GTM Architects Creates A Cohesive Home Base For Riverbed Technology

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Emma Weckerling
Emma Weckerling
Emma is the Former Managing Editor of Work Design Magazine.

Riverbed Technology selected GTM Architects to help them successfully create the type of space that would carry them into the future.

GTM Architects recently designed a Bethesda, Maryland office for Riverbed Technology—an international I.T. company with 40 locations worldwide. The project consolidated two full floors of office space into one cohesive space that would host a home base for the company’s local permanent employees, as well as serve as a training facility and conference center for visitors and executives traveling from across the globe.

Riverbed was looking to partner with a firm they could collaborate with to successfully create the type of space that would carry them into the future. GTM was contracted for the project based on the firm’s extensive history.

But when it comes to commercial office projects, how do you create spaces that are functional yet innovative and appealing? Robin Menge, Principal, GTM Architects, first suggests looking for areas that can be used in multiple ways, such as the break room. “We incorporated large booths throughout the common kitchen area,” says Menge, “which provided space that can be used for multiple functions from eating to food service to meeting areas.”

GTM’s concept for the new space concentrated on the office’s shared areas, such as the training and break rooms, and executive conference rooms near the suite’s main entry and reception area. The dark and isolated qualities were particularly challenging because the existing office space lacked openness and collaboration areas. With many of its employees working remotely, the client’s primary goal was to create an energetic and modern workplace to attract the Riverbed staff to its new, dynamic office environment.

In addition to creating a cohesive open space, Riverbed wanted to bring in as much natural light as possible to further entice employees into the office and utilize the interactive and collaborative areas versus teleworking. To accomplish this, GTM Architects removed the private offices and dark corridors from the original space design and relocated a large server room, allowing for a more functional environment with all public training, restrooms and conference areas near the front reception.

Floor-to-ceiling glass achieved a more open feel and allowed daylight to flow through to internal spaces. Pops of color, bold patterns and texture energize the space from the moment the elevator doors open to the office.

As for the finishes, GTM took inspiration from Riverbed’s logo and website for color, utilizing pops of orange and blue throughout the design. “We wanted the aesthetic to be modern and fun while still somewhat sophisticated,” says Sarah Brooks, Senior Project Designer/Manager, GTM Architects. “Since the majority of the space was neutral, we used bold patterns, texture and color to create excitement and interest.”

Transforming a large portion of the suite into open office space with workstations maximized its capacity and created a more collaborative environment. Cognizant of the shift from the private to open office concept, GTM ensured privacy was retained by designing ample phone rooms and a comfortable wellness room equipped with countertop and sink amenities. Conference and huddle rooms of varied sizes, booth seating in the break room and a gaming lounge provide flexible and engaging work spaces.

Security was another challenge GTM Architects had to keep in mind as the office was now shifting from a single user tenant to multi-tenant. Egress code requirements were coordinated with the tenants’ requirements to ensure security-controlled access hardware at every door on the common corridor.

When was the project completed? 

Summer 2019

How many SF per person?

262 sq. ft. per person

How many employees work here?

68 workstations

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

Yes, the client has a work-from-home policy; however, one of the main goals of this workspace design was to create a home base for all employees, enticing them to come into the office for a more collaborative effort.

This office design was part of Riverbed Technology’s company-wide change to offer 100 percent open office space to its employees, with shared communal areas. Originally, Riverbed Technology moved into this Bethesda, MD office as-is, which included many small workspaces bound by rigid plastic panels—almost like being in a shower—which the company liked at first as it offered separate spaces. However, many employees did not travel into the office, so the company decided to redesign the space into a more flexible work environment.

Describe the work space type.

Then entire office concept concentrated on open and shared areas, in order to entice employees to come into the office for a more collaborative experience.

Spaces include training rooms, a break room, executive conference rooms near the suite’s main entry and reception area, a wellness room, an employee lounge, a gaming area and huddle rooms.

What kind of meeting spaces are provided?

Most all office areas are designed as multi-purpose rooms, including open-office spaces, public training areas and conference areas as they can all accommodate employee meetings. In addition, huddle rooms, a lounge with plenty of tables and booth seating, conference rooms and a large training room were designed.

In conference room 506—which bordered the breakroom and lounge, GTM Architects took extra care to ensure the walls were acoustically sound and insulated. This resulted in the room feeling very quiet and totally separate from the common areas. No windows were included; however, the lighting was an indirect glow from a linear recessed area on the back wall which added a nice boxed light to the space. Decorative fixtures above the conference room table provided a soft warm glow. This became one of the employee’s favorite rooms as it felt quiet and cozy.

