Cover Story
 


As more and more companies are discovering, a happy and healthy employee is a productive employee.
This is exactly what our architecture firm, Westgroup Designs, Irvine, California, steadfastly believes as
well.  We had the opportunity to strategically develop an office project to house Google’s Orange County
staff that would not only become LEED Platinum Certified in less than a year from breaking ground, but 
would save the developer over $1.5 million in construction costs, due to the thoughtful materials and 
processes we incorporated.  The building is the first multi-story commercial office project located 
throughout Southern and Central California to receive LEED Platinum Certification.
	
Designed from the inside out, the new building focuses primarily on the tenant’s comfort and well-being, in the most responsive and responsible way.  Westgroup’s sustainability solutions incorporated strategic design elements such as the use of energy-efficient, 10’ high monolithic glass, streamlined structural design, exterior balconies, and 45' interior bay depths.  These solutions contributed to the sustainability of the project as well as providing significant savings on construction costs.
	
As a responsive design, the floor-to-floor height has been maximized to allow full daylighting into the space and views beyond, a feature that has been proven to have beneficial impacts on worker satisfaction.  Exterior balconies and roof terraces allow the tenant access to the mild Southern California climate, working outdoors under the sun or shade and natural air when desired, with a view of the expansive wildlife wetlands just across the street.  Gone are the days of the traditional corner office model of private offices along the perimeter, as companies now move toward an open environment with low partitions that allows deep light penetration into the work space.
	
Beginning with a responsible approach from the project onset, the focus, and a part of every decision, has been to conquer The Red List.  Taken directly from the Living Building Challenge(TM), The Red List is a guide of what materials a project should avoid, including materials that are not only unhealthy to the occupant, but that can have a negative impact beyond the building itself.  Many people have heard of the dangers related to product off-gassing and we see many manufacturers providing Low VOC products.  What are often overlooked are the impacts of the material not just within the space, but the health impacts of a material throughout its life cycle, from cradle to grave.  This refers to materials which, during their manufacturing or disposal process, can pose danger to people or the environment well beyond the range of what most consider when specifying the products for a project.
	
Americans on average spend 90% of their time indoors, where often pollutant levels are two to five times higher than the outdoors.  The adoption of The Red List by building owners and tenants, works to fight this by providing a building that is, from the start, a place that fosters the health and well-being of the occupants.  In addition, to combat the pollutants in the indoor environment, it is important to ensure a high-quality air system is provided that can take advantage of high levels of natural air intake to maintain a healthy workspace.  This responsible building approach, with responsive design supports the overall wellness of one’s work environment.  Compared to workspaces a decade ago, this in itself is a breath of fresh air, which Google employees in the Orange County office will enjoy for years to come.
New Headquarters is a 
Breath of Fresh Air
Strategic Design Elements for 
Google in Orange County, California
by Sima Hassani, founder and managing principal, Westgroup Designs
Architectural West Magazine
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