It’s well known that innovation is a product of an organizational culture that makes collaboration a priority. The leadership at Oatey, a family-owned, global manufacturer of quality plumbing products, understands this well. In business for more than 100 years, Oatey was ready for a new corporate headquarters that enabled communication and nurtured its collaborative culture to increase innovation. The goal was to consolidate staff from separate facilities in Cleveland to one campus with an open environment, fostering stronger partnerships across the organization—in a flexible space that adapts for the future.
Oatey staff were spread across three campuses that physically disconnected people, impeded technology and movement, created silos, and required people to walk or drive from different locations. Company leadership desired a space that would improve adjacencies to foster collaboration and drive innovation. The new building would also incorporate sustainability goals and employee well-being in an open, transparent environment. And it would be designed to effectively adapt to the ever-evolving ways people work.
The project began with a workplace strategy session to define the goals that would carry through to the end result: a 47,000-square-foot, two-story building located on a 7.6-acre site bordering the Cleveland Metroparks.
An open floorplan was designed to promote collaboration, communication, and transparency, with people adjacent to each other. “We tried to sprinkle collaboration spaces throughout the entire open plan,” said Jodi van der Wiel, Associate Design Director at Vocon, the architecture and design firm that partnered with Oatey. It includes a variety of open and closed conference spaces, as well as standing and seated collaboration areas to offer people choice in how they work and interact.
The design team was deliberate about using lower height workstations and glass doors on conference rooms to maintain visibility among coworkers. Multiple indoor cafés and casual meeting spaces with ancillary furniture were created to bring people together. “The furniture and wall systems support communication and collaboration,” said Matt Heisey, Principal at Vocon. “The way the space is organized allows people to bump into each other during the day. This building supports the ‘casual collisions’ that promote innovation—on the spot rather than having to schedule a meeting.”
Even the process among project team members was collaborative, bringing solutions to the table without impacting schedule, which ultimately saved money.
Many organizations invest in green buildings to reap the benefits of healthy and productive employees. When people spend about 90 percent of their time indoors, creating a healthier workspace demonstrates that a company values its workforce as well as sustainability principles.
With the natural beauty of the Metroparks—an extensive system of nature preserves—in its back yard, Oatey’s headquarters offers employees access to daylight, views of the park, and connection to nature, which is important to foster well-being at work. A 2,800 square-foot exterior terrace overlooks the scenic Rocky River Valley.
The material palettes—including earthy, warm elements—connect with the natural setting to reinforce sustainability principles in a contemporary design. For example, a wooden trellis was built over a collaborative work area, and wood is incorporated into the walls in various places around the facility. Water-saving fixtures were installed, and flush fixtures use rainwater from a cistern located outside the building to reduce water consumption.
Additional amenities for staff provide many ways to promote well-being, including a fitness suite, a quarter-mile outdoor walking path, a picnic area, and indoor/outdoor cafés. Heightadjustable workstations allow for sit-to-stand options to enable movement for people at work. Oatey has also partnered with LunchOwl, an innovative workplace lunch service that provides employees with fresh and energizing lunches.
We said from the beginning, because of the business we’re in (water), we wanted to be LEED certified. We thought pursuing LEED NC Gold Certification was very important given the kind of company we are.
- Ron Compiseno, Vice President of Human Resources at Oatey.
Incorporating Haworth’s raised access floors and movable walls into the new headquarters will contribute to future-proofing the space as Oatey expands. These elements are designed to ease reconfiguration when space changes, while saving time and costs through efficient process.
“If Oatey decides to change their open office spaces, it’s very flexible,” said Nathan Heitner, Project Manager at Donley’s, the general contractor on the project. “They can pick up the partitions and take them apart. They can reconfigure. All they have to do is take a tile with an electrical box and put it in the location they want it ultimately. The underfloor electric is plugand-play—they just unhook and reconnect it where they want, and they’re good to go.”
Raised access floors also enable user control so people can adjust air temperature in their workspace. And, with so many products from Haworth’s Integrated Palette™ included in the design, the furniture solutions will enable future-proofing the facility for years to come.
Oatey’s new corporate headquarters is a state-of-the-art, sustainable, and energy-efficient collaboration space for its growing staff. The building incorporates the tan, gray, and red of the brand palette in a contemporary design that reflects the organization’s vision and culture, aligns with core values, showcases Oatey’s history, and celebrates innovation.
“They really demonstrate who they are. From the moment you walk in the lobby to seeing their goals and objectives on the wall, and their visual connection to the site and environment, you feel really aligned with what and who Oatey is,” said Julie Trott, Project Director at Vocon.
The building was designed for transparency so people can easily see when coworkers are available or not, enabling collaboration and communication. “The goal was to give them a multitude of ways to work together, so it’s been really rewarding to come here and see them using the space—in ways we didn’t even foresee,” said Jodi van der Wiel.
And, the project was completed within the timeline and budget—a true team effort that included change communication. Project goals have been embraced by employees, who are smiling and engaged at work.
“What we’re beginning to see is innovation, and that’s really what this space is about,” said Ron Compiseno. “Getting a product to the marketplace faster to solve a customer need is what we pride ourselves on. When you have all the people and players together in one place, naturally that’s going to happen faster.”
Since 1916, Oatey has provided reliable, high-quality products for the residential and commercial plumbing industries. Today, Oatey operates a comprehensive manufacturing and distribution network to supply more than 6,000 products for professional builders, contractors, engineers, and do-it-yourself consumers around the world. They have continued to meet customer needs for more than a century by offering innovative plumbing solutions that deliver results the first time.
Architect / Design Firm: Vocon
General Contractor: Donley’s Inc.
Haworth Furniture Dealer: RCF Group
Photographer: Matthew Carbone