A Non-Profit Taking on Disability, Recreates its Office To Achieve Better Days

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Alexis Ramos
Alexis Ramos
Alexis Ramos is a Content Creator and UX Consultant at Work Design Magazine. As someone who is naturally empathetic and creative, Alexis is passionate about leveraging technology to create positive change in the world. When it comes to "work design" topics, Alexis' interests lie heavily in biophilia and user-friendly technology that help make the workplace a seamless and stress-free place to be. When she's not generating SEO-optimized, witty pieces for us, you can usually find her spending time with her rescue greyhound, Cairo.

In an attempt to set a precedent for all future developments, Easterseals tapped interior architecture firm H. Hendy Associates to fully remodel their 40,000 square foot, two-story office in Irvine, California.

Easterseals, a non-profit resource for individuals with disabilities, veterans, seniors and their families, received a new Southern California Headquarters building renovation delivered on a twofold vision. The renovation created a branded space offering an inviting and playful experience for special-needs children and an inspiring environment that enhances the well-being of employees.

When was the project completed?

How much space (SF)?
40,000 SF

To encourage employees to take the stairs while traveling between floors at Easterseals, the design features a skylight-lit staircase complete with terrariums and graphics supporting Easterseals mission and services.

Was this new or renovated space?

SF per person?
296 PSF per person

How many employees?
135 employees at this location

The therapy gyms at Easterseals help children born with disabilities learn the skills needed to participate fully in life.

What is the average daily population?
135 employees and 100-150 clients daily

Is there a mobile work or work from home policy? If so, what percent of employees are remote workers?
There are several behavioral interventionist employees who are in the field with clients daily, but H. Hendy Associates designed the space to include dedicated touch-down stations for these employees when they return to the office.

Describe workspace types.
The lobby serves as a dual-purpose space that welcomes the corporate guests with a spacious seating area, as well as the children, with kid-friendly nooks that offer child-sized furniture, toys, and a watercolor landscape print.

The administrative office spaces on both the ground floor and upper level are balanced with open seating areas and team rooms.

The therapy center is comprised of two gymnasiums and multiple small, well-lit therapy rooms filled with toys, books, and crafts for the children.

visitors room
To elicit a positive and uplifting experience and to create a comfortable environment for Easterseals visitors and the 100 to 125 autistic patients served each day, the project team introduced a warm and inviting lobby area complete with spacious seating and kid-friendly play areas and nooks.

What kind of meeting spaces are provided?
The new space has a board room on the second floor used by leadership and available for large scale meetings. The administrative area also has enclosed focus rooms for individuals or small groups as well as open meeting areas for impromptu sit-down conversations between colleagues.

What other kinds of support space or amenity spaces are provided?
Easterseals leverages its prime location in central Orange County and its multipurpose training room for community outreach opportunities like fundraisers, book signings and game nights for the children and families they serve.

The existing patio at Easterseals was inopportunely located adjacent to a major Orange County freeway. To make this patio a usable space, the team found acoustical solutions to minimize noise and create a user-friendly amenity for employees and visitors.

easterseals logo
Inspired by the former Easterseals logo – a lily symbolizing growth and new beginnings – the reimagined space incorporates greenhouse-motivated elements to metaphorically signify protection, nurture, and growth from seedlings to full bloom.

What are the projects location and proximity to public transportation and/or other amenities?
It is immediately adjacent to a major freeway and a public transportation stop is within 75 feet of the entry.

Was the “C” Suite involved in the project planning and design process? If so, how?
The C Suite was involved in the process at project inception, which started with a visioning session through the construction of the office space. The design of Easterseals was based on this feedback.

What kind of programming or visioning activities were used?
The design of the Easterseals Southern California headquarters stemmed from the results of a visioning session between Hendy and Easterseals leadership. The visioning session helped establish Easterseals goals and objectives and provided insight on the brand image and priorities for the new space.

Hendy reviewed the company’s mission statement, future business demands, organizational structure, and desired corporate culture. Hendy also engaged the Easterseals team to understand current facility issues and how to improve upon them.

The Easterseals Southern California Headquarters delivers on a twofold vision to create a branded space offering an inviting and playful environment for special needs clients and a functional workspace that enhances employees’ well-being.

Were there any other kind of employee engagement activities?
All hands meeting presentations, board members retreat presentation, visuals of proposed renderings, and intermediate progress site visits.

