Step Inside Perkins Eastman Relocated Chicago Studio In The Rookery Building

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

Prioritizing employee wellness, celebrating company culture, and honoring an architectural icon were key drivers in the design of Perkins Eastman’s relocated Chicago studio in The Rookery Building.

By sequencing spaces, the design of Perkins Eastman Chicago creates comfortable transitions through the office. A 16-foot telescoping entry door allows the historic elevator lobby to flow into the new workplace, where the lobby Calacatta gold marble finish blends seamlessly into the reception area’s epoxy floor finish. This creates an open and light transition that mimics the qualities of the ethereal first-floor atrium.

The welcoming concierge area transitions to a warm, collaborative lounge space that renders clear pathways and clean sightlines to the workspace. The pantry opens up to host office celebrations, informal meetings, and group lunches.

Capitalizing on the indoor light court from the building’s atrium, the studio is washed in natural light. The centralized library highlights the creative process, while sit-stand desks are situated along the perimeter windows. Designed to foster collaboration, the workspace is devoid of walls and vertical separations. Touch down, high counters are interspersed among the workstations to provide staff with alternative gathering areas for quick discussions. Various meeting spaces support heads-down work, informal collaboration areas, and group meetings.

This is the first project in the state of Illinois, the fourth in the United States, and the twenty-fifth in the world to become WELL™ Certified to the Platinum level under WELL v2 pilot. The distinction was awarded through the International WELL Building Institute’s WELL v2 pilot, the next version of the WELL Building Standard. This process drove a holistic design approach, to integrate issues related to staff wellness—air quality, light, nourishment, fitness, comfort, and mind—into the design concept.

When was the project completed?

The project was completed in January of 2019. We were awarded WELL v2 Platinum certification in November of 2020.

How many SF per person?

355 sft/person

How many employees work here?


What is average daily population?


Describe the work space type.

The work space in majority follows an open plan with only two enclosed offices designated to human resources and the operations. Various scales of meeting spaces/conference rooms are interspersed within the design. Formal and informal seating ranges from comfortable and home-like sofas to classroom-style layouts. Sprinkled through the office are “touch down” spaces, which are free address spaces for teams to gather or an individual to break away from his desk for focused work.

What kind of meeting spaces are provided?

There is one large- and two medium-sized conference rooms. The doors into the large conference room by the entrance can be opened – which makes the space a communal gathering area – or closed – to accommodate large meetings. In keeping with our approach to retain the existing carbon footprint, the existing 14” thick vault serves as an intimate team gathering space. The “hearth” of the office is found in the prime corner of the office, which receives ample light and views to the city. This meeting area is targeted for the more informal team gatherings. Lastly, the library functions as a classroom-style type meeting space. It can be portioned off into two separate meeting areas or one larger whole.

What other kinds of support or amenity spaces are provided?

The office is furnished with a wellness/mother’s room, a fully-equipped pantry, copy and print areas, a server/data closet and library storage space.

Has the project achieved any special certifications?

The project is WELL v2. Pilot certified at the Platinum level.

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

The project is located in Chicago’s central business district within the loop. It is a block away from major public transportation routes. It is uniquely placed in proximity to several parking garages, food halls, a range of restaurants, and shopping areas.

How is the space changing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?

As a result of our prior planning for office wellness and promotion of healthy environments, the office underwent no substantial changes in response to COVID-19 pandemic. We updated signage to communicate physical distancing and mask-wearing mandates, to create a linear path of travel to avoid cross contamination, and to draw attention to wipes, sanitizers and a regulated procedure to reduce/maintain minimum contact.

Any other information or project metrics?

Our in-house IAQ monitors, gathers and calculates air quality information every day. In doing so, we as users are able to manage the air quality of the space. A minor change in cleaning products or any new materials that cause off-gassing will spike the monitor’s graphs and point us to the source.

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

Yes. The design process included insights from leadership at all levels. C-Suite level discussions helped inform design direction, branding, and furniture selection.

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

The design team thought leadership exercises starting with interviews, user surveys, look and feel exercises, workplace descriptors, S.W.O.C exercises, and “a day in your life” exercise.

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

Yes, monthly online polls and internal surveys were conducted to get employee input and buy in to decisions.

Were there any other kinds of employee engagement activities?

