Samsung breaks ground on new green headquarters in Silicon Valley

Not far from its rival Apple, the Korean electronics heavyweight is poised to expand its market reach and sustainability credentials with green spaces that foster employee interaction and innovation.

Samsung Semiconductor Incorporated began on Wednesday the construction of its new eco-friendly Silicon Valley headquarters, a sales and research and development complex in San Jose, California that is set to be completed by the summer of 2015.

Designed by global American architectural firm NBBJ, the headquarters is over 100,000 square metres replete with multiple gardens, fitness spaces and naturally lit work areas. 

According to Samsung, the plan is to enhance the company’s brand and creative image, as well as foster better employee communication, which will lead to product innovation. 

Conversely, the architects of NBBJ drew inspiration from Samsung’s stellar products like its smart phones and smart TVs to design the company’s innovative headquarters. Just as how these electronics stimulate connectivity, so does the corporate campus “seeks to maximise communication,” said the high-tech firm. 

The centrepiece of the complex will be the 10-storey office tower called the Samsung Courtyard. It is one of the four zones of the site and according to the design team it will house 2,000 employees divided into the R&D and sales sections. 

A highlight of this tower, which appears more horizontal due to its three-layer configuration, is the green, open space between these layers. NBBJ, on their website, said, “In a rarity for high-rise workspace, each Samsung employee will be no further than one floor away from green space.” 

Here, employees will be able to commune with nature and mingle with one another, turning the office tower into a veritable vertical park or courtyard. 

For its exterior, the building will be clad in a mix of white metal and glass to reduce solar heat again while allowing natural light to filter through. Energy efficiency is a key component in the design of this headquarters. NBBJ plans to attain a Gold LEED certification with this project. 

This is why the design team also makes ample use of the open-air concept. At the Sports Garden, another zone of the Samsung headquarters, the space is designed to be completely natural, Samsung said. Trees and plants native to California will be planted here, where game areas, including a basketball court, will be designated. 

The openness, of this garden and other pockets of greenery, improves air circulation. It also contributes to good health and better employee well-being. 

Another similar space is the central campus. The heart of the complex grounds, this spacious quadrangle is where employees can also gather, meet, have lunch, conduct events, and do other enjoyable activities, said Samsung. 

The third zone, and connected to this central campus, is the seven-storey Garage. It will be covered with a folding green wall and topped with solar panels on the roof to generate renewable energy, NBBJ detailed. 

Lastly, the fourth zone of the Samsung headquarters is the City Plaza. This area will have stone paving, porous paving, urban water elements and art installations. More importantly, it will comprise of cafés and dining establishments, plus the Samsung Expo, a gallery to display the latest gadgets and advanced products. 

The plaza is intended to be the headquarters’ link to the outside community. The Expo and some cafés may be open to the public, said NBBJ. It will also be a point of entry for people coming in from the light rail and bus, and car drop-off area, added Samsung. 

This, urban design pundits claimed, is a welcome change in Silicon Valley, which has big tech companies recently building high-profile offices that are cloistered away from the community. The Samsung complex, in contrast, is situated just north of the San Jose downtown area, and will instil collaboration without cutting off employees from the rest of the city.   

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