Inside, the offices are filled with natural lighting and vibrant colors, with lighthearted-themed areas, or "districts," such as the "Turkey Terrace" and the "Campfire Corner," the latter with meeting rooms modeled to look like tents. The so-called Plankton Palace has a light display shimmering up a stalk of faux seaweed.
The Bay View campus has been in the works for close to a decade, with plans solidifying in 2017 following a long-term lease with NASA Ames. Google's subsidiary, Planetary Ventures, inked a contract with the agency to lease 42 acres for $3.65 million in annual rent.
The company broke ground in 2017, and as of last week began inviting employees to trickle in — albeit with plenty of construction workers still working on the finishing touches.
In a tour of the campus Monday, Dave Radcliffe, Google's vice president of real estate and workplace services, said this is a big moment for the company. Most of Google's offices have been inherited or leased, but Bay View marks a rare opportunity to build something new and purposefully built to support the company's workforce.
"This is the first time ... we've been able to move Googlers into a building that we were able to design from the ground up, and so it's an exciting time for us," Radcliffe said.
Even before COVID-19 abruptly forced tech companies in the Bay Area to work from home, the design for Bay View took into account telecommuting and the reality that Google's leadership, candidly, cannot precisely know what the workplace will look like in 20 or 50 years, Radcliffe said. Instead, the company sought to create a flexible workplace environment that can transform numerous times in order to meet new demands.
The first floor, with its art exhibits, food services, couches and giant camel statue, is meant to be an "activation space," Radcliffe said. It's where employees can come in a few times a week for "intentional collaboration" with colleagues, the kind of thing that can be tricky to do from home. The second level is closer to a traditional office setting where Googlers can get work done in a distraction-free environment, but even then there are no defined walls, cubicles or corner offices.
The hybrid work schedule means Bay View needs to accommodate team-focused work, said Michelle Kaufmann, Google's director of real estate and workplace services, research and development. The floor plan, desks and furniture are all movable and interchangeable, with a mix of both group desks and quiet enclosed booths.
"Rather than have the traditional office, which was fixed desks and closed meeting rooms — kind of a one-size-fits-all for everyone — this new workplace is really about having a much wider range of space types for the activities people are going to be coming back to do," Kaufmann said.
While Bay View's sloped roofs are designed to accommodate 90,000 solar panels and capture energy at all hours of the day, the high steel canopy is also angled to let in plenty of daylight without causing any glare. The opera hall-shaped ceiling, along with acoustic decking and soft materials throughout the building, strike a balance that keeps the office from sounding too loud or too quiet, Kaufmann said.
Google is also touting the new campus' environmentally friendly design, including the largest geothermal pipe system in North America. The system involves pipes that run 80 feet underground that can be used to transfer excess heat from the building, which can then be stored for future use during the winter, said Asim Tahir, director of energy and carbon for the company's real estate and workplace services.
The geothermal system means Google will save about 5 million gallons of water each year and can completely ditch natural gas for heating the building, which is all-electric. The plan is to fully eliminate Bay View's carbon footprint.
"This building will operate with carbon-free energy 90% of the time, and we're hoping through operational improvements we'll over the years get to the full 100%," Tahir said.
A large portion of the leased 42-acre property remains open space, including meadows and marshes, creating a buffer between the newly opened tech campus and the bay coastline. North of the office buildings is a large parking garage next door to multiple buildings with a total of 220 suites similar to motel rooms, built for people visiting Google who need to stay for extended periods.
Bay View is one of multiple Google office developments underway in and around Mountain View. The company's 595,000-square-foot Charleston East campus is still under construction and is expected to be finished next year, and the Mountain View City Council approved a third office proposal, the Google Landings project, in 2020. Charleston East is expected to house up to 2,700 Google employees.
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