Tech giants are hiring less and engineers have widely embraced working from home, but Google has just opened futuristic new offices in Silicon Valley, designed to meet all the current — and even future — demands of its employees.
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In Mountain View, a crow’s-eye flight from its headquarters, the Californian group has erected two enormous tent-like buildings of glass and metal, covered with solar panels in the shape of dragon scales.
Alphabet, the parent company of Google, did not reveal the amount that this “Bay View Campus”, planned to house up to 4,500 employees, will cost.
“I don’t think any of our buildings are empty. We are not worried”, joked Michelle Kaufmann, director of research and development of the company’s offices, during a press visit.
“We are more concerned about whether we will have enough space. Because the company continues to grow,” he added.
At the end of March, Alphabet had approximately 164,000 employees worldwide (+17% in a year). In the San Francisco Bay Area alone, 45,000 people work for the tech giant.
Its neighbor Meta (Facebook, Instagram) and other large digital companies (Microsoft, Amazon, Nvidia, Snap, Uber, etc.) recently announced a slowdown in the pace of hiring due to the unfavorable economic context, after hiring under arm’s length conditions during the pandemic.
Connections and disconnections
Several companies, such as Twitter in San Francisco, have left the door open to remote work because many engineers prefer this way of working. Some are also having trouble bringing teams back in person, particularly because of fears of Covid.
“I think 10% of (Google) staff chose and got to work primarily from home,” Michelle Kaufmann noted.
She hopes the new offices, designed long before the pandemic, will meet the expectations of other employees, who split their week between in-person and remote work.
The ground floor consists of restaurants, cafes, gyms and meeting rooms, spread over several “public squares”, from “Dinosaur District” to “Neon Nature”, surrounded by sofas.
The plant houses modular offices, separated by various pieces of furniture, but without walls, so that the teams have “the privacy they need” while still being “connected with the rest of the community,” says the architect.
Google hopes to encourage creativity and teamwork as more solitary tasks can be done from home.
But watch out for tech addiction: In the restrooms, a sign gives advice on not getting addicted to the phone and also warns against “email apnea” (when you hold your breath while checking your email).
Recycled water, natural air
It took five years to build these buildings, with ambitious environmental specifications. In fact, Alphabet has promised to stop emitting carbon dioxide by 2030.
This campus achieves carbon neutrality “90% of the time” thanks to solar panels and geothermal batteries. All non-potable water needs are met with recycled water produced on site.
And the ventilation systems use 100% of the outside air, “instead of 20%” on average in offices, details Michelle Kaufmann.
A feature that comes at the right time, in the era of the pandemic.
“Luckily, many things that we had planned are working great in relation to Covid,” remarks the architect. “We thought we had 10 more years for some elements, but the virus sped up the process.”
It ensures that workspaces have been designed with the flexibility to meet needs that no one imagines yet.
For now, many employees have no problem with the “opera-like” acoustics, as the new campus has just opened.
Employees from other Google sites, when visiting for a few days, can stay in one of the 240 apartments built right across the street.
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