Thursday, August 13, 2020
Aug. 13, 2020

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Banfield Pet Hospital headquarters a new kind of doghouse

The modern inviting space is loaded with special features for humans, four-legged colleagues

By , Columbian Business Editor
Published:
9 Photos
Igor Tsvor, left, and Viktor Vakulchik of Legend Custom Woodworking lend a hand to the construction of the dog ramp Wednesday afternoon at Banfield Pet Hospital. Employees will start moving into the new headquarters this week.
Igor Tsvor, left, and Viktor Vakulchik of Legend Custom Woodworking lend a hand to the construction of the dog ramp Wednesday afternoon at Banfield Pet Hospital. Employees will start moving into the new headquarters this week. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

The new corporate headquarters for Banfield Pet Hospital is twice the size of the event center at the Clark County Fairgrounds, consumes only half the energy of a typical office building, and is immeasurably more dog-friendly than just about any other workplace.

The building — designed as three structures that merge into a central core of common areas for employees, pets and visitors — is a world-class addition to Clark County’s urban fabric. At the new workplace for hundreds of “associates” who will relocate this week from Portland, the eye-pleasing headquarters raises the bar regionally for creative and functional design of office space in an era where casual, collaborative and downright fun work environments are the calling card for attracting top-notch employees.

“This building is where the future is headed,” said Kelly Roth, Portland-based project executive for Skanska, the general contractor for the three-floor headquarters. “It’s really a good environment.”

Roth’s perspective is one of a builder who looks at design and function. He believes the building’s open feel, its floor-to-ceiling windows that pull daylight into every part of the workspace, its innovative geothermal heating and cooling system and its adaptability to changing internal configurations all contribute a contemporary model for a dynamic workplace.

Banfield, a division on confectionary maker Mars Inc., was aiming from the start to create a special place for its central employees, ranging from top management to call center workers. It selected TVA Architects of Portland, a firm that specializes in designing corporate campuses including the 23-building Nike world headquarters near Beaverton, Ore., to design the building and 17.5-acre site. Bob Thompson, TVA’s design principal for the Banfield project as well as the Nike campus in Oregon and a Nike complex in Shanghai, marveled as the changes in corporate office design over the 35-plus years he’s worked in the field.

“What you’re seeing in current design is that companies are encouraging much more interactive collaborative space,” he said. “In the old days people went into partitions and worked. That is such an old model now.”

The building’s appearance, inside and out, is striking. Todd Baisch, a Chicago-based design principal at Gensler Architects, believes the building “expresses the mission of company through countless design details.”

“Banfield is an established company but it feels more like and innovative startup,” said Baisch, who led the building’s interior design. “It looks youthful and agile, like what a tech company would have.”

For the exterior facade, the company chose light-colored bricks reminiscent of the facade of the Oregon Health & Science University’s signature waterfront building in Southwest Portland. The bricks are set off by a teak-colored metal facade that wraps around windows at the building’s entrance. The large site, restored from a quarry, over time could accommodate more buildings as Banfield grows.

Banfield is aiming for a LEED Platinum certification, a highest standard which demands close attention to reducing a building’s environmental footprint. The 206,000-square-foot building is 44 percent more energy efficient and 40 percent more water efficient than a typical building of its size, said Lisa Durham, a Skanska project manager. A big part of that water savings is the capture and re-use of rainwater to flush toilets. It’s built to accommodate solar energy, and the underground water pipes that will help heat the building in wintertime would stretch to the company’s old headquarters in Northeast Portland if laid out in a straight line.

The property is being landscaped as a habitat for wildlife, but also for privacy and yet more opportunities for interaction. Want to work outside? No problem. Wi-fi is available.

Dogs at work

Within the building, a somewhat harsh industrial feel of polished covered floors and overhead exposed pipes is softened by wood elements that evoke the Northwest. Coming soon is a “green wall” of living plant material that will be the central visual element of an expansive lobby.

A visitor to the lobby will be able to see the building at its full length — a distance of about 500 feet. Above the lobby’s central fireplace, a light fixture made of dog bowls is an unforgettable reminder of what this place is all about.

Other public places include a large room, easily dividable, that will be used to train staff from near and far. With 650 employees locally and 16,000 nationwide in its more than 925 pet hospitals, Banfield expects the training and conference room to get plenty of use.

Naturally the building has a large employee cafeteria, but for those who want to stick closer to their work areas the building offers six “micro-cafes” where employees can get ice, coffee, and vending machine foods. And don’t forget those dogs. At the cafes and throughout the building, dog bowls are readily available. Throughout, imaginative contemporary furniture and brightly colored fixtures bring energy to the building.

The most unusual element, of course, is the building’s dog ramp that makes travel from first to third floors easy on canine paws. At the Portland headquarters, almost 150 dogs have undergone the required assessment that allows them to accompany their human companions to work. Here, they won’t have to crowd into elevators or narrow stairways to get to their hangout spot. But there’s an added plus to the dog ramp, says Thompson, the project architect. It does more than simply serve its basic function as a pathway to dog heaven. “Those vertical elements create strong social opportunities (for workers) to interact with one another,” he said.

In fact, creating such opportunities for social interactions in the workplace is at the heart of the design of the new headquarters building, Even the company’s top executives will work in a shared area without offices, using the same types of desks as other employees.

For those employees who want to get away from their work areas without going far, there are six small dining areas interspersed throughout the building.

A rooftop terrace is another place to engage or hide out while working or on a break. There are meeting rooms and even a “reflection room” with privacy glass where an employee can rebound in the midst of a difficult personal or professional experience.

Not everyone can flow freely in and out of their work areas. The building’s call center, fielding queries from customers from across the nation, will be staffed by almost 150 employees who can’t be far from their phones and computers. But the center’s desks can be adapted for standing or sitting, and a break area is never far away.

In his work as an architect, Thompson said he tries to think about what a building he designs will look like in 30 to 40 years. He’s less into stylized architecture that makes a flash today and more into classic lines like those of the new Banfield building that will appeal to tastes both today and tomorrow.

“My goal is a building that is elegant, sophisticated, and understated,” he said. “Architecture is much like fashion. It’s changing all the time. My goal is to not get involved in current fashion but to design a building that will stand the test of time.”

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