Cushman and Wakefield: New Global HQ Unites Employees in Chicago

When Cushman & Wakefield, international real estate powerhouse, embarked on a new headquarters, they wanted a space that united their global and local teams.

The new global headquarters at 225 West Wacker in Chicago spans the building’s top four floors and incorporates state-of-the-art conference and office areas, flexible commons, and two roof decks with panoramic views of the river and Chicago skyline.

Courtesy of Whitney Architects

Courtesy of Whitney Architects

Just before employees moved into their new space in June 2017, Syska sat down to discuss the vision and takeaways with the project team: Eric Rudin, Project Manager, Cushman & Wakefield; Kate Logan, Senior Project Manager, Whitney Architects; Joe Klippel, Construction Manager, Clune Construction; and Clint Moreno, MEP, IT, and Security Engineering Lead, Syska Hennessy Group.

How did Cushman & Wakefield select 225 West Wacker for the new global headquarters?

Eric Rudin, Cushman & Wakefield: We wanted a site within Chicago’s central Loop that had the right square footage and was also close to the liveliness of River North. This building, built in the 1980s, had a unique space that really enabled the overall vision. The two-story ceiling and roof decks sealed the deal!

What was your design vision?

Kate Logan, Whitney: Cushman & Wakefield wanted to make an impression without the space feeling gaudy or opulent. We wanted the whole space to feel like a boutique hotel lobby – very welcoming with an understated elegance.

When the company brought us on board, they shared a playbook outlining the different types of essential spaces. Within these parameters, we made recommendations that would support Cushman & Wakefield’s global and local teams under one roof.

We divided the space into employee districts and client-facing areas. The employee districts are more obviously “Cushman” with a pop of their signature red. The client-facing spaces are welcoming and impressive, but are more neutral in tone.

On the 31st floor, we removed mezzanines to create an 18-foot ceiling to maximize their amazing view and provide a flexible environment with various places to work, including both sitting and standing areas, casual lounge seating, and integrated technology. It’s a cross between an Apple store and a college library.

What was your vision for the showcase “immersion room,” where Cushman & Wakefield engage potential clients?

Eric: The client immersion room revolves around technology. Once we removed the ceiling on the 31st floor, we knew the space could really “wow” our clients. We wanted a productive space to showcase technology to clients.

Kate: Our audiovisual partners at Netrix suggested a curved display to be integrated into the architecture. We recommended furniture and finishes to support the technology and the rest of the floor’s aesthetics.

What was your approach to the specialized conference rooms?

Eric: We knew we didn’t want typical boardrooms. Throughout the space, we worked with Steelcase, Herman Miller and AllSteel on furnishings and finishes, and asked them to each design one conference room and one teaming room.

Kate: We gave them a budget to showcase innovative products and the freedom to replace the furniture as trends and technology changes. It’s also a great sales tool, since Cushman & Wakefield can introduce their solutions to their clients and colleagues.

What were the biggest challenges designing for LEEDv4 and WELL certification?

Eric: From the beginning, we knew we wanted to achieve LEED and WELL certification. Cushman & Wakefield had worked on many LEED projects, and for the newer WELL designation we leaned on our west coast offices, who helped with their expertise and experience.

Kate: The biggest design challenge was the building’s configuration and its core and shell dimensions. LEED certification requires all private offices receive natural light, so from a planning perspective, that was the biggest hurdle during the early stages.

Clint Moreno, Syska: Cushman & Wakefield involved Allison Kim and Michael Johnson—from the company’s sustainability team—to focus on and coordinate the certification processes. Our biggest challenge was modifying legacy equipment in systems that were 30-years old. The building housed a legacy pneumatic control system, which we converted to direct digital control (DDC) and made sure that the upgraded existing and new systems all aligned with our sustainability goals.

Joe Klippel, Clune: For this build-out, the biggest challenge was working with the building’s existing equipment and ensuring each construction decision complied with both LEED and WELL.

How did you manage to complete all four floors by the same deadline considering major structural issues?

Joe: After the initial subcontractor awards, we sat down with the design team and started work on long-lead time materials such as light fixtures and AC units, which had the same lead time for all four floors. The biggest challenge was getting the materials ordered on time, since each area had unique ceiling and wall requirements. The client-facing spaces had more complex millwork and higher-end finishes with longer lead times.

Since the previous tenant built-out the space in the 1980s, the as-builts weren’t the most accurate due to service work over the years. Before construction, we had made several assumptions about the infrastructure, but during demolition of the 31st floor mezzanine, we found the steel wasn’t exactly as we had thought. To create the grand 18-foot ceilings, we had to redesign how the structural steel was to be installed to work with the existing conditions and new infrastructure.

What were the biggest engineering challenges?

Clint: When we opened the 31st floor ceiling, we found a 30-foot-high plywood catwalk, which doesn’t meet current code. We had to take that apart, raise the soffit, and bury the air distribution within so it didn’t look like we were hiding the metal ductwork.

Our biggest challenge was using 20-year-old fan boxes and modernizing the controls. For energy savings, and to meet the LEED and WELL certifications, we introduced demand control ventilation, to adjust ventilation airflow rates depending on occupant density or increase the airflow depending on density. We also put the receptacles on a timer, so half of the floor’s power shuts off for even more energy savings.

Why are you installing a green roof?

Eric: We had planned for rooftop space on the east and west deck of the 31st floor. During renovation on the roof’s structural support, firm leadership proposed adding some green space, which would expand how we use the roof. At that point, we changed the design to extend the roof support.

Joe: We already had the pergola on site, and when we started our install, we discovered the concrete topping slab – which drains directly to the roof drain. We’re working with Intrinsic Landscaping, who are installing a drainage mat, geofoam, and a low-maintenance self-sustaining irrigation system.

What are the biggest takeaways?

Eric: This project had a different dynamic because Cushman & Wakefield is both the client and the project manager. On one hand, I’m in close quarters with the client and can easily knock on doors to get quick answers to my questions. On the other, it’s also easier for them to find me and ask for project changes!

Joe: This was my first WELL project. Not long after we started construction, some Clune coworkers asked for help on presentations about WELL. Because of my experience on this project, I could be a resource for my office and help explain the differences between LEED and WELL.

Kate: This was a complicated project, and there were a lot of different consultants and teams involved. I thought the biggest challenge was coordination—so many heads came together to achieve a common goal.

Click here to download a PDF of the article, which appears in our 2017 Connections Summer magazine.