BI Design Awards 2004 - Welcome to the Neighborhood

March 1, 2004
Winner in Office Interiors: Accenture, Charlotte, NC
Accenture had a vision for its new Charlotte office – achieved with help from Charlotte-based Little Diversified Architectural Consulting. Their previous space was composed of large, fixed offices, and build-out guidelines weren’t exactly conducive to Accenture’s way of working. For inspiration, Little took note of the environment and context visible from the new Accenture site (located in Gateway Village, the largest urban mixed-use development in the Carolinas), and worked to incorporate versions of these observations into the office design. “They showed us examples of their offices around the world and how unique each one was,” says Jim Thompson, director of design, Little. Wanting to distinguish it from the other Accenture spaces, the design team needed the indoor environment to offer a local Charlotte flavor. Urban sights close to Gateway Village – office towers in the skyline, nearby grain silos and water towers, and monuments situated in an early settlers’ cemetery – inspired the primary goal: different types of work settings combined to form “neighborhoods.” With this design, offices skinned with maple panels define the corridors, and the work areas function as indoor landmarks, shaping and fashioning spaces – not just serving as a traditional thoroughfare for circulation. “We really considered each corridor – the width, the real subtle moves as far as shifting. We were looking at the space in between the offices, not necessarily just the offices themselves, and how [these corridors] impact the overall design,” explains Michael Coates, project designer, Little. That careful detail, paired with the interior design concept, allowed Little to fulfill the objective of setting this particular space apart. “You can enter the space and say, ‘This belongs to Charlotte.’ It’s tied with and captures the local identity,” says John Paquin, project manager, Little.The design concept Little presented corresponded nicely with what Accenture was hoping to accomplish in its new setting: “We wanted to have a very office hoteling-friendly space compared to what we used to have,” explains Michael Fung, director of facilities and services, Accenture. “The first thing we wanted was ‘neighborhoods,’ where each part of the office has a mix of different work settings.” These different neighborhoods were set up throughout Accenture’s 25,000 square feet of workspace. Seven distinctive settings in all – conference spaces (larger rooms for meetings), touchdown areas (places to check e-mail or take a small break), focus pods (enclosed areas to conduct telephone conversations or concentrate on individual work) – were developed and mixed to meet the needs of Accenture employees, who often work from multiple locations or use offices as “landing” spots. Reserving workspace in this type of environment is almost like reserving a room at a typical hotel. Accenture’s Charlotte office is linked to a company-wide Intranet site; by logging on, employees can see which spaces are available in the office location they’ll be working from – whether they’re headed to Chicago, Taipei, or are staying in the Charlotte office. They can then reserve the type of area they need, in the location they desire, for as long as necessary. “We took advantage of their technology to make the utilization of this space as high as it could possibly be,” explains Thompson.Even Accenture’s front lobby resembles a hotel-like arrangement: A mixture of receptionists and reservationists are available at the front desk. Here, Accenture employees can “check in” and gain access to the workspace they reserved. Computer kiosks are also available for those who’d rather check themselves in or want to verify someone else’s reservation or location status. Core administrative and executive staff remain primarily in one designated office location, but 70 to 80 percent of Accenture’s space in Charlotte is assigned to these non-dedicated areas.In addition to office hoteling requests, Accenture had additional goals for its new space: to tighten up square footage per employee while avoiding a “dotcom-ish” feel (they now have between 80 and 90 square feet per person, down from 160 to 180 square feet per person), and to stick to a firm budget. As Paquin describes: “We needed to do a level of design that you see in Europe and New York City, but at half or three-quarters of the cost.” Incorporating indirect lighting, floor-to-ceiling windows for daylight, and environmentally sensitive products helped add to the atmosphere.Accenture’s Corporate Real Estate Workplace team also played a part in the success of this Charlotte office space. The group developed a “workplace blueprint,” describes Daniel Johnson, Accenture’s global director of Corporate Real Estate Workplace, aimed at defining a new real estate strategy and helping Accenture offices around the world employ high-performance workspaces that enhance business delivery. “Our strategy, and the supporting design guidelines, document best practices in terms of design, workplace performance, and project delivery; what works and what doesn’t. But to me, that’s a small part of the much larger conversation that  focuses on alignment with our business strategy.” These guidelines are also a result of the frequent surveying Accenture conducts with employees. “It’s been through years of surveying that we’ve honed and fine-tuned our mix of work settings,” explains Fung. “We have the right mix here.”All of the collaboration and hard work has absolutely paid off: The new office encompasses both Little and Accenture’s goals of a hoteling-friendly setting and an interior unique to Charlotte. “When we originally moved in here, we got tons and tons of comments from people saying how much nicer and more functional it was than the old space,” says Accenture’s Fung. “But I consistently hear from other people in other offices that they really like it. It’s not overdone. Every day, we receive great comments on the functionality of the space and how well it works.”Leah B. Garris ( is associate editor at Buildings magazine.

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