Ketra’s Austin HQ Uses Unique Lighting To Enhance Employee Experience

The new headquarters of Ketra in Austin uses lighting throughout to create multi-functional, flexible spaces to support changing workplace needs.

Photography Credit: Jake Holt

Lighting manufacturer, Ketra has designed its own hub in Austin, Texas: Ketra HQ. So how did they use light within its own workspace? With a focus on elevating employee experiences inspired by its human centric lighting approach, Ketra created a dynamic space that incorporates its innovative technology to amplify natural light and maximize open floor plans, create multi-functional and personalized workspaces, and reflect Ketra’s culture.

Leveraging its unique lighting capabilities, Ketra created an environment with the capacity to evolve based on the time of day or employee preferences. Employees can shift lighting to suit their needs, whether at their desk, in a conference room or an event space i.e. using bright white light for focused work or warm light to provide ambiance for a presentation.

Photography Credit: Jake Holt

Natural light was the top request from all Ketra departments, and research shows that employees value access to daylight and views and prioritize it over other amenities. It also shows that increased access to natural light can improve both productivity and satisfaction at work. Ketra’s HQ was designed with sunlight in mind – combining thoughtful use of glass walls with Ketra’s Natural Light setting, which recreates the color temperature and intensity of the sun throughout the day. This gives all employees at Ketra HQ access to sunlight all day long, no matter where they’re seated or working within the space.

To reflect Ketra’s culture, the new HQ merges the best of technology and artistic elegance with the goal of fostering innovation and creating a space where employees can best build, test and showcase products. Creative lighting installations, including a nearly 500 bulb stairway installation, provide moments of inspiration throughout the space, along with locally sourced murals and artwork.

Photography Credit: Jake Holt

When was the project completed?

The project was completed in February 2020.

How many employees work here?

This space can accommodate 100-130 employees with additional space set aside for the design community in the collaboration studio. Given the flexibility of the space, it could also be configured differently based on the evolving needs of the business.

Photography Credit: Jake Holt

Describe the work space type.

The Ketra HQ has an open floor plan, however it uses light as an integrator and mediator of spaces by creating distinct zones or “rooms” within the open office layout. Layers and zones of light divide areas for fluid yet functional spaces.

While there are offices for executive staff located along one side of the building, they are personalized with inviting, soft seating, and use glass walls to reinforce transparency. Employees sitting further away from windows still have ample access to natural light through Ketra’s lighting, which is located throughout the space.

Photography Credit: Jake Holt

What kind of meeting spaces are provided?

In addition to the open floor plan, Ketra HQ also offers a variety of collaborative workspaces to encourage impromptu, informal meetings and collaboration between team members. Meeting rooms are placed at the core of the building to further Ketra’s design intent – keeping the perimeter accessible but using glass walls to allow light to flow through to the core. A variety of small, medium and large huddle and meeting rooms are available. Meeting spaces include both areas within the open floor plan, and also dedicated conference and huddle rooms throughout the space where teams can work together in a variety of ways, whether they are collaborating on a project or taking calls. All meeting spaces have individually addressable lighting, which means lighting preferences can be adjusted based on the room’s use at any given time. What’s more, the lighting of conference rooms have the ability to change color based on their availability, which acts as an easy marker for employees looking to pop into a collaborative space.

For those looking to complete more focused work, the space also has a library and several other areas with smaller nooks that are located away from larger gathering areas. This provides private, quiet and socially distanced spaces where team members can complete individual projects that require additional concentration or focused attention.

Photography Credit: Jake Holt

What other kinds of support or amenity spaces are provided?

One quarter of Ketra HQ’s total square footage is dedicated to a collaboration studio, which is now open for limited appointments with the design community. The flexible and modular space is intended to accommodate a variety of guests and customers and will function as a showroom, as well as helping Ketra more closely align with local art, design and culture through local events. For example, a gallery of works by Austin artists could be displayed under the same lighting used at word-renowned museums.

The space also includes a team kitchen. Ketra recognized from the beginning that this area should have a softer element in the overall architecture. The wood accents add warmth and intimacy, encouraging people to linger and interact with each other. Here, employees congregate around the island or in booth seating for casual lunch and coffee meet ups. Lighting can also be adjusted in these spaces with the simple press of a button.

