EUA, one of Milwaukee's most well-known architecture firms, has turned its 3rd Ward home into a thoroughly modern workplace, complete with informal gathering spaces, coffee bars and a rooftop terrace that draws employees at all times of the day.
Check out the slideshow to get a look at the unique office space.
The building, 333 E. Chicago St., which was built in 1900 and is the former home of the AW Rich Shoe Co., underwent an extensive renovation in 2015.
The open-concept space includes sit-to-stand desks, providing employees the ability to tailor their workstations to individual preferences. Expansive windows flood the space with daylight while operable windows provide fresh air, simultaneously reducing the dependence on artificial light and reducing energy usage. Throughout six floors, informal gathering spaces, nooks and coffee bars create opportunities for impromptu meetings and interaction with co-workers.
A large light-filled design lab is located off the lobby, providing room for team collaboration, employee gatherings and catered events. The basement level encompasses training rooms, a wellness room, locker rooms and a large multi-purpose space, complete with a pingpong table and kitchenette.
One of the office's most popular features is the rooftop terrace, which provides employees an alternative place to work, take a break or socialize. The space includes a kitchenette, competitive shuffleboard table and audio and visual technology. Accordion doors can be opened, merging the inside and outside, creating one large space that is used for social events and organization and community events.
"On a sunny afternoon it’s not uncommon to find EUA employees grilling on the deck, playing a game of bags, relaxing with a laptop on lounge furniture, enjoying the outdoor fire pits or working beneath the sunshade," the firm said in its nomination.
I caught up recently with Kristin Dufek, vice president, principal and healthcare studio director, to talk about many of the unique aspects of the workplace.
Q: Talk about the process that was used to determine the look of your office space.
"As a design firm, EUA felt it important to involve not only the 'C' suite, but designers and employees in the process. With a vision of creating an environment that people are excited to come to every day, and a place for people to be the best at what they do, involvement from a cross-section of people was critical to successfully achieving that goal. Several internal charrettes were held with groups of people from each of EUA’s studios – Workplace, Living, Learning, Healthcare and Science & Technology – to set goals, review program options and collectively generate a design.
"Through our extensive work with corporate clients and research we have found that the three key elements within the workplace that impact engagement levels are people, place and technology. Keeping this top of mind, we brought in IT consultants to better understand how we could harness our spaces for seamless employee access, improving engagement across all offices. This resulted in the implementation of a variety of spaces throughout the floorplate that offer choice to employees."
Q: Has the office space been helpful in recruiting and retaining employees?
"After the economic downturn in 2008, the architectural industry lost a sub-generation of graduates, who were forced to take careers in industries outside of architecture. This caused a ripple effect of talent shortage of mid-level (10 – 15 years’ experience) architectural positions across the U.S. Challenged with recruiting efforts to fill the positions needed to keep up with workload, EUA recognized this issue and acted to enhance attraction efforts.
"In 2015, EUA renovated five floors of their office building in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward and relocated their Madison office to the new Ovation building. With an understanding that people, place and technology must come together to support employee engagement, offices include amenities such as accessible kitchenettes, 50% increased meeting areas, enhanced technology with WIFI access throughout and sit / stand workstations for all employees. Identifying a need for a central meeting zone to increase interaction between staff, in 2016 EUA added on a rooftop terrace addition to the Milwaukee office.
"In addition to the physical facility enhancements the company also expanded search efforts to encompass a wider geographic zone and net of candidates outside of Wisconsin. Utilizing the office space as an attraction tool, EUA has added 105 new staff members in the last four years, with a substantial portion of new staff coming from outside of Wisconsin. Recruiting as far west as Seattle to as far east as Washington, D.C., the firm has attracted professionals to the Milwaukee and Madison areas, overcoming the talent gap caused by the 2008 downturn and infusing talent into the marketplace.
