Not every company gets recognized by leaders from two of the world’s superpowers in the same year. In 2010, just prior to his election as British prime minister, David Cameron acknowledged Opower in an address at the London TED (Technology Entertainment and Design) conference. A month later, President Obama made a personal appearance at Opower’s headquarters in Arlington, Virginia to deliver a speech and to praise the organization’s achievements in the clean-tech industry. The following year, Opower received recognition from the New York Times, The Washington Post, and CNN for its leadership in promoting energy efficiency through software. Opower ended 2011 on Forbes’ top 20 list of America’s Most Promising Companies. Not bad for a company that hasn’t even hit its five year anniversary.
Founded in 2007, Opower develops software that helps utility companies comply with state regulations for energy use and engage with their customers to reduce utilities consumption. With an eye toward innovation, Opower required a corporate headquarters space that would express its position as a clean-energy leader and would accommodate its growing staff size.
Opower’s corporate culture reflects their business: youthful, vibrant, energetic, and collaborative. As the project’s designer, I was inspired when I first walked into their old space. I could clearly see that their company culture was quite different from anything I had worked with before. It was inspiring coming up with strategic ways to help the company culture work in their new space. I spotted yoga balls as desk chairs and scooters that employees rode around the office.
There were a couple design challenges with this project:
- Reusing existing partitions, ceilings, and flooring to keep construction costs down
- Making sure that each department had adequate space to fit all their staff members
To solve those problems, FOX worked with contractors to reuse materials. Also, the areas originally designated for each department were rearranged: The financial and technical groups moved to the lower floor (quiet floor) and the sales and marketing staff moved to the higher floor (social floor).
Opower provides its employees amenities such as free food and drinks; I decided the Pantry and Lounge area would be the main focal point with the design of the new space. A lounge off of the pantry is articulated by a curved wall, paneled glass, and disco-blue lighting. Employees can work on the sofas in the lounge or get together for after-hours games.
When it came to the telephone rooms, Opower allowed FOX to be liberal in the design. As a result, we selected glass doors with sliding barn-door hardware. The overall design had to accommodate employee preferences, too. The design process was a collaborative process and included everyone in the office. Employees were able to customize their desking systems, including stand-up desks.
My favorite part of the project was seeing the stages of development that transformed Opower's office from a crammed and inefficient space to an open and collaborative space that is more conducive to employee interaction and embodies the company culture.
Ultimately, Opower's new space reflects their company’s culture and their employees’ preferences. The entire space is large enough for scooters!”
Photography by Spielmann Studios