Photography Credit: Jake Holt

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

The location of Ketra HQ was chosen for a few key reasons. It was important for Ketra to have their own building so they could fully showcase their products’ lighting capabilities. Ketra also wanted to be close to the BEAM (Breakthrough Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing), the factory where Ketra products are produced – to maintain and foster close relationships between the factory and the engineering team at HQ.

Ketra HQ is also located in the up and coming east side of downtown Austin, less than four miles from downtown Austin and less than one mile from the Lady Bird Lake trail – which offers both convenience and proximity to one of Austin’s most loved outdoor destinations.

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

Yes – Horace Ho, Ketra COO, was the lead designer on the project and had a strong vision for the space. He worked closely with Ketra’s internal lighting designers and architects to create a space that would best embody Ketra’s design and innovation-fueled culture while supporting the needs of employees of all backgrounds – whether working in the lab to design products, collaborating with coworkers or working individually at a desk.

Photography Credit: Jake Holt

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

Yes – the team in Austin was surveyed before the new HQ was built to learn what was most important to employees. The strongest themes were:

  • Natural light, the most requested amenity by all departments
  • More spaces and options for taking phone calls
  • Biophilia – incorporating more plants and wood elements
  • Design features that align with an active lifestyle – for example sit/stand desks, showers, stairs
Photography Credit: Jake Holt

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

Ketra selected a space near Austin’s Hike-and-Bike trail and installed showers as an added amenity for employees who choose bike to work and workout on the trail.

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

Yes. Ketra paired design elements with its own lighting product to boost natural light throughout the space – with a building shell featuring many windows and thoughtful use of glass walls so that even interior spaces can see the outdoors.

Investing in creative lighting applications also helped Ketra offset traditional construction costs by framing and shaping the visual perception of an office – spotlighting raw materials like concrete floors to provide an attractive finish and avoid the added cost of materials like wood flooring, and using indirect lighting to help areas recede or come into form. Ketra HQ taps into the growing trend of multi-purpose spaces with custom scenes and layered lighting, which help establish multifunctional spaces without using walls or dividers. All of these techniques were implemented within Ketra’s new HQ – investing in lighting to maximize the pre-existing architecture for a cost-efficient, open yet functional space.

Photography Credit: Jake Holt

How has the space adapted for return to work post-COVID?

During COVID, Ketra pivoted to be flexible with where and how people work to take care of our customers. We have modified many aspects of how we work to accommodate more people working remotely and connecting with our customers virtually. For those that continue to work on-site at our offices, manufacturing plants, distributions facilities, R&D centers, and customer sites, we have implemented numerous safety procedures and protocols based on CDC recommendations and advice from other health experts in compliance with the constantly evolving city, state, and national requirements.

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

A number of leading brands are present within HQ including: Sonos, Sonance, Mermet, Armstrong Ceilings, and Miele.

What kind of branding elements were incorporated into the design?

As a lighting company, beautiful and functional lighting elements were of course a top priority at Ketra HQ. In particular a number of creative lighting applications were used, including the use of colored lights to designate vacant conference rooms and a dramatic stairway installation with nearly 500 bulbs, which can be used for eye-catching color displays.

At the top of the stairway landing, Ketra created a high contrast space with backlit “KETRA” signage that reinforces brand identity and pride in what the team is building. In this space, every light source is concealed, and the light creates a carpet of illumination, guiding employees into the 2nd floor office.

Photography Credit: Jake Holt

What is the most unique feature of the space?

A standout elements is a mural emphasizing Ketra’s love for design and its Austin roots. Centrally located near both the entrance to HQ and the Collaboration Studio, all employees and guests to Ketra HQ are greeted by this mural from local graffiti artist Aaron Darling.

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

Every space is illuminated with natural light that transitions throughout the day to help employees feel more connected to nature. The open perimeter allows light to flow freely throughout the entire space, glass walls bring light all the way into the core of the building, and automated shades complement indoor light control for total daylight control.

A top request from Ketra employees was sit stand desks, which are provided to all employees and can be personalized to each individual’s height preferences.

Photography Credit: Jake Holt

Who else contributed significantly to this project?

Michael Hsu , Building Architect, Michael Hsu Office of Architecture

Horace Ho, Lead Designer and Space Visionary, Ketra

Vlado Pejic, Interior Architect, Lutron (Ketra’s parent company)

Cecilia Ramos, Lighting and Interior Design, Lutron (Ketra’s parent company)

Architect of Record: Urban Foundry Architecture

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