What other kinds of support or amenity spaces are provided?

A breakroom, a gaming lounge, a wellness room, an executive lounge and phone rooms.

In regards to the breakroom, GTM Architects wanted to ensure it had plenty of seating, and that the millwork was utilized to the fullest extent, as the company’s previous break room was underutilized as it wasn’t easy to move within the space. The client wanted a bright, open and accessible area while at the same time, the ability to provide provisions for employees and guests. To address this request, GTM designed areas for two microwaves and toaster ovens, two refrigerators, and ample storage for complimentary snacks and drinks. The breakroom was also designed to be a large space providing the ability to be used as a work area as well. In this regard, the room’s acoustics came into play, with GTM installing Armstrong soundscape shapes in a hexagon panel pattern on the ceiling, which added a playful quality to the breakroom, while also enhancing the acoustics.

The gaming lounge area was designed to be a breakout area—allowing flexibility as to how the client wanted to use the space. Comfy chairs, tables and a TV were used, while gaming tables—such as ping pong and foosball—were discussed.

A completely private, closed-off wellness room was incorporated for a range of staff needs. This room was placed within the interior of the office space, purposefully without windows. A sink was included along with a reclining chair to accommodate nursing mothers, migraine sufferers, those needed to take a power nap, etc.

The executive lounge—which provided separation from public spaces—along with a training room and executive conference room are meant to accommodate visitors coming into the office from outside the organization, or for company employees traveling in from out of town.

What is the projects location and proximity to public transportation and/or other amenities?

Bethesda, MD, within 0.2 miles to the Bethesda Metro Station (Metro line and bus line)

Any other information or project metrics?

From the beginning, the client was very involved in the entire design process, so they knew each and every detail that went into the project as it was being selected. There were no surprises, and in the end the client was very happy with the overall space.

With such a positive outcome, the client hired GTM Architects to renovate another company workspace in Reston, VA.

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

GTM worked with the National Facilities Coordinator and the company’s local senior staff. Company-wide, the client is shifting to a more unified work space, so the emphasis on creating an open office is being carried out throughout their portfolio.

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

GTM completed 10 rounds of test fits or test fit revisions to flesh out multiple layout ideas and hone in on the best option for the client.

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

Two to three Riverbed Technology employees were involved in the planning throughout the entire process, from start to finish. The project spanned over two years, with GTM meeting consistently with the client via in-person meetings, conference calls and video conferences.

Were any change management initiatives employed?

Yes. Converting individual workspaces to an open environment to encourage and facilitate collaboration, while private work areas allowed for a layering of work styles and processes.

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

Access to natural light for the entire staff was discussed from the very beginning; many meeting and collaboration spaces were incorporated into the design for employees to gather or for use by individuals to find solitary places to focus and work. Incorporating a wellness room was important as well—a quiet, private room on the interior to address a variety of employee needs from nursing mothers, migraine sufferers or those needed a quick power nap.

In addition, this Bethesda, MD office location was one of Riverbed Technology’s first US offices that were totally redesigned to accommodate open spaces, and focus on the health and wellbeing of its employees. The design was modeled after a few previously completed overseas office renovations, as Riverbed Technology moves forward in maintaining these standards internationally.

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

Although not unusual in workplace design, the use of glass provided ample opportunities for spontaneous creativity as thoughts could be documented and discussed on a whim.

Oversized porcelain tile (18” x 26”), in the elevator lobby matched the tile throughout the reception and breakroom areas. It was purposefully selected and planned to be oversized but after installation, it provided a much more impressive look—a pleasant surprise as it all came together as it made a statement.

Throughout this project, GTM included a variety of ceilings, from wood slats to drywall bulkheads at various angles and patterns. Above the workstations, there are “cloud” suspended acoustical ceiling tiles with aluminum framing so you still get glimpses of the exposed ceiling structure which adds to the overall look and feel of the space.

In addition, the millwork design was very well thought out, with a separate area for trash and recycling which was a top-of-mind issue for the company. One breakroom included extra refrigerators in anticipation of the client catering large events, and helping the overall functionality of the space when entertaining, training, and/or hosting guests.

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

Armstrong soundscape shapes in the hexagon shape added a playful quality to the breakroom while also enhancing the acoustics of a meeting area.

What kind of branding elements were incorporated into the design?

