For their new North American headquarters, the Denmark-based wind turbine company Vestas-American Wind Technology needed a space large enough to hold their 400 employees from two separate offices, but intimate enough for their teams to stay personally connected.
Vestas came to Ankrom Moisan already grounded in this approach. For years, their offices in Denmark have been arranged around the basic workplace unit of pods made up of about 24 employees. According to Vestas’ research, this strategy promotes stronger relationships and more effective outcomes, and it set our design team on a clear path to renovating their new workplace within the historic shell.
For our first move, we opened up the center of the building to create the atrium topped with huge skylights, brightening the heart of the former warehouse. We arranged Vestas’ glass-walled work pods along the building’s perimeter, each facing the others across the soaring, five-story central atrium now flooded with daylight. Essential support spaces—conference rooms, an elaborate library space, private phone booths—flank these workspaces and encourage communication among employees and teams. On the third floor, an open bleacher auditorium ties into the atrium and serves as a community space for spontaneous work sessions, all-employee meetings, or public events. Up above, the fifth-floor boardroom appears to float in space at the top of the atrium. And on the rooftop sits a 22,000 sq. ft. mass-timber penthouse, a deck that blurs the line between indoor and outdoor spaces, a garden area, and photovoltaic panels.
Since the existing 200’ x 200’ shell was listed in the National Register of Historic Places, our design contrasts these sleek, contemporary expressions of Vestas’ workplace programming with the weathered textures of the historic warehouse. We embraced its as-is condition, using a purposefully minimalistic finish palette to enhance its historic texture, and we followed more sustainable practices, selecting our materials based on recycled and reclaimed content, regional fabrication, low-VOC coating, and FSC-certified wood. The building’s toilets are filled by filtered rainwater and indoor air circulates through a UFAD (underfloor air distribution) system, which removes the need for overhead ducts and makes it easier to move the work pods around. Operable windows are tied into the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing system. If there’s a fire, the windows open to draw out smoke.
All told, the building’s transformation achieved LEED Platinum certification, an Energy Star score of 99, and the International Living Future Institute’s energy efficiency REVEAL label. In 2014, this historic Portland landmark was the most energy-efficient building on record in the United States.
Vestas’ new North American headquarters brings life and intentionality to what was once a quiet corner of Portland’s Pearl District.