Please describe any program requirements that were unique or required any special research or design requirements.
Prior to the renovation, the Easterseals facilities team divided the corporate office and therapy services into two separate buildings, each functioning independently, but working toward the same goal. The merger of the two entities united the organization and gave the design firm the opportunity to challenge the ways of the conventional office space and therapy center to create a new, shared environment to be occupied by both groups in harmony.

Was there any emphasis or requirements on programming for health and wellbeing initiatives for employees?
The biophilic design of the renovated facility builds a framework for human/nature connections with terrariums lining the staircase, succulents layered in outdoor troughs next to the seating areas, bright and colorful images of natural elements within the organization’s huddle rooms, and carved panels in the lobby that symbolize hanging vines. Indoor-outdoor work areas also allow access to natural light and offer employees the flexibility to work where they feel most comfortable doing the task at hand. To encourage movement and support ergonomics, all Easterseals workstations are height adjustable.

Were there any special or unusual construction materials or techniques employed in the project?
1) Resysta soy-based exterior plank product
2) Twin wall polycarbonate (greenhouse material)
3) Clay pots created a sculptural element

For specific examples, please describe the product, how it was used, and if it solved any specific problem.
All these materials were used throughout the project as thematic features, reinforcing the overall design concept of growth and new beginnings.

As building owners, Easterseals sought a more permanent, deep-rooted residence with this new building renovation. In response, Hendy delivered a timeless, durable design for a long-term return on investment.

What products or service solutions are making the biggest impact in your space?
Height adjustable work surfaces and ergonomic work stations by Allsteel, technology components by AVI-SPC, artwork, and graphics symbolizing biophilia by Graffiti and Laura Lejuwaan Photography, Inc.

What kind of branding elements were incorporated into the design?
Inspired by the former Easterseals logo, a lily symbolizing growth and new beginnings, the design incorporates greenhouse-motivated elements to metaphorically signify protection, nurture, and growth from seedlings to full bloom. This theme can be observed in patterns of seeds and sowed fields crafted in plaster-covered walls throughout the building, the skylight-lit staircase with terrariums hanging from the walls, and in the bold and vibrant, over-sized photographs of floral blooms from local artist, Laura Lejuwaan.

Additionally, the light fixtures thoughtfully placed throughout the space emulate beehives and are representative of bees pollinating plant life and the continuity of growth. Each design element was intentionally chosen to honor and reinforce Easterseals’ values: Live, Learn, Work and Play.

What is the most unique feature of the new space?
One of the most unique features of the new space is the entrance directly beyond the lobby. Through the entryway, the staircase features a two-story mission highlights wall that incorporates graphics that celebrate Easterseals mission statement and images of the services they offer. Unbeknown by many office visitors, the highlights wall adjacent to the staircase is actually dual-purpose, displaying Easterseals’ message through powerful graphics while concealing existing accessible utility doors.

Extensive collaboration between the donors, board members, and therapy providers led to the effective direction of flow from the ground floor to the boardroom while visually supporting Easterseals mission, values, and services along the stairway.

The biophilic design of the renovated facility builds a framework for human/nature connections with bright and colorful images of natural elements within the organization’s huddle rooms.

Are there any furnishings or spaces specifically included to promote wellness/wellbeing?
To create a space that promotes health and wellness, the interior architect firm incorporated eco-friendly materials throughout the space emulating a greenhouse and offering Easterseals an organic solution to improving the well-being of its patients, guests, and employees.

What kinds of technology products were used?
Tablets were introduced to the facility enabling parents to interact with and witness real-time therapy sessions for their children and view their day-to-day progress. Other technology systems were used to schedule and reserve rooms within the new space. White noise speakers also were incorporated throughout the building.

If the company relocated to a new space, what was the most difficult aspect of the change for the employees?
The company did relocate to this new office but there was no difficulty. They were excited and embraced the new space.

Indoor-outdoor work areas also allow access to natural light and offer employees the flexibility to work where they feel most comfortable doing the task at hand.

How did the company communicate about the changes and moves?
The interior architect firm, H. Hendy Associates provided design presentations individually to client contacts, staff, and board members.

Tell us more!
Interior Architect: H. Hendy Associates
General Contractor: JLC Associates
Furniture Dealer: CBI
Signage and Graphics: Graffiti
Millwork: Moen Woodworks

Photography courtesy of RMA Architectural Photography

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