NELSON Worldwide Translates Habitat for Humanity’s Brand Culture in New Atlanta HQ

Habitat for Humanity International’s new Atlanta HQ pays homage to their overall mission by using recycled materials from their ReStores and even lumber from NYC’s famous Rockefeller Christmas tree.

Global architecture and design firm NELSON Worldwide designed Habitat for Humanity International’s new downtown Atlanta headquarters at Peachtree Center’s Marquis Two Tower. While the global housing non-profit organization’s operational headquarters will remain in Americus, Georgia, Atlanta has operated as its administrative headquarters since 2006. Now, the new office occupies a more efficient footprint of 54,603 square feet across three floors, accommodating over 300 employees.

When was the project completed?

January 2019.

What is the name of the company?

Habitat for Humanity International

How many employees work here?

300+

Is there a remote work or work from home policy? If so, what percent of employees are remote workers?

Yes. As a part of this move, Habitat for Humanity International implemented a new alternative work schedule and desk-sharing initiative to help offset some of their projected growth. Individuals that chose to accept the more flexible work-from home schedule (i.e. working from home a prescheduled 2-3 days a week) share a workstation with another user doing the same. Due to COVID-19, all employees have been working remotely and they have not yet returned to their offices.

Describe the work space type.

By incorporating residential design and global construction elements into the open-office environment, the workspace pays homage to Habitat for Humanity International’s overall mission. New workspaces and communal areas bring employees together for collaboration and socialization. For instance, the doors leading into the private phone booths are refurbished residential doors from Habitat ReStores, the nonprofit’s reuse stores that sell home improvement items to the public at a fraction of the retail price. The office also features lumber from New York City’s famous Rockefeller Christmas tree, which every year is milled into usable pieces of lumber each year and donated to Habitat for Humanity.

What kind of meeting spaces are provided?

The variety and location of meeting spaces were thoughtfully planned and incorporated into the Habitat for Humanity office space during programming. In addition to the open collaborative spaces throughout, enclosed meeting spaces offer a variety of capacities and postures, and numerous small 1-2-person phone rooms offset the burden previously placed on larger conference rooms for individual conference calls.

In addition to internal meeting and collaboration support, Habitat also hosts hundreds of training sessions annually for staff members from across the country and around the world. Having this training space within their new administrative headquarters allows Habitat to host those meetings on site with easy connectivity to the Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson International Airport. The subvisible design of the room maximizes the flexibility and usage capabilities of the square footage allocated to this large multi-purpose space.

Along with flexibility, one of the main objectives for meeting spaces was to streamline the technology and scheduling, creating a consistent and straightforward user experience for both employees and visitors.

The consistent placement of the meeting room “zones” on each floor integrated seamlessly into the overall wayfinding and flow of the office. For easy identification, meeting rooms were named by floor to align with the Habitat for Humanity culture and mission. On the 25th floor, each meeting room name reflects the Habitat for Humanity Brand, including impact, community, and innovation. Construction terminology, like blueprint and renovation, describe the meeting rooms on the 26th floor. Each meeting room on the 27th floor is named after one of Habitat for Humanity’s values including trust, grace, agape, peace, and humility.

What other kinds of support or amenity spaces are provided?

NELSON refurbished an interconnecting stair leading into a cafe that functions as a central gathering area. New workspaces and communal areas bring employees together for collaboration and socialization. Additionally, the team incorporated lockers to support desk sharing and a mobile work environment, encouraging employees to work wherever they choose.

What is the project’s location and proximity to public transportation and/or other amenities?

The project is located in Downtown Atlanta, Georgia at the Peachtree Center Marquis Two Tower. It is in close proximity to a variety of hotels, restaurants, and shopping centers, as well as local bus routes.

Any other information or project metrics?

Habitat International, which employs more than 300 people in Atlanta, was able to consolidate its operations from five floors onto three connected floors at Marquis Two Tower – going from 63,482 square feet to 54,603 square feet. Thoughtful and strategic programming and planning, along with the rollout of a more robust AWS program (alternative work schedule), allowed Habitat for Humanity to maximize the value of their real estate.

“We are just delighted. It’s so much more open. This was a way to reinvent and align the space with our culture. It puts a Habitat flavor on it. It feels like Habitat now. This is a long-term home.”

“Habitat for Humanity is all about home, so we put a lot of thought and energy behind finding and designing our new headquarters. We’ve created a new office that reflects our mission. Every time our team members and visitors come off the elevators, they’re reminded of the people we serve all around the world. We hope this relocation will help usher in a new era of growth and stewardship for Habitat for Humanity.”

Was the C-suite involved in the project planning and design process? If so, how?

Throughout the process, the design team made multiple presentations to the senior management group to keep them updated and involved in the design process. Select members from the senior management group were a part of the core steering committee.

What kind of programming or visioning activities were used to create the space?

