decisions.
Was the “C” Suite (the client leadership) involved in the project planning and design process? If so, how?
The client leadership provided the parameters of office count vs workstation count. Kostow Greenwood provided several options and the client choose the final layout that met current and future needs. Once the overall layout was approved, each of the client’s department heads reviewed their respective area and were able to adjust their space within the overall design concept.
What kind of programming or visioning activities were used?
Sketch-up walk-thru 3D models showing alternate options.
Were any pre-planning surveys conducted to get employee input?
Yes, we analyzed the current office amenities to decide which needed to be expanded, included, and/or removed.
Was there any other kind of employee engagement activities?
A Pinterest page was created so that the designer and the client could contribute to ideas for aesthetic, lighting and furniture inspirations.
Was there any emphasis or requirements on programming for health and wellbeing initiatives for employees?
Yes. As a company, Fir Tree Partners is committed to environmentally responsible design that conserves energy and reduces the impact on our natural resources. This project was designed to exceed the LEED Silver standard in terms of sustainably sourced materials and MEP systems and controls. Further, in order to support a healthy and productive workplace, many concepts of The WELL Building Standard were incorporated including improved air quality, drinking water and nourishment, access to natural lighting and lighting control, acoustical and thermal comfort, and ergonomic seating and work-stations. ADA compliant lactation room with sink, fridge, relaxing lighting and décor, and occupancy door lock. This space also serves as a wellness room for daily prayers, meditation, and private phone calls.
Were there any special or unusual construction materials or techniques employed in the project?
Used exterior gypsum cladding in the main lobby with inserted linear wall planters to create a living wall.
For specific examples, please describe the product, how it was used, and if it solved any specific problem.
The offset metal framing for the gypsum lobby wall provided a finish that worked with the uneven core elevator walls to hide the wall planter connections.
What products or service solutions are making the biggest impact in your space?
The work furniture: Herman Miller Canvas desk surrounds with Humanscale Float tables.
The acoustical suspended panels over the open work desks: Armstrong Soundscape.
What kind of branding elements were incorporated into the design?
Signature floor to ceiling forest image wallcovering. This is the main image on the client’s company webpage and was used in their previous office main entrance. In the new space, the image draws the visitor’s attention from the elevator lobby towards the main corridor space and into the café.
What is the most unique feature of the new space?
The elevator lobby and café wood slated ceiling. The wood veneers come from reclaimed water towers and hide the HVAC ducts, wiring, and provide a ceiling plane change from the exposed ceilings in the main workspace without dropping a solid ceiling. The wood veneers also provide a visual indicator of the location for the entry and exit along the main corridor.
What kinds of technology products were used?
AV: Crestron conference room schedulers, Crestron AV/Camera Scene Conference Room touch panels, separate easy to use conference lighting controls
Collaboration: Phone booths/Work rooms have a desk and pc that employees can log-in as if they were at their own desk
Wayfinding: metal blade signs
Space utilization: Café can be a large meeting space and open break-out areas designed to be converted into additional workstations
If the company relocated to a new space, what was the most difficult aspect of the change for the employees?
• Employees going from traditional cubicles to open benching seating.
• Actively trying to reduce filing and paper usage to promote digital storage.
• Employees changing their daily habits and promoting time away from their desks such as utilizing the café to eat and utilizing open break-out areas facilitating socializing with peers.
How did the company communicate about the changes and moves?
Department heads got to provide input on their office vs workstation counts and conference size requirements. Leadership circulated design plans prior to move-in to show the employees the new amenities.
Tell us more!
- Architect / Interior Designer: Kostow Greenwood Architects
- MEP/FP Engineer & Lighting Design: Jaros, Baum and Bolles
- Acoustician: Longman Lindsey
- Structural Engineer: Hage Engineering
- Construction Manager: Structure Tone
- Expeditor: Brookbridge
- Audio / Visual Systems: Spectra Audio Design
- Kitchen Consultant: Jacobs-Dolan-Beer
- Plant Design: The Sill
Photography credit to Adrian Wilson