Picture an average call center and you probably don't visualize a 62-foot mast at its entrance, porthole windows, and a waved, barrel-vault roof. You also probably don't picture employees who are as satisfied and energetic as those working in the Royal Caribbean Cruises Customer Service Center in Springfield, OR. Developed in less than 2 years from conception to completion, the Customer Service Center defies call-center stereotypes by offering a new bottom line: people, not just money.
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., the Miami-based global cruise vacations company, teamed with design-build developer Workstage of Grand Rapids, MI, to realize the goals of Russ Bogue, director of global facilities and properties at Royal Caribbean. The 162,587-square-foot facility was needed to house the expanding customer-service operations of Royal Caribbean, and the company sought a western location to complement their already established facilities in Miami and Wichita, KS.
Bogue based the project on the following key design drivers:
- Effectiveness: The building should be seen as a tool that can support employee efficiency and growth.
- Efficiency: The building should be energy efficient and flexible enough to meet the ever-changing needs of Royal Caribbean over the term of the lease.
- Expression: The workplace environment should express the Royal Caribbean brands and corporate culture.
For the most effective facility possible, Royal Caribbean performed a post-occupancy study of its Wichita facility. The study further determined Bogue's vision, making it clear that new workstation standards, more collaborative and meeting spaces, and an emphasis on employee health and well-being were all necessary elements for the new facility. The results of the study came to life in the completed building, which boasts an "employee-centric" focus. The wavelike pattern of workstations offers a less hierarchical spacing of workstations, and areas for impromptu or planned meetings are readily available. An on-site fitness center and healthy cafeteria menu also create an atmosphere that promotes effectiveness and wellness.
The goal of energy efficiency was met and exceeded at every turn. Bogue knew from the start that he wanted the building to be LEED certified. "[The building] needed to support our environmental statement as a company," he says, adding that the communities of Eugene, OR, and Springfield, OR, were "very excited about the fact that we wanted to do a LEED-certified building."
The devotion of the project team to environmental responsibility was recognized by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), and the facility, originally designed for LEED Silver certification, actually received LEED Gold certification. Jack Cottrell, president and CEO at Workstage, and executive in charge of the Customer Service Center project, gives all the credit to Bogue and the Royal Caribbean team. "They want to do the right thing. They are dedicated and they have some people that are really passionate about it," Cottrell says.
The list of thoughtful, innovative steps taken to gain LEED certification is impressive, ranging from emergency generators that run on vegetable oil to using wood-based materials in accordance with the Forest Stewardship Council's criteria for sustainable forest management. The facility consumes 72-percent less energy than 99 percent of the buildings in the United States. Working with local transit authorities, the project team established alternative methods of getting to and from work, also providing bicycle racks and showers. An amazing 97.4 percent of the construction waste from the project was diverted from landfills and recycled or reused elsewhere. The use of water-efficient, native landscaping and stormwater treatment also contributed to Gold certification.
The facility is clearly doing its part for the environment; the employees also get to enjoy improved air quality, natural light, and lovely views of the Oregonian landscaping. "You can look out your window," says Cottrell, "and see something beautiful every time." Striving for LEED certification wasn't just for the benefit of the employees, however. According to Bogue, "The beautiful surroundings of a particular country, the beautiful ocean ... all of that is part of what we sell, and we have to be a steward of the environment as a company."
Expressing the culture of the company was another area of particular interest to Royal Caribbean. "When you're not in south Florida, which is where the cruise industry was born and raised ... you don't necessarily have an understanding of what the industry is all about," Bogue says. To help the Oregon employees get a feel for the company and cruise industry, Bogue designed a hallway displaying the history of the company. "When you walk in the front door," says Bogue, "there are video walls in the lobby [talking] about what we're doing today and our product ... then, when you leave the lobby on the way to your desk, you pass our history - everything that we did in order to bring us to the point we're at today." Reinforcing the company culture, he has found, is essential in making employees feel vital to the company and important in their roles.
And, of course, having the employees feel important is what the project was all about. "We recognize that our call-center employees are some of the most important employees that we have," says Bogue. To communicate that value, Royal Caribbean set out to build a facility worthy of the people who would work in it. "It looks like something important is going on inside that building," Bogue says, adding that the building isn't a typical call center with back-of-the-house space, but features attractive, fun work areas. "They're exciting spaces," says Bogue. "And, you sit at a very nice desk, in high-quality furniture ... all those things, I think, tell you in a subtle way that what you do is important, that you are important."
But, do the employees feel the love? Cottrell and Bogue had similar comments on the initial reactions of the employees to the completed building: "I think it was amazement, really," says Cottrell. And, with all the care taken to put the employees first, it's easy to see why.
Jenna M. Lassen (firstname.lastname@example.org) is new products editor at Buildings magazine.
"Here is an example where a developer and occupant are of like minds. Through the use of architecture, Royal Caribbean has found a way of duplicating the [onboard] experience [of] a passenger for its landlocked staff. [It has] reduced employee stress levels, obtaining the maximum effort from a workforce and ensuring a long-term commitment to the company. A LEED Gold project and the efficiencies and environmental sensitivities are carefully balanced with a nautical theme; however, the amount of whimsy used within the building is nicely balanced with the needs of Royal Caribbean. There is much visual excitement!"