Building Your Business: Practicing What You Preach

HGA’s Santa Monica office eschews a typical office layout. The open-plan fosters collaboration and comfort. Image courtesy HGA.Five years ago, the powers that be at HGA started searching for a new space for their LA office. The old set-up was in a Century City high rise. “It had a bullpen in the middle and the shareholders were at the windows,” recalls Satoshi Teshima, an associate vice president in the LA branch. “It was a typical corporate set-up. We wanted to get away from that.”

The new space avoids outdated modes of work. “We were actively looking for a creative space without a hierarchy of ‘important’ people at the window,” says Teshima. In their new Santa Monica digs, “no one sits at the window,” he explains. “There are collaborative areas where teams can go and work for a while.” Even better, the new space has windows that open, allowing the air conditioning to be turned off. “It’s much nicer to have the breeze from the ocean rather than air pushing through the ductwork.”

For HGA, the impulse to work in a more open and humane environment is of a piece with the firm’s philosophy. Though the term sustainability seems to be losing its meaning, becoming just another trendy buzzword, HGA has internalized the concept—taking it far beyond just the idea of adding a couple of solar panels on a roof and calling it green.

In the firm’s education and healthcare work, in particular, cutting-edge research has been showing the benefits of so-called green technology on not just the environment, but on the health and wellbeing of the users of those spaces. By creating buildings that, say, foster collaboration, they’re designing a building that makes its inhabitants feel comfortable, which in turn leads to greater opportunities for productivity, even healing. 

At this point, making structures that balance environmental responsibility with a focus on the human experience is second nature at HGA. “You can’t take a building and dip it in sustainability and be done,” Teshima points out. “It has to be part of the batter.”

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