The design team conducted many programming and visioning activities with the office at all levels of leadership. Design charrettes, look and feel exercising, S.W.O.C & and workplace descriptors.

Please describe any program requirements that were unique or required any special research or design requirements.

The program requirements leaned on to the concept of the “guest” and the “resident” spaces. The forward facing aspects of the program were directed to the entrance while also accommodating changing gathering sizes in keeping with the existing building lobby design. The result is a transparent flow from building (public) to tenant space (private). This is made possible with large telescoping doors at the entrance that tie into the internal partitioning system of the office space. The “resident” spaces are gathered to the back of the layout with ample access to daylighting, perimeter windows, and views to the internal light court of the historic Rookery Building. The library celebrates views into the light court while also providing a window into the daily work activities of the Perkins Eastman studio.

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

Yes, Perkins Eastman’s philosophy of “Human by Design” reinforces employee well-being is made visible throughout the studio. A wellness room, mothers’ room, healthy food choices in the stocked pantry, sit-stand desks to promote movement within the working day, a balance board, ergonomic task chairs, and ample task lighting are only a few of the amenities provided for health and well-being.

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

Materials were selected for this project with the intent of providing a healthy and productive workspace and following WELL v2 pilot guidelines. The careful specification of these materials was instrumental in ensuring the spaces have exemplary indoor environmental quality for the staff.

  • Mercury free exit signs, thermostats, switches, electrical switches and lighting were utilized on the project.
  • Lead was limited in the project through lead free plumbing products and lead free paints and coatings
  • 91% of installed building products included halogenated flame retardants at less than 100PPM
  • 98% of laminating adhesives, composite woods, resins, and thermal insulation contained less than 100 PPM of urea formaldehyde
  • 96% of furniture met the emissions standards of WELL v2 (CDPH v1.2)
  • 98% of the flooring met the emissions standards of CDOH v1.2
  • 98% of the adhesives, sealants, paints, and coatings met CDPH v1.2
  • 99% of the adhesives and sealants met the VOC content requirements of SCAQMD Rules 1113 and 1168

Construction Waste was handled through Independent Recycling Services, of the 18.56 tons of waste created by the project, 18.47 tons, or 99%, were diverted from the landfill. Many products selected for inclusion in the buildout had recycled content and other sustainable attributes.

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

Allsteel products including:

  • Harvest table at the pantry
  • Evo task chair, task chair at the office
  • Evo conference chairs at all meeting rooms
  • Terrace Benching workstations (sit stand)

What kind of branding elements were incorporated into the design?

We had the Allsteel Lona swivel chair created in Perkins Eastman branding colors.

What is the most unique feature of the space?

The theatrical aspect of the reception/largest conference room with their series of state-of-the-art muraflex doors that allow for full visibility through the length and breadth of the space is a dramatic design element. The Library layout, with its general location that allows it to divide the individual working spaces from the team working areas, is supported by three light settings, which allow for best/true material color outputs while enhancing daylight permeability within a shallow-depth floor plan.

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

The mother’s room is tucked away for privacy but still provides access to daylighting and a sink and refrigerator equipped with feminine products. A rocking chair by Allsteel, midback lounge with arms.

What kinds of technology products were used?

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

Adapting to different public transportation and new food choices and fitness club options

How did the company communicate the changes and moves?

The leadership and management group within the Chicago office held weekly/monthly meetings to update the office on design and site selections. An office poll was conducted on several occasions to gather employee thoughts on decisions being made.

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

As part of our Human by Design philosophy, Perkins Eastman prioritizes holistic wellness and sustainability, addressed in these principles:

  • Building+ site evaluation – Engaging the sustainability team, building orientation, transportation and amenities, systems and infrastructure, ceiling heights and waste management
  • Lighting + Controls – Access to natural light, daylight harvesting, in-house sensors/monitoring devices, solar shading
  • Indoor Air Quality – CO2 monitoring, elevated HVAC systems, natural airflow where possible
  • Material Health – sourcing natural products that are free from hazardous materials, localizing our supply chain, thereby reducing emissions and energy usage

Who else contributed significantly to this project?

Architects – Perkins Eastman

Engineers – IMEG Corp.

Contractor – Leopardo Companies

Furniture suppliers – Allsteel, Herman Miller, Coalesse, Emeco, OFS, Allermuir, Knoll, National, Blue dot, Watson & Gunlocke.

Building Management – John Buck Company

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