The design team conducted thorough and robust programming and visioning exercises with a designated steering team from Habitat for Humanity International. The visioning sessions utilized imagery, trend information, and open forum discussion to curate the overall design language and aesthetic for the space. The programming interviews were extremely critical in assessing the space needs for each department, especially because smaller offices and workstations were being considered. Individual interviews with each department allowed for candid feedback on needs, space considerations, and goals/objectives for the new space.

Were any pre-planning surveys conducted to get employee input?

We conducted surveys with each department that focused on headcount, adjacencies, needs for collaborative and meeting spaces, technology, and more. Yes. Further into the process, a detailed furniture survey was also administered to glean feedback regarding workstations and panel heights, which was extremely valuable due to the significant shift that was being made to the open office. The surveys administered gave the entire staff the opportunity to feel heard.

Multiple design presentations were conducted with the steering committee at all phases of the project, as well as detailed furniture showroom tours. The design team also participated in a session led by the Habitat for Humanity International strategy department to define goals, objectives, and messaging for the project. A couple of all-staff town halls were conducted to communicate the project progress with the entire staff – both design and logistical information was distributed.

Was there any emphasis or requirements on programming for health and wellbeing initiatives for employees?

The early test-fitting portion of the project was focused on finding the right location, close to transit and with improved amenities (fitness areas, showers for those who bike to the office, etc). Luckily, the new property of Habitat for Humanity International offers many of these items, but if that had not been the case, discussions were had about possibly including showers and other amenities in the design to keep employee wellbeing a priority.

Were there any special or unusual construction materials or techniques employed in the project?

Simple and artful use of authentic, modest forms, and materials highlight the Habitat for Humanity core values of strength, stability, self-reliance, and shelter. The design pays homage to client’s mission by incorporating both residential and global construction elements.

For example, the doors leading into the private phone booths are refurbished residential front doors from the Habitat ReStore. The doors were repainted with consistent Habitat brand colors, assisting with wayfinding, and mounted as sliding barn doors to conserve floor space. As an added detail, a few of the doors include house numbers that represent significant milestone years from Habitat’s history, including the year Habitat for Humanity was founded and the year the Administrative offices in Atlanta opened.

Sections of the wood slat features throughout the office incorporate lumber from New York City’s famous Rockefeller Christmas tree, which every year is milled into usable pieces of lumber and donated to Habitat builds.

While the wood slat details allude to traditional US construction methods, concrete blocks, and terracotta tiles within the central elevator lobbies showcase international construction materials, and further support the global presence of the organization. The inlay of keys behind the reception desk is a further artful representation for Habitat home ownership across the globe.

What products or service solutions are making the biggest impact in your space?

We collaborated with a core steering committee of Habitat staff throughout the design process. One key focus for the team was to evaluate all selections as mindful and universal, bringing value to the entire Habitat staff while remaining stewards of the project budget.

The floor plan improves circulation and daylight views for the staff, while new LED lighting provided by Lighting Associates from Nulite Lighting and other manufacturers, helped create the open, uplifting, and inspiring atmosphere that the staff desired.

Height adjustable work surfaces with Flo monitor arms and Verus Task chairs from Herman Miller were reviewed and tested by the staff, and incorporated throughout at all workspaces, both private offices and open workstations.

What kind of branding elements were incorporated into the design?

The design team worked closely with the Habitat for Humanity marketing team to create a comprehensive environmental graphics package that helps tell the international story though welcoming messages at the main entrance in various languages, testimonials by homeowners from around the world, brand messaging, and call outs highlighting materiality. As an Administrative office, it was easy for the staff to feel disconnected from the mission and impact of their day-to-day work, and the graphics help to reinforce and inspire the staff every time they set foot in their office. The environmental graphics in the space not serve to inspire and uplift, but they also serve as wayfinding tools to help guests and employees navigate throughout the space.

What is the most unique feature of the space?

The most unique and integral feature of the space is the central spiral staircase. Original to the space, it was one of many features that inspired Habitat for Humanity to select the Marquis Two Tower location for their new office. The stair was integrated into the design during the early phases of the project and signifies the company’s desire to be more interconnected with each other and across their different departments.

The reuse and refurbishment of the stair also highlights the organization’s commitment to responsible stewardship of resources and funding.

What kinds of technology products were used?

To support technology needs, the project included 200,000 linear feet (38 miles) of low-voltage cabling throughout the space. 34 miles worth of this cabling was donated to Habitat for Humanity, in addition to all distribution frames and equipment. As a part of the project, Habitat for Humanity was able to increase their internet bandwidth 10-fold while reducing cost by 50 percent.

Who else who contributed significantly to the project?

Architect – NELSON Worldwide

MEP Engineer – Barrett Woodyard

Primary furniture manufacturer – Herman Miller

Furniture dealer – CWC

Graphics and branding – 360 Creative Solutions Group and NELSON Worldwide

Primary flooring – Mohawk

Lighting – Lighting Associates

All images are credited to Brandon Stengel – www.farmkidstudios.com

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