As for the finishes, GTM took inspiration from Riverbed Technology’s logo and website for color, utilizing pops of orange and blue throughout the design.

To add warmth to the space, luxury vinyl wood plank tile was used as well as a wood wall covering (paneling) in the elevator lobby. These details went a long way in warming up the overall space.

What is the most unique feature of the space?

The custom design wood slat ceiling—made of Armstrong soundscape blades—in the reception area is the most unique feature. GTM wanted the look and feel of the reception to reflect the energy of the Riverbed Technology employees, and catch people’s attention the second they step off the elevator.

This detailing was also used in the client’s North Carolina office which was completed right before this space—Armstrong soundscape blades were lined up like soldiers in the corridor. Riverbed Technology’s corporate rep was interested in bringing that element into this Bethesda, MD space design, so it was used throughout the reception area.

Are there any furnishings or spaces specifically included to promote wellness/wellbeing?

The wellness room has a reclining lounge chair with washable fabric, soft dimmable lights and a sink. The Riverbed Technology staff wanted to create a versatile room that could be used for any number of reasons from nursing to praying to taking a quick power nap.

If the company relocated to a new space, what was the most difficult aspect of the change for the employees?

This was a consolidation of spaces, pulling people from small, dark, individual offices into a bright, clean and collaborative environment. The change they experienced was made easier due to the new bright surroundings they returned to.

How did the company communicate the changes and moves?

With the client being so involved, GTM communicated via video conferences, conference calls and in-person meetings. The client was located close to GTM’s main office, so it was very convenient to meet in person. GTM worked with the Riverbed Technology’s facilities rep (based in their company’s New York office), as well as with the Bethesda, MD’s office rep/s. All parties unable to attend in-person meetings joined via speaker phone, or they’d host screen-share meetings so everyone was reviewing the same information at the same time.

From the beginning, GTM walked the space in person with the client, reviewing what they liked and didn’t like about the existing office spaces. Riverbed Technology consolidated from offices being spread throughout one-and-a-half floors into one floor, so the process went through several iterations to help decide which floor they’d keep and which they’d give up. In the end, the client kept the floor with the server room, which involved a very complicated setup that needed to be maintained due to existing infrastructure.

Riverbed Technology was unsure of the final employee population of the new space, so the project constantly evolved to accommodate possible scenarios.

From start to finish, this project spanned almost two years, from the initial meeting in fall 2017, the first test fit in December 2017, and final completed in the summer 2019.

Is there anything else that would help us tell the story of this project?

The client’s facilities manager, which oversaw the company’s mid-Atlantic regions, was very focused on making the entire space user-friendly. A major focus included a nice breakroom with a snack wall for free snacks and drinks and a gaming area to entice people to come into the office. At the same time, the overall workspace plan went through several iterations as the client was very specific about what spaces would be designed as private vs. public. This affected building codes and the egress of the overall layout.

Originally, Riverbed Technology planned to take up the entire floor of the new space. After initial plans and tests, the company scaled back requirements which left space to build out a spec suite. This became its own issue in order to keep all spaces compliant and private. Riverbed Technology also wanted to design extra space in case they ever expanded; having the option to seamlessly open up into their existing space.

Some of the office’s existing private spaces proved to be a fire code issue, and needed to be rearranged. For example, GTM Architects had to relocate an existing training room spaces to the opposite side of the reception area, or it wouldn’t have the proper egress needed to still keep that side of the building private. GTM flipped the layout which worked better, as it’s now closer to the restrooms and allows easier navigation for guests.

Many materials that were selected were obviously anticipated to fit well within the space, but after installation, they created a truly dramatic and multilayered design. The overall lighting was fantastic and a huge piece of the entire design as there are several types of light fixtures, each selected specifically for their respective space. (i.e. based on its look and light level) A custom hexagon pendant in the gaming lounge looks like a piece of honeycomb—it’s a very unique piece. An OCL Architectural Lighting fixture called the Loop Pendant was installed in the receptionist desk which interacts with the entire space. Its diameter is 72” so it really stands out—an impactful light that GTM would use in future workplace designs.

The entire palette of textures and colors are impactful, creating a very energetic, exciting and welcoming workspace design. When entire palette came together on site, it was truly remarkable.

Who else contributed significantly to this project?

Architect: GTM Architects

General Contractor: LF Jennings

Project Manager: Stone Real Estate Project Management, Ryan Beible

Engineer: Caliber Design Inc.

Furniture Dealer: Washington Group Solutions, Marianne McLendon

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