(Mountain View) Tech giants are hiring less and engineers have widely embraced remote working, but Google has just opened futuristic new offices in Silicon Valley, designed to meet all the current, and even future, demands of its employees.
In Mountain View, 1.5 km as the crow flies from its headquarters, the Californian group has built two huge buildings that look like glass and metal tents, covered with solar panels in the shape of dragon scales.
Alphabet, the parent company of Google, did not reveal the amount that this “Bay View Campus” cost, planned to accommodate up to 4,500 employees.
“I don’t think any of our buildings will be empty. We’re not worried,” jokes Michelle Kaufmann, director of research and development for the company’s offices, during a visit for the press.
“We are more worried about whether we will have enough space. Because the business continues to grow,” she added.
At the end of March, Alphabet had approximately 164,000 employees worldwide (+17% in one year). In the San Francisco Bay Area alone, 45,000 people work for the tech giant.
Its neighbor Meta (Facebook, Instagram) and other large digital companies (Microsoft, Amazon, Nvidia, Snap, Uber, etc.) recently announced a slowdown in the pace of recruitment due to the unfavorable economic context, after hiring in turn arms during the pandemic.
Connections and disconnections
Several companies, such as Twitter in San Francisco, have left the door open to working from home, as many engineers prefer this way of working. Some are also having trouble bringing the teams back in person, in particular because of the fear of COVID-19.
“I believe that 10% of the staff (of Google) chose and obtained to work first and foremost from home,” noted Michelle Kaufmann.
She hopes that the new offices, designed well before the pandemic, will meet the expectations of other employees, who divide their week between face-to-face and teleworking.
The ground floor consists of restaurants, cafes, gyms and meeting rooms, spread around several “public squares” – from “Dinosaur District” to “Neon Nature” – lined with sofas.
The floor houses modular offices, separated by various pieces of furniture, but no walls, so that the teams have “the privacy they need” while remaining “connected to the rest of the community”, indicates the architect.
Google hopes to encourage creativity and teamwork, as more solitary tasks can be done from home.
But beware of technology addiction: in the toilets, a notice gives advice on not being addicted to your phone and also warns against “email apnea” (when you hold your breath while checking your email) .
Recycled water, natural air
It took five years to build these buildings, with ambitious environmental specifications. Alphabet has in fact promised to stop emitting carbon dioxide at all by 2030.
This campus achieves carbon neutrality “90% of the time” thanks to solar panels and geothermal batteries. All non-potable water needs are met with recycled water produced on site.
And the ventilation systems use 100% outside air, “instead of 20%” on average in offices, details Michelle Kaufmann.
A feature that comes at the right time, in the era of the pandemic.
“Luckily, a lot of the things we had planned are working wonderfully in relation to COVID-19,” notes the architect. “We thought we had another ten years for some elements, but the virus accelerated the process. »
It ensures that workspaces have been designed with the flexibility to meet needs that no one yet imagines.
For now, the “opera-like” acoustics are not disturbed by many employees, because the new campus has only just opened.
Employees of other Google sites, when visiting for a few days, can stay in one of the 240 apartments built just opposite.