“Employee engagement is a high priority for EUA. The new space continues to support these efforts for employee events, firm-wide design workshops or shuffleboard tournaments and the encouragement of meet-ups of ‘posses,’ like-minded individuals on various topics (beer, running, gardening, travel, cars, mindfulness, parenting, etc.), helping to further employee engagement levels. Understanding that culture is an organically grown ‘resource’ of sorts, and not something that can be prescribed, we utilize our space, policies and leadership practices to help shape a positive culture for employees to thrive."
Q: Can you explain some of the unique aspects of the space and how it is helpful to employees?
"Applying best practices from research and experience with corporate workplace clients, EUA applied design solutions related to five key workplace drivers:
• "Safety + Security: Transparency and increased sight lines to people’s actions improves overall actions and enhances safety and security measures. The office is open throughout while including a private wellness room in the basement for personal space. A large light-filled design lab is conveniently located off the lobby, providing ample room for team collaboration, large design workshops or employee gatherings and catered events.
• "Brand + Identity: We let the building be the focal point of the space, with its solid bones and 100+ year history. Walls were kept free to show off the brick and heavy timber beams original to the structure.
• "Well-Being: With an emphasis on employees' well-being, each floor is open plan with sit-to-stand workstations providing employees the ability to tailor their area to individual preferences. Workstations are in bound from the exterior walls, allowing employees to access operable windows for access to fresh air and natural temperature control in the warmer months. Additional employee amenities within the basement level include training rooms, a wellness room, locker rooms and a large multi-purpose space complete with a pingpong table and kitchenette.
• "Knowledge sharing: Understanding the importance of collaboration in spurring innovation, the renovation increased the number of conference rooms by 50%, a great need, providing a variety of spaces across all six floors. Informal gathering spaces, nooks and coffee bars create opportunities on each floor for impromptu meetings or a quick chat with co-workers. Large, glass-enclosed conference rooms and smaller meeting rooms are located on each floor, with enclaves for one-on-ones or heads-down work. All spaces are fully equipped with robust audiovisual and Skype technology making connecting to our offices in Denver, Madison and Des Moines quick and easy.
• "Trust + Empowerment: Empowering employees to work where and how best suits them, the terrace includes a laptop checkout so employees who have non-mobile computers can work remotely from their desks."
Q: How did you use the historic nature of the building in the new design?
"The former home of the AW Rich Shoe Company, EUA let the building be the focal point of the space, with its solid bones and 100+ year history. Walls are free of branding elements and intentionally left bare to show off the brick and heavy timber beams original to the structure. Fir beams salvaged from elsewhere in the building, were ripped and fastened to a minimal steel frame on industrial casters to create large moveable tables.
"EUA worked extensively with the city of Milwaukee and state of Wisconsin to meet the parameters of modern building codes, setting the basis for future similar projects. The new steel and timber structure sits on top of the existing original timber frame, that owing to its original design, had the capacity to bear the additional weight. Uniquely, the new floor sits a few feet above the original roof structure, which remains in place under portions of the new addition. The elegant steel and glass roof terrace quietly translate the heavy timber structural system into a completely harmonious yet modern extension of the historic building below."
Q: How often is the rooftop deck used and what has it meant for employees and clients?
"The rooftop deck is used year-round, every day. In the colder months, the indoor portion is used for all-hands meetings, lunch breaks, celebrations, shuffle board tournaments, after work social events and generally as an alternative space to work. In the warmer season, the lounge furniture is out, the fire pits blazing and Edison lights turned on.
"Employees can work or gather outside at a variety of seating (bar top to height-adjustable smaller tables to comfortable soft seating), grill food, play bags or simply relax. Employees can reserve the rooftop deck for client meetings, as well as for industry organization and nonprofit events throughout the day and into the evening. Everyone truly loves the rooftop deck – from employees to their families to our clients."
Address: 333 E. Chicago St., Milwaukee
CEO/President: CEO: Greg Uhen; President: Rich Tennessen
Number of employees: 162
Square footage of office: 45,000 square feet
Milwaukee Business Journal