A new 50,000 square foot Microsoft SMSG (sales, marketing and services group) campus in Burlington, MA was carefully designed to exceed client expectations and come in at 42% below energy code. HLB Boston Senior Associate, Robyn Goldstein, led her studio in the challenging corporate, but not-so-corporate, office design. The use of general ambient lighting for open office and circulation areas combined with decorative lighting elements for specialty areas promote a warm, welcoming, fun and friendly residential feel. Check out our Q&A for more information on the carefully detailed lighting design.

What separates this project from other corporate projects you’ve worked on?

It was very important to Microsoft that their new office space not feel like a typical corporate office, but instead had more of a residential/hospitality feel to it.  This meant a lot of warm, rich tones and decorative lighting.

Describe an energy challenge and how was it met.

Despite the abundance of decorative lighting throughout the space, the project came in 42% below the stringent state energy code.

What was the biggest design challenge for your team?

The biggest design challenge was designing a corporate space that didn’t feel corporate at all, had dark warm finishes and textures throughout and utilized decorative lighting for most of the ambient lighting throughout the space, and balancing that design concept while achieving the required light levels for the employees to be able to comfortably work throughout the day.

Were there controls, custom fixtures, commissioning, or daylighting scope for HLB?

We designed a custom fixture for the main office floor’s reception and MTC area.  The design concept was to not only bring a bit of sparkle to the space but for that sparkle to act as wayfinding for guests as they exit the elevator lobby and to set the tone for the non-corporate experience of the space right from the get-go.  The challenge with this fixture was how to a gracefully as possible and with as little mounting points as possible suspend multiple pendants from an open deck ceiling while straddling a structural beam.  This goal was achieved using a permanent location track like mounting and grouping the pendants onto this track.  This solution allowed for a sense of randomness simply by rotating the track pieces around the obstructions in the ceiling and kept the deck as quiet as possible allowing for just the pendant to be the highlight.

Also, while technically not a custom fixture, we were able to use a few standard fixtures within the first floor multipurpose rooms that were arranged in such a way to provide a subtle nod to Mircosoft’s logo.  This was one of the most fun moments for me on the project as the installation was extremely restrained in its nature and we were able to still achieve the overall design concepts for the space while providing a bit of branding as well.

What were the project’s goals regarding lighting?

The project aimed to create softer lit spaces to produce a sense of warmth, atmosphere, and ambiance more similar to a residential or hospitality experience than a corporate one.

How were these goals achieved?

These lighting goals were achieved not only by using soft feeling decorative fixtures that would feel at home in your home for the general lighting, but also by allowing for contrast in light levels. It was not only acceptable but desirable for us to create moments of light and shadow, darker and lighter areas to avoid the monotony that some offices can find themselves in with even levels of illumination everywhere.

“It was a fun and rewarding experience to be a part of the design team who has helped to redefine the look and feel of Microsoft’s office space, hopefully this project will only be a jumping off point for them in terms of transforming their workspaces globally.”


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