Creating a work space for innovation, collaboration; a cafeteria, too

Location: 3576 Unocal Place, Santa Rosa; www.medtronic.com

Owner: Medtronic Corp.

Description: $11 million multiple site upgrade, one-year project schedule with energy-efficiency improvements, campus beautification, modern work environments with flex workspaces and meeting areas, state-of-the-art conference rooms; full-service, on-site cafe

Completion: October 2010

Architect: Aecom, San Francisco

General contractor: Kirby Construction Co. Inc., Santa Rosa

Engineers: Joe Lunardi Electric, Santa Rosa; DPC Consulting, Santa Rosa

Project cost: $11 million

[caption id="attachment_27999" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="A new conference room (click to enlarge)"][/caption]

SANTA ROSA -- Medtronic Inc.’s decision to consolidate its Santa Rosa operations a couple of years ago led to an opportunity to beautify its Fountaingrove campus and streamline costs by re-engineering the company’s use of work space.

Eighteen months and $11 million later, the Fountaingrove facility has become the centralized hub for the company’s 800-member Sonoma County work force, with 12 percent of them now working from home. The campus was redesigned with flexible workspaces for individual employee or groups of employees to use as needed. Offices, cubicles and conference rooms feature the latest information technology capabilities that enable anyone to “drop in, plug into network, do their business and move on,” said Don Chigazola, director of site service operations for Medtronic.

Medtronic’s presence in Santa Rosa is focused on the global company’s cardiovascular business, which develops coronary, peripheral and aortic stent systems. As a company with operations throughout the U.S., Europe and Asia in various time zones, the redesign better supports the way Medtronic does business, Mr. Chigazola said. The facility’s meeting spaces are now outfitted with high-definition video conferencing systems. Special conference tables feature built-in, flat panel LCD monitors that enable anyone sitting around the table to connect their laptop and display their desktop to everyone else at the touch of a button.

“Since this is primarily an R&D site, our main purpose is innovation. We have people who need to work and collaborate across the globe at all hours of the day and night. Now they can do that as if they were sitting next to each other,” noted Mr. Chigazola. “This is all part of designing the workplace environment to support the actual activities going on here and the different ways people innovate. Instead of people having to adapt to the work environment, we have an environment supporting people the way they work.”

[caption id="attachment_28001" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Another view of the conference room (click to enlarge)"][/caption]

The site upgrade grew out of a need to relocate 200 Medtronic employees formerly housed in a 62,000-square-foot leased facility in Santa Rosa’s Airport Business Park.

“We have been wanting to renovate our Fountaingrove campus for some time. We decided to take this opportunity to renovate the campus and employ some new designs,” Mr. Chigazola explained. “We took a look at how many employees actually needed to have a dedicated space versus needing mobility or working from home, and we found that most employees spend only about 30 percent of their time using their cubicles or offices. The rest of the time they are either in meetings or away from their space for some other reason. It just made good business sense to optimize the work space.”

Employees who need dedicated workspace still have those. Others were given the option to work at home along with all the appropriate technology to do so.

“Our employees love the flexibility and report that they are more productive,” Mr. Chigazola said.

The arrangement also addresses a company business goal to reduce its environmental footprint. Fewer employees coming into the office translates into fewer cars on the road. Medtronic received Environmental Sustainability Best Practices Awards from the Sonoma County Business Environmental Alliance in both 2009 and 2010.

[caption id="attachment_28000" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="The new coffee bar (click to enlarge)"][/caption]

The Fountaingrove renovation project also included adding a full-service, on-site cafeteria. Previously food was prepared, packaged and transported from the cafeteria at the leased facility. Often it was not very fresh or hot. As a natural gathering place, the on-site cafeteria has boosted productivity by functioning as another kind of flex workspace for employees who no longer leave the campus for lunch.

While flex workspace is not a new design concept, Santa Rosa is one of the first Medtronic campuses to adopt it. The San Francisco-based architectural firm Aecom handled the redesign, working with local contractors Kirby Construction and Lunardi Electric.

Changing out the company’s lighting system proved to be another key, cost-saving, footprint-reducing measure. Lighting is one of the company’s largest energy demands. A new, more energy-efficient lighting system automatically adjusts to the outside light to keep inside lighting constant and shuts off in areas where no motion is detected after a period of time. Gone are the days of entire floors accidentally remaining lit up all night because someone forgot to turn off the lights.

Finally, the installation of a $1.2 million, 324-kilowatt solar array at the Fountaingrove campus to be completed by summer 2011 will further reduce the facility’s electrical demand by another 40 percent at peak hours, netting the company $1.8 million in savings over 20 years.