Washington, DC

The Office Building of the Future

Service Type

Project Type

800,600 sf


NAIOP 2012 Office Building of the Future Award

Project Details

One of four winners nationally, Hickok Cole Architects presented its vision of the Office Building of the Future at NAIOP’s Development 2012 Conference.

Our design process began with two questions:
First, in today’s hyper-connected world, will there even be office buildings in the future; and second, what will shape and drive the design of the office of the future?

The team worked from the smallest scale, the workstation, to the largest scale, the office market. We resolved to study office building design comprehensively and from the inside out. Through these sessions we explored new transit-oriented developments, issues of workplace design, energy efficiency, structural materials, construction techniques, leading edge technologies, demographics and a myriad of other issues, forces and market drivers.

Three critical issues emerged that we believed would drive the office of the future:

  • Human Need
  • Performance
  • Construction and Fabrication

We started by calling our friends and most trusted consultants, Mark Tamaro at Thornton Tomassetti for structural engineering, Christian Agulles at WSP Flack+ Kurtz for MEP Engineering and Paul Totten at Simpson Gumpertz & Heger (SGH) for Envelope Design building enclosure consulting. On a parallel path we met with Janet Davis of Steelcase Furniture to discuss their latest research in work place design.

The most striking design feature of the proposal is a highly sensitive building envelope that responds to the conditions of the environment. Harnessing new cross-disciplinary research on smart polymers, the team proposed an envelope consisting of two layers: the inner layer serves as the weather tight barrier while the outer layer adapts to ever changing sun conditions.

The question then became, how do we weave these disparate forces and requirements into a comprehensive architectural design proposal for the Office Building of the Future? To arrive at the typical floor plan we worked in two ways: one strategy was to derive the ideal plan dimensions by exploring the modularity of furniture systems and work styles; the second strategy was to deconstruct a traditional center core floor plate and rearrange its parts, prioritizing natural light, flexibility, and column free space.

When we first undertook this “ideas competition” we had modest goals. All we really wanted was to use the discipline and structure of the competition to organize and integrate our ideas about the future of office buildings.

The impact of this competition has been felt at many levels. The impact on the office was profound. The opportunity to look over the horizon, unfettered by the normal project restrictions energized the office. Suddenly everyone wanted to get involved. At the national level it has opened a dialogue in the real estate and architectural communities about what office buildings could and should be in the future. We have been asked to present our concepts at three different national real estate venues. Our local real estate community has asked to see the presentation and of course we have shown it to many of our clients.

The most lasting impact will be in what follows from here. We plan, as a firm, to continue to investigate the topic.